Pitney Bowes

Brilliant Communications

Taking Innovation Around the World

by Michael Calderwood | September 20, 2011 | No Comments

Time flies

My good friend and colleague Bernie Gracy has once again taken to the skies to share the excitement and innovation of VollyTM. This time, his travels take him over the rainbow to the magnificent city of Sydney, Australia. Following a few days in Australia, he will be heading on to equally breathtaking New Zealand. For those of us who have spent time in these fantastic places, we know well the spirit and energy felt in the rhythms of the language, the no-worries attitude of the people, and the undeniable vibrancy of life lived large. It knocks away the jet lag and sweeps you into the flow of life Down Under.

Men at Work

 I was fortunate to spend several months in Sydney and Melbourne early in my Pitney Bowes career. At the time we were breaking away from the simpler technology of the day and driving forward with what was soon to become the benchmark in the Production Mail industry. Over the course of many weeks, a small dedicated team of PB experts worked across both cities to install and integrate ten highly complex, high integrity file-based systems thousands of miles and several time zones away from “home”. I look back now, and wonder how we managed to do what we did. Just thinking about the logistics of the whole project brings on a rush of memories and feelings, from excitement and exhaustion to aggravation and accomplishment. I can say with certainty that, given the opportunity to do it again, I’d jump at the chance – as long as Gene Pritchard’s passport is still valid!

The technology of today has come miles from where we were in the mid-90′s. Then, we were pushing the limits of speed and flexibility on our flagship Series systems. Moving complex, merging applications with tight document integrity was job one. Doing it at 8 Series speeds now seems trivial – but it was not trivial then. Our technology today cycles at over three times the speed, with countless features and configurations that would have made us run to the outback if we had to think about it then. Now, we do it every day, all around the world, with consistency and quality. We’ve grown from a small handful of highly skilled and highly coveted people to a globally strong powerhouse that tames technology and looks for the next opportunity to innovate.

Those were the days, my friend

Taking this stroll down memory lane brought to mind just how much has changed to allow us and all technology people to be globally successful. During our push into the Australian market, the team faced the very difficult challenges of time and distance. Anyone who does systems integration and system deployment work knows that things can go bump when you least expect it. Software bugs sometimes show up as the system is exercised in a production environment. When that production environment is 10,000 miles away from your development team, well it can get a bit difficult. When your lifeline back to home base is a dial-up modem, you discover your team knows more colorful words that you thought. And sometimes you get to learn new colorful words from your hosts! Sometimes you get proof that your hunch was right – that machine did indeed sound funny. Not so funny when you realize a replacement part had to come from far far away, and journey through the fantastic worlds of Customs! All you can do is sigh and dream of the day when cell phones, global logistics, electronic approvals and 24 hour support are the norm. Need an answer? Send and Instant Message and get it. Need another set of eyes on a machine problem? Fire up a web cam and a remote diagnostic program and collaborate with any engineer anywhere in the world. Need to find a logic analyzer in Parramatta? – Google it.

Does anybody know what time it is?

This all came together for me last night as I, sitting on my couch in Connecticut, was having a conversation with Bernie sitting in his hotel room in North Sydney. It was evening for me, morning for him. Different continents, different days. And it did not matter. We were able to discuss the Cowboys/49er’s game as it was racing to an exciting finish. I was able to let him know his beloved Patriots put another one in the win column. Man, I could have used some of that Instant-ness during those 84 hour days way back when!

We keep pushing the envelope – even when it’s not always an envelope. Regardless of how technology and cultures change, our need to communicate in ways simple and complex will always provide opportunities for innovation.  We have technology, and we have passports!

I wonder what the story will be when the next guy gets to tell it!

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