July 17 2008
So, over the last few weeks, a number of my colleagues who work on Lotus products for IBM have decided to move on to new opportunities. Some have been publicly visible, because of blogging, tweeting, or whatever. Some have been quiet and behind the scenes. Either way, I've been asked a lot about a) what I think and b) what about me. Today, after seeing IBM's Q2 earnings come out with another record quarter for Lotus Notes -- made even more impressive as it was up against MS's fiscal Q4 and tighter economic conditions -- it's worth spending a minute on this topic.
First, I believe, and I myself have learned of late, that a person's career and direction is entirely up to the individual. If someone spends some time working for IBM and has helped make it a better place, then good for them for taking that experience to their next destination -- inside IBM or outside. Some of the people who have left the Lotus division lately were long-time IBMers -- 5, 7, 10, 13 years -- in an era where more than a few years working on a single product or for a single company can sometimes be viewed as much as a liability as an asset. I'm proud to see Alan, Gia, Kathleen, Lauren, Bob, Rocky, Chip, and many others move up to much more senior or principal roles, demonstrating that they were successful while at IBM. I've always said that IBM is incredible on-the-job training -- for me personally, better than ever going back for an MBA.
The confluence of timing may make it seem like there is some greater force at work right now. Being friends with some of people who have recently departed IBM, I've been thinking a lot about what that might be. For some, it's just burnout after working on a particular product or technology area for a lengthy period of time. Some need a catalyst for new challenges -- I myself have been through seven different job functions in 14 years here. A few have looked to move to smaller companies, either on the Enterprise 2.0 track or just from the perspective of being in a small organization. There are also people who leave IBM -- or any organization -- because the organization, or their job, changes.
Put all that together around a product line that has been in market for 18 years, and naturally there will be evolution of that product team. Companies, departments, teams can't stay static. One challenge that exists for those of us who work on Lotus products is that we are in a very unique part of IBM -- the only software that is focused on end-users. Thus, we see people leave the Lotus team for other companies because they want to continue to work with end-users. For a while, there was an exodus to Microsoft. In the last two years, though, that's been limited primarily to people in field sales types of jobs. Instead, product-focused people have been moving to other product-type companies, or to new product lines within IBM (a number of people on Lotus Connections used to work on Lotus Notes/Domino, for example). Those are great new growth opportunities available inside the organization, though admittedly a challenge with IBM is that you don't always know when there's going to be something new and interesting opening up. Recently, the internal job posting system was upgraded so that opportunities are visible worldwide -- no longer just limited to your particular geography. That can help, but internal networking is as important as external networking... again, one of my recent lessons.
Now, here's an attempt at answering a question I've fielded a lot lately. What about me? I've been working at IBM on Lotus Notes/Domino for fourteen years. I've been the sales executive for Lotus Notes/Domino for four years now, longer than I've held any other single position. Why? From today's earnings prepared remarks:
[C]ustomers continued to invest to improve the personal productivity of their workforce, [and] this was clearly demonstrated by the growth in our Lotus family.The time will come for me to do something else. I have some great mentors and advisers, both inside and outside IBM. Right now, after a kick-ass quarter where Microsoft is laughingly claiming that they are converting millions of Notes users, I feel fantastic!!! Bringing in my new team last quarter is a big help. My Director and Vice-President have been huge supporters, and are to be congratulated on a great quarter.
Lotus had a terrific quarter, with 21 percent growth, marked by a series of competitive wins in both growth and established markets. For example, a major bank in Asia licensed over 300,000 Lotus seats. The bank recognized the rich out-of-the-box capabilities of Lotus Notes as well as the long term product strategy.
For now, I've been leading calls all week where we are planning sales activities for Notes/Domino/iNotes/Symphony/Protector/"Atlantic" during the second half of 2008. There's a lot of great new stuff coming for all of these products. So, I'm excited to be where I am, but I'm excited for friends and colleagues who have found their next career step. I don't know when that time comes for me -- sooner or later, it will. And I promise, you'll know. :-)