In the middle 1990s I was assigned to a Tandem support project called Genesis. I'm not sure where the name came from, but the project was designed to figure out and implement a process by which a customer anywhere in the world could call for support at any time, day or night, and immediately reach a knowledgeable person who could, at least in theory, resolve the problem. This was cutting edge in the days before ubiquitous Indian call centers.

It included a new software problem documentation application that was supposed to offer more and better capabilities to identify problems that had already been reported and link them to fixes when they became available. As originally conceived the program would cover the major existing Customer Support Organization (CSO) call centers in Australia, Europe and the US, the System Support Group (SSG) organization, which handled more complex problem definition and resolution, and the SW Development organization, which was responsible for the ultimate problem fixes. That would have been complex enough, but somewhere along the line the Customer Engineering (hardware support) organization got roped in, which added immensely to the complexity because the new problem documentation system now had to handle dispatching for hardware support. It was quite a challenge!

Originally I represented the Reston, VA, SSG. Later I represented the US SSGs in Reston, Austin and Cupertino, CA. The program did eventually go live worldwide more-or-less on time and worked more-or-less well. In the meantime I got to travel quite a bit to the support centers in Germany, the UK, Austin, TX, & Cupertino. Eventually I made it to the center in Melbourne, Australia, but that was not in conjunction with the Genesis project.

This was the only time I took a camera along. I think it was the first SSG/CSO team meeting held in Europe.

Picture

Narrative

Genesis Meeting

The trip started at the support center in Slough, UK. L-R are Arthur Jordan, representative from the Austin Call Center, Susie White, of the UK Call Center, Mike Piccarillo, from the US CE organization, an unknown woman with her back to us, and Greg Oxton, who was the overall project lead.

Greg was a good program manager but he had best-in-class skills at dining on an expense account!

Of these folks I think Arthur and Mike were the only ones who made it all the way to the project's completion.

Bath, UK

One Saturday while we were in the UK, we decided to visit Bath. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but we had to work in the morning and didn't get there until the afternoon. It was raining. After a city tour on the tourist bus, we headed back to the train station to return to Slough. About halfway there the train stopped and we all had to transfer to buses. The IRA had left a bomb in one of the train stations and the entire rail system was shut down until it was found and disabled.

In the US people are still panicked about terrorists because of a single devastating attack in 2001 (I am writing this in 2018). During the "troubles" in Ireland and the UK, there were one or two attacks A WEEK and life went on! Click for a list covering 1990-1999. Our little disruption doesn't show up because the bomb was located before it exploded.

It was a mess!

Genesis team

After the overall project meeting in the UK, the SSG team met in Frankfurt. We actually did get to take a weekend day off to tour the area.

L-R: Mr. Balthazar; Nellie Balthazar (mostly hidden), our quality team representative; Mark Jadus, Cupertino SSG; Cheryl Mullins, SW Distribution Center; Wolfgang (Bertie) Steingass, Frankfurt SSG; Bill Fallin, project lead; and Adrian Van Erp, Austin SSG.

I should add that the entire project was targeted for ISO 9000 certification just in case it wasn't complicated enough. That is why Nellie was participating. Her husband just came along for the ride on this particular trip.

Bertie had volunteered to take us all for a tour of Frankfurt.

Market Square

The Römerberg or main square may look medieval, but it is brand-new, rebuilt in 1986 to the original plans. Although the facades may look old, Bertie told us that the interior space is configured to modern standards. Much of Frankfurt was destroyed in WWII and like many cities it has taken a while to rebuild historic areas.

Most of the city is unabashedly modern.

Old Opera House

Likewise the old opera house, originally completed in 1880, had been destroyed and rebuilt.

The legend above the arches reads: the true, the beautiful, the good.

Door

I'm a sucker for doors. I took pictures of several, but I liked this one the best. I don't know what it belongs to or if it was also reconstructed.

Excursion ship

Part of our afternoon was an excursion down the Main River to the Rhein. The ship, Wikinger II, has had quite a history (there are web sites devoted to tracking ships through name and ownership changes). As of 2005 it was being used as a floating restaurant in northern Germany.

Main locks

As we traveled down the Main toward the Rhein, we passed at least one lock. This dam can be raised or lowered to manage floods.

Late last year we traveled along the Main again as part of a cruise across Europe. I was disappointed that we passed Frankfurt at night.

In 1993 the Rhein-Main-Danube canal had just been completed.

Schloss

Cheryl was looking forward to seeing a real castle. This was the first Schloss that we passed, but it wasn't castle-y enough for her.

Schloss

Nope, this didn't do it either.

Schloss

This was as good as it got. Although it didn't have a moat, it did have a tower. The is the Boosenburg and it is a genuine castle,

She was mildly disappointed none-the-less.

Rudesheim am Rhein

We took this gondola over the vineyards above Rüdesheim am Rhein to visit the Niederwalddenkmal or monument to the unification of Germany.

Niederwald denkmal

The monument was constructed beginning in 1871 to celebrate the "unification" of Germany (including Alsace-Lorraine, a goodly chunk of Poland, and a bit of Lithuania) after the end of the Franco-Prussian war. After Germany's defeat in WWI, Alsace-Lorraine returned to France, Poland was reconstituted, and Lithuania somewhat regained its territory, which Russia had claimed.

It is hard to believe that Germany is a relatively new construction and not all the German states welcomed unification and subsequent domination by Prussia. We could still see this tension during our recent cruise through southern Germany.

The words of a German anthem are carved on the monument. It extols the watchers guarding the Rhein to make sure it remains a German river.

Nellie

After our visit to Rüdesheim we returned to Frankfurt. By this time we were all pretty much tuckered out. Nellie konked out on deck and so did Bill. Fortunately for Nellie she snoozed mostly in the shade. Bill got a pretty bad sunburn!

The Genesis experience was a pretty intense one, but I got to know a lot of really nice folks. Even though a lot of international travel sounds pretty cool, we really didn't get much free time. It was mostly just one office building and computer screen after another.

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