To all my dear friends,
As most of you know, last year was very difficult for me with first my mother passing away in May, and then my wife of 29 years, Michelle, passing away in September. Since Michelle died, I have gone through a myriad of changes and it seems that the more I change, the more I need to change. The many years of Michelle's poor health were a great strain and a difficult time and they have taken their toll on me. As an example, in 2003, I supervised 11 hospitalizations of various family members while continuing to do a fulltime job. Still, as I move ahead without having to watch her suffer, I am finding that life is easier in many ways. I am so used to carrying huge emotional burdens that now it feels very different.
I have been trying to eat well and get healthy for almost a year now and my weight loss recently crossed 100 pounds. This has helped me to feel stronger and more energetic. I am now wearing 40 inch pants (instead of 48 inches) and 1XL shirts (instead of 4XL) and anticipate needing smaller clothes within a month. It is a huge change for me. I still have some old socks left but that's about it!
With work, it has been also a busy time. The first week in January, I presented a keynote at CIDR (Conference on Innovative Database Research). It was called Data on the Outside Versus Data on the Inside. You can download the PDF of the paper by looking in the electronic proceedings of the conference at http://www-db.cs.wisc.edu/cidr/. I also won the “Most Enthusiastic” prize at the evening gong show (twenty 5 minute talks designed to entertain the nerds).
In the middle of February, I went to Phoenix and keynoted the Western Region Architect Forum with my talk on “Metropolis: Interchangeability of Operations”. I also presented a talk called “Hubble: Long-Running Two-Party Messaging” and sang the fourth (and final) rendition of “Mr. CIO Guy”.
This week I completed Microsoft’s internal conference called WHIPS (Workshop on High Performance Computing) which I chair. It is a gathering of the most senior technologists from Windows, SQL, and Developer Division (along with some other cool people from inside Microsoft). WHIPS is designed to promote cross-team relationships and bonding [hence the name…;-) ]. The conference went very well and was a lot of fun! We also had a gong show and again, I won the most enthusiastic presentation award…
Enough on work stuff… I want to tell all of you about some bigger things.
On January 8th, I moved from my grown daughter's house to an apartment in the city. I love being in Seattle and always wanted to live in the city but Michelle didn't like it so we stayed in the suburbs. Even more profound is the fact that I am living alone for the first time in my life. As a 19 year old kid, I moved from my parents' house into a home with my wife and 3 kids which rapidly became 4 kids. It is a different, lonely, and yet wonderful thing to live alone. As I try to learn who and what I am as an individual, I spend increasingly more time away from my grown children and grandchildren. This is a healthy change but a deep and profound one in my lifestyle. Many evenings, I go out to eat alone knowing full well that I could drive to Issaquah to my daughter's house and be welcomed (and fed). Still, I need to be alone to deal with the pain and loss and to figure out what I want for my life and how I want to live.
Shortly after moving to Seattle, I noticed that I get sad as I drive to the Eastside crossing the lake from Seattle to Bellevue and Redmond. It seems that being in my old places and doing the old things brings me down and being in new places and doing new things seems more and more uplifting and invigorating. This feeds and fuels my need for change and new beginnings.
On January 24th, Amazon approached me to work helping their systems and applications become more scalable and fault tolerant. I swear, I was just plugging away going to work when they asked me to come and visit! Amazon has embraced the need to migrate to service oriented architecture and wants me to help in that effort. I have worked almost 27 years on platforms for enterprise applications but have never worked on an actual application. Amazon has one of the world's largest and most challenging applications. The difficulties involved in keeping the application available are both technical and social. Working on this provides me with the opportunity to see if my ideas work and to learn from real world deployments. This is a wonderful chance to make a difference in a new way. In addition, I can walk to work from my new apartment in Seattle and I remain within easy visiting distance of my family (father, kids, and grandkids).
Even more importantly, moving to Amazon will provide me with a fresh start and a clean slate. It is hard to contemplate life without seeing all of my friends from Microsoft on a regular basis. It is equally hard to think about not participating in the gatherings, presentations, conferences, keynotes, and just plain camaraderie that have sustained me through some of the hardest years of my life. While I know that moving ahead I can recreate much of this with different people that I will grow to love too, it will never be the same as it has been with all of my friends here at Microsoft. Still, I ache for a fresh beginning in which all of the old memories and feelings do not weigh so heavily on me.
As I search my heart, I know that the change will be good for me and so on February 7th I submitted my resignation from Microsoft effective tomorrow, March 4th. I will start at Amazon on March 7th. Microsoft has been gracious enough to allow me to do the keynote for the Canadian Regional Architect Forum as an Amazon employee. I am now in the midst of packing the PEZ shrine and all the other insane paraphernalia from my office. I selected my last date of March 4th as the Friday after WHIPS. Only after writing the resignation letter did I realize that my last day at Microsoft is the six month anniversary of Michelle's death. It's hard to explain but it just happened and that, somehow, seems poignant to me.
I love Microsoft and all of you so very much. The company and my dear friends here have always shown me only kindness, generosity, support, and love. It is a very, very hard thing to leave and this is a very hard message to write. You are all special to me and remain my friends. Both inside and outside Microsoft… As I have spread the word of my departure within Microsoft, there has been nothing but expressions of kindness. Somehow, Microsoft supported me chairing an internal conference (WHIPS) with public awareness of my imminent departure while showing me nothing but affection and support. It is very humbling.
It is unclear where I will set up a new blog but I am determined to reinvigorate my public writing. This will be in the form of blogs, technical papers, and hopefully a book or two. My new blog will likely be associated with www.pathelland.com but I haven’t figured that out yet. Wherever it lands, you can be assured that Harry Pierson (http://devhawk.net) and Werner Vogels (http://weblogs.cs.cornell.edu/AllThingsDistributed/) will both spread the word.
Soon, my email address will be firstname.lastname@example.org.
With extra special love and kisses,