During the search for my next logical career move, I discovered no open jobs that would advance my career or even move it sideways. However, through my networking, I learned that HP had purchased a Northern Telecom SL100 PBX System (The SL100 is a Central Office switch - a BIG Central Office switch). The main node of this system was to be installed at HP’s new Corporate Headquarters (Building 20) with an auxiliary node in HP Labs Deer Creek facility and would serve all Palo Alto campuses. I realized that this was a major undertaking and that this big, new, sleek, state of the art baby was going to bring major changes to voice and data telecommunications at Hewlett Packard and I wanted to be involved in these changes.
I met with Pete Kimball, who was overseeing the installation/implementation of this PBX, to talk about this project. He explained that he had no current openings that I could fill. His immediate need was for a good, strong PBX operator to back up Bea Panetta so that she could devote more of her time to bringing the operators’ room into the 21st century and converting it into a Telephone Operator Control Center. The open job was a non-exempt Level 94 position and would be a huge step backward for me. Pete didn’t suggest that the job might interest me or that he had any interest in having me as part of his team. I’m sure that I shocked him a few days later when I contacted him and asked (not asked, I begged) to be considered for the position.
Aside from the job being a giant step backward for me, my husband worked for Pete and this had the potential to limit my career. At the time, there were a few husbands and wives working in the same department and none reporting directly to the same manager. But, Pete had a real need for someone with my expertise, there were no other candidates on the horizon and I was very determined to have a shot at redirecting my career; so, Pete agreed to run the idea of me returning to the switchboard by his bosses and see what happened. Happily, we discovered that the HP Way was not dead (in spite of rumors to that effect); with a little help from Hal Edmonson and Floyd Peterson the potential snags were cleared and I had the job.
Pete assured me that if supported the Telephone Operator Control Center during the cut over and remained in that slot until the operators were comfortable working with the new telephone system, he would do everything in his power to get my career back on an upward track as soon as practical.
Reverting to a switchboard operator’s job and working for Bea Panetta again was not without some frustrations. In spite of Pete’s assurances that HP gave raises and promotions on a merit basis, some of Bea’s staff refused to believe that my return to the switchboard didn’t take away their seniority and they resented it. My PC skills were more advanced than those of the average operator and I resented not having access to larger variety of programs to help me do my job.
Occasionally, I forgot that Bea was a stickler for knowing exactly what each operator was doing and my independent attitude annoyed her. I involved her in my problem solving only when absolutely necessary. My motto was, “I would rather beg pardon for mistakes, than to ask for permission before acting.” When I encouraged my peers to do the same thing, Bea cautioned me that I was becoming too flippant and my behavior bordered on insubordination. So I backed off enough that we managed to avoid major problems.
Overall my return to the switchboard was a success. I took pride in my contribution to bringing the new Telephone Operator Control Center on line. In spite of our differences, Bea and I held real affection and respect each other. This helped us work out our differences and become an effective team. Bea ensured that I was among the first to receive Attendant Console Operation training and she allowed me time away from call answering duties to develop computer based processes and procedures that made the conversion to the new PBX system easier everyone in the department. I did everything in my power to support her as she helped the operators adjust to their new work environment.
Even before the installation of the new PBX system was complete, Pete began preparing me for the next chapter in my career, he:
Ten months after my return to Palo Alto, Pete promoted me into a Technology Specialist position. In this position, 90% of my time was allocated to Site Telephone Services and my duties included:
The other 10% of my time was allocated to Site Maintenance and I reported directly to Mike Johnson. Mike assigned me to work on emergency response procedures and to support safety/security related functions. Among the projects he assigned me were:
An exciting, special project that Mike assigned to me was supporting a multi-national press conference at which Hewlett Packard and Microsoft announced their Joint Strategy Agreement (to simplify Enterprise computing). Prior to this event, I had never seen so much media equipment or so many reporters congregated in one place. The Building 20 parking lot, lobby and auditorium were full to capacity and we were using space in the atrium on Level A for the overflow. Chatting with Lew Platt and Bill Gates before the press conference, seeing all the smoke and mirrors during the conference, and watching these two men work their way through the media circus in the lobby—all without breaking a sweat—was a fascinating experience.
|Ceiling tiles fell in many HP buildings during the quake.
At the Sunnyvale site, Jack Gephardt of facilities calls GM Bob Puette to report.
In Cupertino, seismic forces slid this
Vern and I were living on Columbia Ave in Palo Alto when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck in October of 1989. Vern had not worked that day, so he was already at home and I was walking home when the quake started. I actually sat down in the middle of the intersection of California Ave. and Hanover St. because I was afraid that the jolt and shaking were going to knock me down if I tried to remain standing. After a few seconds, I got up and continued walking home. It was my intent to make sure Vern was OK and return to HP to support the Emergency Response Team efforts. Before I got to our home, I met Vern walking toward me and we walked back to HP together.
