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An Open Letter To Steve Ballmer

August 26, 2013 Leave a comment

Dear Steve:

I was saddened to hear about your departure from Microsoft.  Inevitably discussion will turn to your legacy at Microsoft and what meaning you played in the role of the company.   What I think may get overlooked is the impact you and Bill had on the individual.  To make certain that discussion doesn’t get lost in the void, I offer this:

The story arc of Microsoft is the story of my adult life.  Founded in 1975 when I was 11, I was 16 when you joined the company in 1980; I started writing BASIC a year later.  My first IBM machine running DOS came not long after.  Windows 1 was released and improved during my high school and college years, but I could never get a machine running it because I was too broke.   MS-DOS, dBase and Wordstar had to do.  Windows 2.0 arrived right after I left college and was still hacking out my living as an accountant, working for a mortgage company that was systematically defrauding its parents.  The spreadsheets I did using an IBM PC running MS-DOS showed up during the investigation. 

Between 1987 and 1993, you released Windows Windows 3, Windows for Workgroups, Windows NT (32 Bit!), bought SQL Server and release SQLNT.  I moved from accounting to IT and eventually to IT consulting, finally leaving my home town and moving to a new city for new opportunities and new friends.   Since the new friends thing was a little slow in coming, I spent gobs of time with SQLNT.

1995 was the banner year.  Windows 95, Office 95, SQL 6.0, and Great Plains Software ported Dynamics CS+ to SQL 6.0 under beta.  I started my own consulting company helping mid-market businesses convert from DOS and Novell to Windows and NT, using SQL server as a robust data storage platform.   And, I started into the ERP market, a place I remain today having worked with Windows 98, XP (I skipped ME), tons of SQL server versions, Windows 2000, Server, and god knows how many versions of Office, each one getting better.  And, as each one got better my career and life matured in lockstep.

Listen to the press if you wish.  Debate your own inner doubts about whether you left a beneficial legacy.  Have lengthy, late night, wine-fueled discussions with your wife about whether it was worth it.    That behavior is now your privilege – just remember that one guy (and I can tell you from experience I am not alone here) appreciates, without reservation, everything you did, everything you made happen, and everything you built.

Good luck, Steve.  Call me if you want to go fly-fishing.

Dwight

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