So we had this insurance client 13 years ago. The whole SNAPPS gang visited their offices in Minnesota a couple times, me a few more times as necessary, and we did some great work for them for three or four years on Sametime integration and QuickPlace before they were acquired. Even after the main contacts had moved on, we kept in touch and saw them every year in Orlando.
We were introduced through my Lotusphere sessions. At every single “Great Code Giveaway”, every solo session, in fact every session one of the other guys gave, the main technical “Lotus” contact from this company would be there. Front row, every time. He must’ve come to 75 of our sessions over the years. This was a guy highly dedicated to learning everything he could to help him at his job. He asked smart questions, took notes, and basically was a fixture at our sessions for all those years. The kind of audience member that made a speaker feel good and even calm you down, knowing you could always look their way. He even came to Collaboration University twice in Chicago, and I think at least one Advisor conference back in the day. When I visited his offices, he’d be sure to take me out for a beer and extol the virtues of wild rice (Minnesota!).
I didn’t see him this year at IBM Connect, but given all the other people I didn’t see for the first time thought nothing of it. I’m sure I would have noticed had I been speaking, he was such a fixture in my audiences.
Today I discovered that my learned colleague, speaker calming element, and go-to audience member passed away last August from a rare cancer. He had been battling it for five years. He was just a couple years older than me, and left behind a wife and three daughters.
There are members of our community who are well-known, outspoken, “Champions”, speakers, authors, and general protagonists and antagonists. And then there are the members of our community who simply work hard for thirty years, don’t speak or write, don’t seek glory or notoriety, but rather spend their energies using, promoting, evangelizing and making better the technology we all love.
Let’s never forget that the latter far outnumber the former. The folks who do the day to day work, training, admin and development in companies, spend their spare time learning, and bring our solutions to the people on the front lines – and don’t get to walk away after a sale or an engagement – they are the real champions.
Rest in Peace, Randy Nelson. I’m pretty sure you have a front row seat.