It's About Time To Get Up
It’s About Time to Get Up (amazon) is an autobiography of Gary Slemaker. The book chronicles Gary’s life through early childhood in Washington, D.C., to growing up in the Dust Bowl of Texas, moving to Albuquerque, and settling as an adult in Los Angeles. It also journals Gary’s work history, starting with menial jobs of his youth, to wiring printed circuit boards in a computer job lot factory, and then programing early computers. Gary’s work history ends as CIO of William O'Neil & Company, a financial securities organization. Gary was one of those computer pioneers who forged the information technology world as we know it today. He was not Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett who opened the West. Gary was more like the guy who walked alongside the wagon as it moved west.
My first introduction to Gary Slemaker was in the spring of 1990. We were at a focus group facility not far from LAX. Gary was one of 12 senior IT executives who participated in our yearly focus group tour. Each spring, starting in 1990 and ending in 2010, The Standish Group executed six focus groups around the United States to learn what IT management was thinking about on major topics such as database and middleware usage. In 1995, these focus groups acted as peer reviews for our CHAOS and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) research. The focus groups were sponsored by major IT vendors such as IBM, HP, AT&T, and others. Also in 1995, we started CHAOS University, with 60 CIOs to peer review the CHAOS Research. We ran an annual CHAOS University in the fall from 1995 to 2010.
Gary later would become a permanent member of Standish User Research Forum (SURF), participating in focus groups, surveys, project profiles, and other research activities such as CHAOS University. With these types of activities it is important to look at the source of the information. First, you have to make sure that the participants have knowledge in the area of discussion. Second, you have to believe that the person is giving honest answers. In this regard, we created an index for every person. The first index was the knowledge index. We broke down participants into three categories: business, people, and technology. Gary was high in technology, so we weighted his answers about technology higher than business or people. Another index was veracity, with a scoring range of 1 to 5. If you scored 3 and above we would invite you back. We rated Gary a 5. His answers carried more weight than others. I think we nailed it by giving him a 5. Gary spends much of his book on the love of his dogs, and I have long said you should never trust anyone who does not like dogs.
In the beginning of each focus group we asked participants to complete a one-page profile survey with about 10 questions. The first question in our focus groups asked participants to introduce themselves, and talk about their dreams and nightmares. While Gary joined us in about 20 or more focus groups, hundreds of surveys, and a couple of CHAOS Universities, we really did not get to know him that well. It would have been great if we had a book like It’s About Time to Get Up from each participant. It’s About Time to Get Up (amazon) is an easy and fun read.