Except for pointing out some completely unsung heroes, I will not attempt to describe the next 72 hours. The behavior of company executives and employees in the first few post quake hours ranged from hero to, "OH, NO!" The "OH, NO!" tag was used by ERT members to relieve pressure and express surprise at the occasional hysterical and absurd behaviors seen in the hours immediately following the quake. While the actions of Mike Johnson were not unsung, he was indeed a hero on this occasion. He seemed to be everywhere doing everything that needed doing without calling attention to himself or getting in anyone's way. The manner in which he rose to this occasion was nothing short of heroic.
Unsung hero number 1 was my darling Vern. It was well known around HP that Vern and I worked well as a team, that he loved HP as much as I did, and that he did many “g-jobs” for Mike Johnson. Even though we lost a 27 year old nephew and two family homes in Santa Cruz County during the quake, Vern remained with the ERT crew and backed up Mike’s every order.
Unsung hero number 2 was Ray Schwarz, Corporate Computing Center Manager. Following the quake, the Building 20 computer room on Level C had some damage; however, it didn’t appear to be non-functional. There was a problem getting into the area to access the damage. The glass wall at the front of the computer center shattered and a huge jagged fragment of glass was hanging, point down. This made it unsafe for anyone to enter the area. For the first few hours following the quake, every executive, engineer, and manager who was allowed to survey the situation had a different idea on how to remove that piece of glass so that Mike and Ray could enter the area and begin restoration.
|Meeting in the command center after 72 hours of continuous duty to put HP back on line.
Vern, dosing off at the end of the table. We were TIRED.
Bldg 20 hallway
Ray continually inspected the area and answered the questions of each executive. He didn’t become emotional, complain, argue, or offer a lot of advice. He just continued to survey the situation whenever he was not busy performing other duties. About five hours post quake, I was at the scene with a group of executives/engineers when I noticed Ray, standing at the back of the crowd, near a trash can that the maintenance crew had placed in the hall way. As the group walked away, there was a loud crash; I turned around and saw Ray standing there, but the trash can was gone. Thought I detected the slightest grin on Ray’s face as he said; “that takes care of that.” On the record, if asked whether Ray threw a trash can at that piece of glass, I would have to say, “The lighting was bad, my vision was not that good, and there may never have been a trash can near Ray.” Nonetheless, after the glass shard fell down, Ray’s crew was allowed in the area and got the computer room up and running in short order.
At 10:30 pm, the evening of the quake, Mike Johnson was conducting a briefing in the Level D conference room—nearest the back lobby. This lobby was the only entrance to the building that was open to anyone other than ERT members. Shift change in the Computer Center was 11pm. Ray attended the briefing, but he positioned his chair so that he could see the hallway directly behind the lobby. Each time one of his employees entered the building to report for duty, he stood and personally thanked them for coming to work. That my friends, is the HP Way!
Unsung hero number three was Susan (Maul) York. Shortly after the quake, Mike Johnson and I developed a script to be used by security guards and ERT members covering the phones that night. In the wee hours of the morning, anticipating a flurry of telephone calls when HP locations on the East Cost began to open, we updated the script and arranged for some of the switchboard operators to come in early. Sadly, one of the expected operators failed to show up and another one walked into the Level D lobby, took one look at the disarray, and refused to enter the building. That left me, Vern, and a couple of ERT members to field a massive number of calls.
Susan came in to work very early the morning after the quake to see if there was anything she could do to help. At 5 am, just as the switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree, Susan was standing next to me, offering her help. I gave her a five minute crash course on how to work a PBX console, reviewed the script with her, gave her a headset, and turned her loose. By the time operators who were scheduled to open the switchboard at 7 am arrived, Susan, Vern, and I were functioning as a team of Hello Girls that would have made Pappy’s heart swell with pride.
During the initial damage inspection
Bldg 18 stairs (between floors 1 & 2).
Building 18 Training/classroom
Bldg 18 Lobby
A day or so after the quake, the decision was made that HP not occupy the leased Training Building 18 for the “foreseeable future.” This raised the question of what to do about the HP equipment in the building. Among the Hewlett Packard equipment in the building was some expensive voice and data communication hardware. Once building inspectors deemed that it was safe for clean up and scavenge crews to enter the ground floor and basement the building, it was almost a no brainer that HP would begin removing equipment from those areas. Mike Johnson brought a group of employees, including me, Vern and John Adair, to the building to help with this effort.
The stairs between the ground floor and the top floor had been declared unsafe. While a group of us were taking a break from removing equipment in the basement and on the first, we began discussing possible ways to get equipment off of the top floor. A Palo Alto Fireman inquired if the top floor was safe enough for folks to walk around on and was told yes; it was only the stairs that unsafe and therefore unusable. He offered to take a few people up in the fire department’s cherry picker, help them into the top floor through a window, wait while they loaded equipment into buckets or boxes and then, lower the equipment to ground level.
