Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Sad Day

This week someone I work with announced his resignation and I'm not happy.

Over roughly 20 years in high tech and 4 years in college I've worked for several companies, and with some truly brilliant people. I hope none of those people will be offended when I say that no one I have ever worked with or known - anywhere - is as amazing as David Schairer.

The experience of working with David is unlike any other I have had. I once likened working with someone else to drinking from a fire hose. That individual was a source of amazing amounts of information in his field, but there was no ability to control the rate at which the information came out. He could do his job well, but teaching was not something you wanted him to try.

David is entirely different.

First, he's a true polymath, astoundingly well versed in a huge number of topics, ranging all over the technical map and going beyond into classics, languages - both modern and ancient - and vast realms between. British naval history, whiskey, oddball web comics, and any number of other things are stored in his head. In depth. Every conversation with David is a new window on the world, full of twists and turns, unexpected connections, and an amazing variety of facts.

Beyond that, David has the ability to read others and throttle back if he's overwhelming those he's talking with. Truth be told he doesn't always do so - he's so far beyond most of us that it's hard for him to slow down - but he can present just about any information in clear and concise ways, keeping it interesting, lively and relevant. He can entertain, enthrall and teach all at the same time. This ability makes him an powerful mentor, even if he's not thinking of himself in that role at a given moment.

Of course there are some things that David doesn't know, and when those come up he's honest and says so. It doesn't stop him from contributing to a discussion, but you always know where he stands. This particular trait is related to - and probably springs from - an underlying honesty I find particularly appealing.

Another of David's abilities is idea generation. Present him with a problem - "How do we do X?" - and he will supply multiple approaches before anyone else has come to grips with the problem. His ability to see solutions to the kinds of issues we encounter is second to none.

On a personal level, David has been someone I can ask questions of at work - almost regardless of the topic - for my entire time at Concentric. He's one of a core of supremely gifted individuals that make working here so interesting, and who keep me on my toes all the time.

Now, I'm sad to say, David has decided to move on. My job will not be the same, and we who remain will miss him, both professionally and personally.

There are still brilliant people here. That was one of the attractions of Concentric, and why I came back here when I returned to work, but David's departure will leave a gaping hole to fill, and it will not be easy.

I look forward to following David's exploits in the future. And if it should come to pass that I can work with him again, I will be thrilled. He's one of a group that created a level of personal loyalty and intellectual challenge that I have never found anywhere else.

All the best in your future endeavors, David. I'll miss you.