Jim Gray

I was reading the WiredInside the High Tech Hunt for a Missing Silicon Valley Legend” article again :-( I never stop to be amazed with how many peoples’ lives and careers touched over the years.

I looked again at the last few messages he sent me (the very last being on the Sat evening, before he disappeared). I loved his messages. Short, precise, expressing his enthusiasm about technology. I remember the ‘right on’ (those were his only words) message when we initially made contact, back in 2003, after the WS-GAF team circulated the whitepaper-critique on the Grid community’s approach to architecture and the use of Web Services specifications and his ‘wow!’ message few days before he disappeared on the overview of some of the things I was planning to do (and I am now doing).

Like with so many others, Jim was more than keen to mentor me. He had asked me to formalize our mentorship relationship (Microsoft has an internal program), which of course I accepted in an instance! I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this on my blog but Jim is the reason I ended up in Redmond and in the US. When I decided to start looking for my next career move after Newcastle, I ended up having various offers. At the end, I narrowed down my options to MSR Cambridge and joining Don Box in CSD, Redmond. Different career paths, different environments, different people. In the end, I asked Jim and it was his advice that lead me move to the US.

When Tony Hey asked me to join his Technical Computing team, it was another tough decision. I was seriously enjoying working with Don on new technologies (hopefully you’ll hear about it some time next year) and was learning a lot next to him. But the opportunity to work with Tony and push my own ideas was also great. I didn’t know what to do. Most people thought I was crazy leaving Don and the CSD’s very prestigious architecture team. It was a huge gamble and I was hesitant. I went to Jim again, who not only offered his advise but, as I found out later, he started talking with various people in the company to figure out where I would be more successful and where I would have more impact. He even called me to discuss it and tell me his thoughts.

I was planning to go spend a week at his lab last March. Work closely with my mentor and try to learn as much as I could. Lots of the stuff I am doing now are the result of his encouragement and direction (e.g. my involvement with the scholarly publishing folks, supporting researchers with services in the cloud, data-intensive computing, etc.).

I am off to HPTS again next month, his favorite event. I do hope he surprises us all and turns up there!