I told Mike that I would go up in the cherry picker. Vern gave me a look that said, “Have you totally lost your mind?” I had seen that look from him many times before so I ignored it. I was a bit surprised that he didn’t step up and volunteer to go with me. However, as soon as John Adair said, “I’ll go with her”, Vern said, “I’ll go, too.”
Without a doubt that was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences I have ever endured. Of course, the utilities in the building were off. There was an eerie silence on the top floor, no air was circulating and there was no machine noise. Except for the inspectors, we were the first ones to enter the floor. No cleanup or removal of debris, broken glass, etc. had been done. The spilled contents of refrigerators, coffee urns, and cabinets were beginning to smell pretty ripe. To me the sound of water dripping down the stairwell, voices echoing up from the basement and ground floor, and floor boards creaking with each step created a distinctly ghostly effect that gave the entire experience a surreal feel.
I managed to stay in the building and push, pull, kick and punch debris away until the majority of the salvageable equipment was retrieved. However, I can tell you, without a doubt, that I will never again volunteer for this type of mission.
My rewarding Hewlett Packard experience occurred late in my career and near the end of what I remember as HP’s golden days. I compare experience with having a great dessert at the end of a remarkable feast.
In the early 1990’s, I needed something to motivate me, restore my faith in HP Way, and help me adapt to a drastically changing corporate world, a world in which:
At this point I found something that gave me hope for the future of the telephone operations at HP - the North American Field Operations Call Management Steering Committee. Wise managers at NAFO created a steering committee and chartered it to “develop a multifaceted program that will provide long-term process improvements and give HP customers grater satisfaction, increase repeat business with HP and promote greater job satisfaction for HP call managers.” NAFO identified call managers as: “every HP employee is a call manager and is responsible for providing customer service to everyone who calls their telephone number and for cooperating with and assisting colleagues who are in the process of managing phone calls.”
Wonder of wonders, I was asked to serve as a charter member of the committee. This paved the way for me to become the Call Management Specialist for the “non-field” sites of HP. It allowed me to work with folks like Alan Blackwood, Paul Horgan, Judy Hathaway, Stan Selby, Hank Taylor, Steve Lum, Dick Warmington, Bojana Fazarinc, and Pete Kimball, to help ensure that Corporate and other “non-field” entities of HP supported NAFO’s efforts.
I spent my last few years at HP wrapping up and tying bow around my career. It was my privilege to create “non-field” version of the on-line North American Customer Assistance Guide and to implement Call Management Training for “non-field” sites.
I have enjoyed an amazing journey in which I answered HP’s telephone calls, crawled under HP’s desks (to case telephone service orders) and supported one of HP’s most impressive committees. For all these experiences I say, “Thank you!”
“Thank you for calling Hewlett Packard,” and, thank you Hewlett Packard for letting me manage your calls.
If you are wondering what qualifies me to write a history of Hewlett Packard, well, so am I. I’m certainly not a historian, nor am I the keeper of any official HP archives. I’m humbled to be asked to share my memories along with folks like John Minck, Art Fong, Chuck House, Hank Taylor, and others who added so much to the success of Hewlett Packard. I never invented, created, or inspired any hardware, theory or software that made a dime for the company. I’m just a gal who answered phones, became fascinated by telecommunications technology, discovered that I had a talent for using this technology to support internal and external customers.
I believed wholeheartedly that if I did the right thing for Hewlett Packard, Hewlett Packard would do the right thing for me. I was lucky to have been employed by the company when giants walked in Silicon Valley, when Hewlett Packard was home of a wonderful collection of those giants and when those giants helped create and maintain the HP Way. I believe the HP Way was best described by Carl Cottrell in a 2002 article, “The HP Way was a way of life. We ate, slept and breathed HP for much of our careers."
In part, I wrote these memories because I loved being one of those who helped make the HP Way work. I wrote it because of my desire to pay tribute to Bill and Pappy and those executives who made all us Hello Girls, production line workers, maintenance workers, and ordinary employees feel valued and went the extra mile to help us develop to our full potential.
As for this document, I make no claim that it is a complete, or even a completely accurate, history of my time at Hewlett Packard. Each of us sees reality through slightly different lenses, plus, age dims and distorts the memory. Therefore the best I can hope for is to give the readers an “as I remember it” document. I ask the understanding of those that I could and should have included but didn’t. The omission is in no way meant to lessen the impact you had on my life or the contribution you made to HP.
I thank John Minck and Marc Mislanghe for motivating me, for allowing me to share my memories, and for their editorial efforts which vastly improved this final memoir.