Thunder Data Systems

Saying Goodbye

Saying Goodbye

In a routine business call to Manish and Manasi this past Saturday, Manish informed me that he wanted to discuss something that couldn’t be handled by phone.  I immediately began to worry.  Was Manasi expecting a baby?  Did they need to return to India?  Had Manish been offered a job  by the people at Yahoo whom he had met at a recent conference in California?  I grew more anxious as our meeting at NXNW, our favorite brewery, grew closer. 

We ordered a beer, and I asked Manish to lay it on me.  He told me that he had been offered a job with Yahoo.  I cried.

Manish has been with me for 3 1/2 years, and I never thought he’d leave our group unless he was returning to India.  Manish came to TDS as a first year Master’s student in electrical engineering.  He had no programming experience, but he did posess a deep desire to learn. I had just hired my first intern when he applied in the winter of 2002-03, and I told him that if my intern experience was a fruitful one, I’d be intersted in hiring another student in the spring.  He came back right on schedule, and I gave him a job. 

This kid caused me gray hairs back when I didn’t have any! He started out doing web design stuff, would get stuck on some complex table layout (back before CSS), I’d spend too much time fixing it, and he’d manage to muck it up again.  This happened a lot.  :)

Manish had never used the Vi editor, typed with two fingers, and had written little code.  The code he did generate, he wrote in Dreamweaver.  Niall Durham and I introduced Manish to the basics of Vi and file editing in SSH, but his comfort with a WYSIWIG editor kept him from breaking out of his comfort zone.  I finally demanded that he learn to use it and insisted that no real programmer–what he was aiming to be–would write code in Dreamweaver.  He argued his point in futility before reluctantly abandoning his beloved software and eventually learning that bosses sometimes have a point. 

Now a Vi expert, he was hungry for more and started playing with shell scripting.  In one marathon session, he took ten hours to write a script that was maybe 20 lines long.  I ribbed him about it endlessly before promising I’d never bring it up again.  (Does this count?)

Fast forward a year and our programmer was still typing with two fingers.  I set a date for him to either learn to type with all fingers, or forgo any raises until he did, and as his employer, I learned that money talks.  (I used this same threat of a “withheld raise” when he started to buy an overpriced car from an unscrupulous car salesman.)

Just as I can joke about his early shortcomings, I can highlight his successes.  My position as teacher was soon overshadowed by my one time student and now full-fledged programmer.  Manish spent a lot of time adding to the success of Thunder Data by an insatiable appetite for learning.  He loved cool new technology like Ajax and mashups (using the online tools of his new employer, Yahoo), and was a primary force in bringing us to where we are today with fully 55% of our revenue coming from programming.  No programming project or technical question felt out of our reach, because I knew that Manish would rise to the challenge to hammer it out.  I realized over time that I didn’t know what I would do without him.  He had become my partner.

So, on Saturday, when Manish told me he would be accepting his new position, I was heartbroken.  I realized that part of my sadness–even grief–came from the realization that I was experiencing the loss of a dream.  All the plans we had mutually laid in our early period and refined over the later were for our success. 

But in my sadness, there is also pride.  My student intern who had become like a son is leaving for a world-reknown company because he has earned it.  I am thrilled that his success in school–and I hope here at TDS–has enabled him to acheive what many in his country can only dream of. 

So, my dear Manish, know that I will miss you greatly, and know that you are taking a little piece of my heart with you.  Don’t you forget your roots, and know that if you ever want to come home, I’ll be waiting.

With all my heart, Dawn  

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