Monday, November 13, 2006

A sad note

A friend of mine passed away yesterday, and it's top of mind with me today. I'm sure there will be all sorts of nice things said and written about him in coming days, and I'd like to get some thoughts of my own down as well.

I worked with Adrian Soyza in a couple of places over the years. He was about the fourth person I met when I went to work for Immedient, then he came back to join us at INS a few years later. Over that time, I had the opportunity to work with Adrian on a few projects and several sales pursuits.

Adrian and I often had differences of opinions, but one of the things you could always count on from Adrian was that he would have an opinion. He was as knowledgeable about technology as any non-techie you might run across, and saw the big picture very clearly. His greatest strength was his ability to share that big picture with others, to draw simple pictures and explain in clear and easy-to-understand phrases how selected bits and pieces of technology could be woven together to solve problems.

One of the formative learning experiences in my consulting life occurred on a project Adrian and I did together. Our prospective client was an enormous, international marketing company. Their problem was they were getting killed on delivery of their programs, due to their inability to accurately forecast and difficulties managing the on-time delivery of the program.

Adrian helped me quickly see the causes of the client's problems, and, under his leadership, we were able to quickly weave together a potential solution. Then, it was time to present this proposed solution. Adrian insisted that I do the initial presentation. He drilled me mercilessly, which I didn't enjoy at all and resisted pretty actively. I then went out and proceeded to blow the presentation big time.

Instead of totally thrashing me, which he had every right to do, Adrian was very calm, was careful not to destroy what little of my self-worth was left, and we worked out how we were going to pull it out of the ditch. We agreed that he would do the second (and more important) presentation, while I drove the demo. We went in to the second session, and he absolutely kicked ass. He did far more than pull it out of the ditch, he won us the initial business.

What I learned in that rather humbling experience was that you have to talk to the audience in terms they understand, and make your presentation relevant for them. Adrian was a master at this.

Adrian, with his silly little, over-trimmed beard and goofy Brit accent, will be missed. I'm very glad I had the opportunity to learn from him in the time we knew each other.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Peter, this is Susan, Adrian's wife. A friend of mine sent me a link to this blog the day of Adrian's funeral, but I got the message on my BlackBerry and had never tried the link. I'm back at work today and going back through my emails. Thank you so much for your beautiful tribute. He was brilliant and difficult and relentless. It means a lot that others could see through his stubbornness and determination and see his talents. You were so welcoming when Adrian returned to INS and it was thoughtful of you to attend his funeral. The respect of his coworkers meant a lot to Adrian and their concern for me has been a blessing.