Thinking Back on 30

It’s been seven months since I retired after 30 years with Raytheon.  The weekend before I retired, I spent some time thinking back on my career. Those notes became the last post on my internal home page on Raytheon’s internal social media system.

It’s funny that the accomplishments aren’t what you remember most; it’s the little things that pop to the surface.

It was a fun ride!  Perhaps you’ll enjoy the post.

My first assignment at what was then E-Systems Garland was to wait for my closed area security clearance, which could take up to six months. In the meantime, I was looking for something to do, and my boss’ boss, a fellow TRS-80 user, asked if I would be interested in a little programming assignment. Without thinking, I said “sure!” He handed me a 60 page document titled Navy Level of Repair Analysis, and asked me to program it in BASIC.

Of course, it turned out to be much more complicated than I had ever imagined, especially for someone that learned BASIC on an 8 Kb home computer. I bummed time on a WANG multi-user system when the word processing folks had an open terminal, and finished the programming and documentation just as I got my clearance five months later.

As a tech writer, I learned that working with engineers is a unique experience. One told me: “The system is inherently obvious. Now, what’s your question?”

One of my first big projects was to manage the development and roll-out of a document control system across the product lines at Garland. While its use would help the site move toward common processes, there was no mandate requiring it. Part of my job was to cajole each product line into coming on to the system; Engineering had the final say.

Our first installation had gone well, and I was pitching what we now call the value proposition at a director’s meeting hoping to snag a second user department. After the meeting, one of the directors said, OK, I trust that you can do this without disrupting my schedules. I smiled and said, “We already did. Your department went first and has been on it for two weeks!”

I remember attending a futures briefing at the Dallas InfoMart in the mid nineties. Xerox had brought in several of their best researchers from their famed Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) to give us a glimpse of the future. It was a mind blowing day, with presentations on epaper, data glyphs, 3d imaging, comprehensive search… all commonplace now but still years away at that time.

Each speaker casually mentioned that they used something called Amberweb as a way to share files and coordinate activities. At day’s end, I asked about Amberweb and was given a CD by our Xerox account manager. They were thinking of productizing their in- house developed system and were anxious for input as to its usefulness. With IT help, we had it up and running within a week and quickly realized its potential as DocuShare.

Within a month, we had 100 users, blossoming to a thousand within a year. It soon became the common document repository during the consolidation of the four companies (legacy Raytheon, E-Systems, TI Defense and Hughes Aircraft) that became the “new” Raytheon. From that one disk, it has grown to 36,000 users on over 30 systems; unless things have changed in the last six months, it’s still relied on as the document management backbone to the Intranet throughout the company.

I recall a briefing at Garland in the early 90’s by Adobe of a product in development that they hoped we would be interested in. They called it Visual Postscript; its mission was to display any document as “what you see is what you get.” It was a powerful concept way back then and blew me away.  Of course, as Adobe Acrobat, it’s proven pretty successful!

I still remember the first intranet site we set up in 1995 called Garland Online. It was a true joint effort of IT, Engineering and Configuration & Data Management (where my team resided at the time). We met with Public Relations to get buy-in before presenting it to our General Manager for approval to take it live. To keep it legal, we had to purchase disk copies of the Mosaic browser release 1 for everyone at Garland.

An aha moment for me was attending my first Global Communications Meeting. That’s when I realized that what my team and I had been doing on the Internet and Intranet for the past several years was in fact “communications.”

We were the first to use to video streaming in the company, live webcasting our business president’s quarterly message to employees long before it became commonplace. I was the moderator on camera with our business president. He would give a “state of the company” report, while questions came in on a laptop on the set. I would ask the questions during the webcast, all of which remained anonymous. There were some pretty frank questions, but he never got flustered.

I learned the value of having two approaches to solve any problem before bringing it to my boss. Very early in my career, while complaining about something to my VP, he said something I’ll never forget: “See this big chair and big office? I got that because I’m the boss. When I was at your level, I knew a lot about the details, much as you do. As I moved up the ladder here, I knew less and less about more and more. Now, I know nothing about everything! Now go back to your office and figure it out… you’re the expert!”

Thinking back on all the bosses I’ve had over the years, I can honestly say I learned from every one of them. I can only hope my team members say the same about me!


About richcasey

Retired Corporate Communications manager for a Fortune 500 defense and electronics contractor. Still obsessed with social media, computers and ham radio (callsign N5CSU).
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