What would Dave and I have done?

Product development can be hard…

When faced with a challenge at work, I often find myself thinking ‘What would Dave and I have done?’  This frequently helps me come up with a good solution.

The Dave I’m referring to was my manager during an very important and formative time early in my career.  We worked for a laser company in San Jose, California, during a time that was very exciting for us, for the company, and for Silicon Valley in general. During the four years he was my manager, the fiber telecommunications market exploded, fueled by the now infamous dot-com boom, and the demand for our fiber amplifier technology grew rapidly.

Trial by fire

I was still pretty new to the world of industry at the time, and getting caught up in the whirlwind of the telecom boom was a bit overwhelming at times. Dave was very skilled at growing the group and helping us grow in our product development sophistication as well.  He guided us to move quickly, but to implement just enough discipline and rigor to ensure we were shipping high performance products our demanding customers could rely on, rather than science projects that required PhDs to operate and maintain.

I learned many important skills from working with Dave during this phase of our careers. His guidance helped me grow from a newly minted PhD into an experienced product development manager. I’ve leveraged the skills and knowledge I gained in every one of my subsequent career moves, and I will be forever grateful for having had the opportunity to work in his group.


This week I was back in the Bay Area for a few days, and had the chance to connect with Dave over a beer. I hadn’t seen him since I moved to Colorado almost 14 years ago, so we had a lot of time to catch up on.

It was really great to share where our careers have taken us since those exciting years.  We recalled the crazy ups and downs and reflected on just how little we really knew when it all started.  As we talked, I realized just how much of my career success has been a direct result of the lessons from those early years. I hope I adequately conveyed to him just how important the experience and his mentorship have been to me.

Make the effort to stay in touch with people who were influential in your career. Let them know what their contributions have meant to you.  There is real value in it for both of you.

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