HP People Stories - Bob Boniface

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Bob Boniface, My Mentor (1)

By: Betty Haines


I read of the passing of Bob Boniface, with deep sadness and a feeling of personal loss. Then, I embarked on a trip down memory lane.

How very lucky we were, those of us who worked at Hewlett Packard's "Stanford Plant" in the 1960 and 1970's, we truly got to walk with the giants who created Silicon Valley and Bob Boniface was one of these giants. Above and beyond being one of the giants who created Silicon Valley, he was a great mentor - way back in the days before mentor became an overused buzz word - and a loyal friend.

I began my HP career in the 3U mail room. Yes, Snail Mail, FAX, and WATS telephone technology is the way we ran the Global HP business through the middle of the 20th century. At that time our mail carts were decorated with bumper stickers that read HP = Have Pride and we jokingly said, with no fear of being judged politically incorrect, that our motto was "when in doubt, misroute". Back then, everybody understood the joke.

During my first week on the job, Bob came to the mailroom to welcome me to the company. He asked about my career plans and I told him that I planned to work at HP only until I had saved enough money to pay for a divorce and move myself and my three children back home to Alabama. He then wanted to know what it would take to convince me to remain with HP longer than that. I grinned and said, "A good husband." Well, fate stepped in; I married co-worker Vern Haines and stayed with HP for 34 years. On the occasion of being presented my 10 year service award. Bob jokingly said to Mr. Hewlett: "At HP we do whatever it takes to keep good employees - even finding them a spouse."

In the 1970's, Hewlett Packard moved its video operations into Building 18 on Page Mill Hill. As Executive VP of Marketing, Bob was in charge of this department. We moved the black & white TV studio from Building 1U, expanded and upgraded it. We built a state of the art color TV studio; and produced top quality marketing and training videos. Bob was very proud of this operation; he often showed it off to visitors and loved to tell them: "we are more technically advanced here than San Francisco's Channel 2".

I worked at a number of HP locations; but Bob and I kept in touch. When my career hit a snag or I needed career direction, I could count on Bob. His suggestions were always right on target. My friendship with Bob created a humorous situation that never fails to amuse me. While working for an insecure and petty manager, who shall remain nameless, and who resented the fact that Bob always chatted with me when he was in our department, this manager felt it necessary to caution me that "hogging so much of a VP's time is not a wise career move."

In the words of comedian Flip Wilson, "The devil made me do it." Yes, I told Bob about that conversation. He didn't comment; just raised an eyebrow, grinned, and shook his head. A few weeks later, at an HP social function, I noticed Bob standing near my manager. As I passed by them, headed for the bar, Bob said, "Hold up a minute, Betty, I'll walk with you and let you hog some of my time." Wow, was my manager's face red.

Yes, Bob Boniface was a giant who never saw himself that way. So long, Bob, you remain a giant in my memory.


-- Betty Haines


Bob Boniface "The Making of a People Person"
Measure Magazine, July 1992
Courtesy of the Hewlett Packard Company


(1) Reprinted from HPREC Newsletter


Editor's Note: Betty Haines is a great example of the HP meritocracy work culture we all admired. She literally started in the mail room, and describes this task in her remembrance of Bob Boniface. But she moved up through a continuing increase in job titles and personal responsibilities.

After the mail room, she moved to Corporate Administrative Services, in 1966 as a PBX operator. She recalls those days of manual connect WATS Lines - waiting for your turn to talk on the Loveland Tie-line - hearing your name over the "Barney Oliver" public address system - coffee break chimes - and seeing Dave and Bill wandering the halls and production areas.

When the Manufacturing Division (Div. 03) took over the 395 Page Mill Road Site in 1972, she moved to become their PBX receptionist. A few years later, she moved to Corporate Training/HPTV when the Page Mill Hill site opened.

In 1983, she became Administrative Services Manager of Computer Supplies Operation; which later became the Direct Marketing Division, on Kifer Road, in Sunnyvale, for what emerged as an exceptionally profitable consumables business. In 1987, she returned to Corporate Headquarters as a Systems Administrator and became a charter member of the North American Call Management Steering Committee.


First published in the HPREC Newsletter





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