14. September 2014

My Life After Geneva

These tales were written for my old friends of Hewlett Packard. They are quite personal, I know.

My Life After Geneva

During my professional career I have made many friends (and very few foes, to my knowledge). What did I do after Geneva, I’m being asked? Here it is, in few bytes and rusty English.
···We had shut down the costly HP 3000 support center in Geneva in 1974. Each one of us returned to his home country (no »her«;this was a men’s effort). I had a historic offer to move to Cupertino and head (so I understood) a group working on an operating system. Professionally I would have loved that. But it would have totally changed my life. I didn’t want to be an immigrant, the rest of my life, torn emotionally between old Europe and sunny California, especially as I inherit a farm and forest in South Tyrol. But to this day I feel homesick of California, with many friends there (I still have my old, invalid Green Card, see below).
   So in 1975 I remained in Europe. Furthermore my German wife B. had suffered in Milano, in Cupertino, in Geneva, always alone in a strange world. While I worked long hours – computers are addicting – she had felt abandoned and took Valium to relax.
Green card
···So we moved to Böblingen, to Hewlett-Packard’s German headquarter. Our apartment in Sindelfingen was the first one we rented without furniture.
   My job was to build a “Data Center” for computer support. Again we were a fine group of analysts, I reported directly to the German country manager, we spent more money every year. However the “cash” benefit of these support centers was not clear, businesswise. On the other side my private life began to normalize: On May 30, 1975, our son N. was born, small but wonderful in growing. We made new friends, and an old school friend (Hansl Huber) was teacher for German in a Böblingen Gymnasium nearby.
···Then HP closed the data center. Minicomputers declined. Already before that, I had to let go some of my dearest analysts, even an old-timer who had programmed the Fast Fourier Transformation for the HP 2116. For me to step down was the first disappointment in my career (very well presented to me by the late German HP head Eberhard Knoblauch).
   I moved to Frankfurt, HP’s German sales headquarter. Practically I continued my technical work, as a specialist and small group manager. Analysts now had to enter reports, how they spent their hours and for whom, for which troubled customer, for teaching which subject, or for which salesman they had impressed which prospect customer. Our work became accountable. At one point I even managed both software and (the much larger) hardware support teams in Germany – of course only for computers, not for “calculators”, which were a separate business with HP.
   In hindsight it’s tragic that HP did not notice that calculators (from Loveland) really were universal computers, notably desktop PCs. HP used them only to control instruments. HP computers had to be minis and come from Cupertino. We could have invented the PC, so as we invented the scientific calculator (HP 35), the on with the enter key …
   I never was a successful modern manager. I got harmony into my groups, at least I think so; we worked on tasks on hand, but I didn’t look forward, I never had visions.
···In Frankfurt my second child, girl S., was born on January 13, 1980. From this point on my private life (in contrast to the career) dictated my life. In hindsight I think that I should have made personal decisions (like my not emigrating) a lot earlier and with more courage. For example I might have returned to South Tyrol, when my grandfather (19.12.1881–1.2.1972) lost his spouse (19.11.1891–19.7.1971) – he might have lived longer, and I happier. But it’s easy for me to promote career courage and private decisiveness, after having made a reasonable career and good income without those active moves.
···Our daughter S. drowned one afternoon in our garden, June 30, 1981. A shock for her mother B., for me, for the grandparents. Thanks to God we got another daughter two years later (my wife was 43 then), B., on August 19, 1983. Before the girl. had reached her first year, my wife became mentally ill, a fact dominating our life for years to come. The boy had a difficult time in two elementary schools (Waldorf and one in town), the girl became more and more depressed. The boy had to move to a boarding school, lest he drops out, she had to be taken from her mother at age ten. She came into the same boarding school as my son, in Baden-Baden, some twohundred kilometers south in the Rhine valley. Luckily I earned enough to afford this. During all that time I had remained emotionally connected to dear friends, women in particular, who helped me to stay sane (one even worked in a mental hospital). I wrote a diary.
···In 1992, when I was fifty, I was fired by Tandem Computers, during a routine layoff cycle. I had worked for them since October 1980, following Hewlett-Packard, not as analyst any more but for marketing, for advertising, for PR (see my web site). And I had started to write technical articles for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (see www.Joern.com/Artikel) – good for my ego and good for future jobs. At Tandem I had held interim jobs as manager the Italian subsidiary; notably my working times in Italy were my best, positive, friendly, incometitive (for me). My move away from pure technology to promotion and writing saved me, and brought me fine successes until today.
   After Tandem I started to freelance for the PR agency, who earlier on had worked for me. Then soon I became head of PR for Software AG nearby in Darmstadt, still self-employed.

   I separated from my wife; we had to go to court anyway, to decide the schooling of the children. I had also fallen in love with G., then 27 (I was 51), with whom I had worked a short time at the PR agency. Five years later we married, in September 1997 in Bonn.
···In March 1997 while still freelancing profitably at Software AG, or rather while visiting Paris, I got an offer by a large Daimler-Benz company in Leinfelden-Echterdingen near their headquarter in Stuttgart, an offer “I couldn’t refuse”. Full employment. I was 55. So I moved into a small apartment at Filderstadt-Leinfelden, and on weekends commuted to Bonn (to G.) or Baden-Baden (the children). I had hoped to work for this systems house to my retirement, although life was stress, both in this intransparent company and with private commuting. Luckily I got fired in May 1999. The company later was sold, renamed, merged into the Deutsche Telekom.
   I drove to Santiago to calm down, to close the century.
   Back to freelancing then. I moved to my wife in Bonn, and I worked for Ericsson in Düsseldorf until June 2002. Our daughter Carla was born August 17, 2001. Since that time I enjoy a regular family. My daughter B. left boarding school, took a year of high school in Colorado, and came to live with us for two years. Happy times again.
   We live in a fine apartment in the midst of Bonn, just around the corner of Beethoven’s “birth house”, see here. Since a couple of years you find pictures and stories nicely dated at www.Joern.com/Familie. I bought my first digital camera the day Carla was born.
Silver Eagle 1 oz 2014
   Today, 2012, my former wife still is in Frankfurt, my son lives in Northern Germany, and my daughter B. lives in Switzerland with her friend, Carla is eleven and at school, while I write this, my wife G. intensly at work. 
Let’s see. In God we trust.
In the meantime it’s September 2014, B. is married, and I’m grandfather!

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The automatically purged picture had been this, by Kevin Dooley, with these rights. When editing the blog I can see it. 

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