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executing Opportunities…

by | Oct 31, 2020 | execute, Opportunity, Van Halen

I was fortunate that there was another tech company literally across the street that needed a VP of Engineering.  I interviewed with the leadership team and found it was similarly a merger of 3 companies that were mostly in the Imaging space – storing and processing data for example for MRI machines.  I landed the job with a pretty quick process and showed up for my first day.  It was a little awkward because no one was around, but I knew where my office was and started unpacking my box of pictures and music system (of course), when my phone rang – it was the CEO summoning me to the Monday morning Staff meeting – where I walked in… late… to a room full of 100 people.  Check – missed that in the interview process also… 

The last member of the band to highlight is Alex – who by playing Eddie’s drums, freed him to focus on “his” guitar.  Not as much is written about Alex, but he was the one that was first at Pasadena Community college to connect with Anthony and Roth, and start the basics of the band.  Like Eddie, he was/is a great pianist with the same formal training, but unlike him, did not play much other than drums through most of Van Halen’s albums.  All the songs were “shared compositions” between the band members, so it is hard to find specific tracks he “authored”.  One was a companion track to Human Beings was an instrumental also on the Twister soundtrack, Respect the Wind was nominated for a Grammy with Alex on the keyboards. 

He was responsible for all of the band management in the early days as the “older brother”, handling booking, billing, marketing, etc.  Van Halen is known for “The Brown Sound” which we talked about last week mostly associated with Eddie’s guitar.  However, it really came from the sound of Alex’s snare drum – Ed saying “I want my guitar to sound like Al’s snare…..Warm, big, and majestic.”  He went on to describe his brother’s snare drum as having a sound that is “brown”. In Eddie’s mind, this was the perfect word to describe Alex Van Halen’s warm snare tone “I’ve always thought Alex’s snare drum sounds like he’s beating on a log”  Here is an amazing drum solo, and at 3:00 you will hear how his snare takes him up… literally!

… I was heading in a different direction. With little interaction with my “boss”, I was left to focus on what I thought would work best, given where the teams were.  In an odd way, it helped me realize that people above often are 1) not available, 2) not informed, and if you ask, 3) give you a really bad answer.  I worked with the founders of the company who were “engineers” and developed a good rapport with them… to a point.  As the tougher problems arose, and as I started taking a stand for specific customer outcomes, there was a stepping back that I missed in my focus on execution.  I also had developed a good relationship with the head of HR, and started sharing the issues I was having with my boss… until I showed up for a meeting with her, and there sat my boss – who I was seeing for the first time in person in 60 days. 

… where I learned 2 important things.  First – the HR team is first and foremost about protecting… the company.  Yes, they can and should do their best for the employee, but ultimately they will side with those that are staying.  It was a brief execution meeting, and I packed up my box of things and left.  Done.  Oh – the second thing?  Add this question to your Opportunity process:  What happened with my predecessor?  Mine – I was the 6th head of engineering in 3 years… and it had been exactly 6 months.  While painful, it has paid off many many times for me and others.  Until then, this one you have some great drumming, but also some great Western Chicken Picking leading to another name for the band:  Van Haggard 😉  Come back tomorrow for the “happy ending” with a twist… when we … Finish what you started…  

 

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