Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Life in the Boy's Dorm: My Career at Sun Microsystems Part 11



Let's spend some time with David Lietzke.

I love David.  David is smart and he is an exceptional friend.  Also, David taught me how to do what I do, don't ask me what that is, but David taught me to do it.  David is first a business guy and then an HR person.  I owe him so much I cannot begin to describe it or thank him.  So, mostly I tease and torture him.  

The day I realized David always left his keys in his car was the day my friend, May Yip and I started the diabolical plan to move his car everyday...not far, just a couple of spaces from where he'd left it.  

This went on for months.  We would stand in the windows of our offices and watch as David went out to get into his car at the end of the day.  He would head to where he parked it and then stand there puzzled for a second or two, see the car a couple of parking places from where he expected it to be; or parked directly behind where he had left it, scratch his head and then get in and drive away.  It was like the movie "Gaslight", we were slowly driving him insane.  

One day we replaced his Jimmy Buffet tape with Mozart. He apparently got out on Rt 85 and with the windows down and the volume already cranked up, turned on his Buffet tape...only to find "Eine Kleine Nachtmusic" blaring...and almost ran off the road.  Then we left a photo of his Buffet tape, wrapped in barb wire, on his front seat with a ransom demand.  All good fun and I thought that one day he would figure it was us and we would pay the price.  But, what I had not counted on was that David never dreamed it was us....he had another friend named Kirby, who was also something of a practical joker.  Turns out, David thought Kirby was behind the car torture.  So, David starting torturing Kirby with his own assortment of tricks and treachery.  The two of them went at it for quite a while, escalating the pranks.  

May and I just watched and commiserated with David and didn't tell him that we had started the snowball rolling down the hill until his last day at Sun, at which point we also opened the sun-roof on his car, closed and locked the doors  threw the keys in through the sun-roof and proceeded to filled the car up entirely with styro-foam pellets we had stolen from the distribution warehouse  That will teach you, David...girls can be fun too!

After I returned from a vacation one Monday, David slipped into my office with a silly grin on his face.  David has big dimples and seeing him grin is just such a treat.  He wanted to tell me about something Bob Lux had done.  Bob Lux ran Customer Service for Sun at this point.  Another DEC hire.  We did not know him very well yet.  But he had the reputation as something of a loose cannon.  A "player."   I was his HR manager at the time (1986) and David had attended Lux's staff meeting in my place while I was out of town.

With me out of the room and David in my place, Bob had an entirely male staff meeting and he decided to cut loose a bit.  Bob opened his staff meeting by telling his team the story of the famous "Newly Wed Game" incident where Bob Eubanks asks the young-marrieds to name the most unusual place they had ever had sex.  The first young husband, a rather over-weight, sweaty guy in a too-small-suit replied, "Well, that would be the butt, Bob!"

David told me the story.  We both laughed a bit, tried to figure out if any harm had been done by the telling of the story and didn't see any (please do not send me angry notes if you see some was a long time ago...and it was funny....).  Based on that incident, we started to call Bob Lux, "That-would-be-the-butt-Bob-Lux"  in our HR staff meetings (as one of my colleagues once said, "in an HR meeting anything goes, we are a self-cleaning oven").  Within a month or so "That-would-be-the-butt-Bob-Lux" was the only name we used to refer to Lux.  

Some time later, David again came into my office, this dimples showing.  David was the HR Director for Bernie LaCroute.  Bernie ran Engineering, Marketing, Operations, Customer Service....etc etc....he ran everything except Sales, Finance and HR. If Scott McNealy was God at Sun....Bernie was the Holy Ghost...he made things happen.  Well, David had been in Bernie's weekly staff meeting and somehow, without thinking, he accidentally referred to the head of Customer Service, a Vice President of a publicly held company and a direct report of Bernie's as,  "That-would-be-the-butt-Bob-Lux."  There was dead silence in the room, according to David, "What was that?" asked Bernie.  David covered somehow.  But he was mortified.  And he knew Bernie was not amused at all.  He was certain that Bob Lux was offended and pissed and probably in complaining about David to Crawford at that very moment.  David was telling me all of this, shaking his head, blaming me for being such a smart-ass-ring-leader and lecturing me that we had to...HAD to...take this all more seriously.  Just at that point Bob Lux stuck his head in the office door....beaming....."Nancy!' he yelled..."I want new business cards and I want them RIGHT NOW!  They are to say,  'That-would-be-the-butt-Bob-Lux' Vice President of Customer Delight."  He continued,  "This is the best HR team I have ever worked with.  At DEC they had no sense of humor!"  And off he went.  David and I just stared at each other and then burst out laughing.  

It was David that taught me that no one should ever know you are an HR person when you are in a staff meeting.  You need to be able to contribute to all areas of the business and not just raise your head when "people" issues are on the table.  It was David that first suggested that my humor and creativity might be assets in my work.  David forgave me for not having a Masters in OD and let me do the strategic work anyway.  David made me stand at his white board every couple of months and show him how I would redesign the group I was supporting to make it more effective.  David let me know that personal integrity was far more important in a business than "process integrity."  David showed me that objectivity can be used as a cover for cowardice and that loyalty is still a virtue.  And, David had fun every day....he was not one of those lamenting, whining, woe-is me-these-managers-are-all-so-stupid HR types. He is not chicken-little running around in high dudgeon all the time, creating more drama than value.  I owe this guy a lot.

We have remained friends.  When he left Sun and joined another company as VP of HR I stopped in to see him in his new office.  He did not expect me.  I approached the receptionist at his new company and asked to see him.  "Is he expecting you?" she asked. "Well, no, but I am Margaret Bedwetter, his parole officer, and he has missed his last two appointments...I need to see him NOW!" I replied.  She dialed David and said into the phone, "There is a Margaret Bedwetter here Mr Lietzke, she says she is your parole officer." And David, unfazed, replied, "Is she a very short woman.....?" 


  1. From your second generation contact at Sun: Friggin beautiful.

  2. Oh wow. I got a link here from a friend. And I just spent the evening reading your entries about Sun. Absolutely hilarious. Thank you :)

  3. I wish we could all go back to those crasy days they were awesome and I sure miss them. Heck I miss Sun and probably always will!(worked there for almost 22 years, until I was rif'd) a very sad day for me...