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Two Tech Guys Walk Into A Bar

October 11, 2019

Back when the Internet was young and Microsoft was King of The Mountain, I worked for the “evil empire.” It was a different time. I was there from 1994 to 2002. It feels like a a lifetime ago. In Internet, or IT time, it was.

It was also a different time in terms of what companies could get away with. I spent several years on the Microsoft Exchange team. Brian Valentine was the VP over Exchange. The team took it’s direction from him.

Brian wasn’t much of a believer in following rules. He held Ship-It parties that were legendary within Microsoft. The Art Department had to ask for a Ship It schedule so they knew when to remove the paintings and statues from Building 43 before the drunken rowdiness started.

There was one statue too large to move. It was a circle of stones walls. During a Ship It party, someone decided it would be a good idea to fill the circle with water. It was probably several hundred gallons. That wouldn’t have been a problem if the art structure hadn’t been on top of the parking garage.

In addition to legendary shipping parties Brian also had a Friday afternoon meetings. They were mandatory. They also provided taxis for anyone who wanted one afterward. (This was before Uber and Lyft.) The meetings were just an excuse to have another party, complete with beer. I loved those parties.

I don’t drink.

I’m travelling to the Philippines next month for a business meeting. I’ll be there all week to justify the time and expense of going. I’m going because part of our team is in the Philippines. In fact, many of our teams are at least partially based overseas.

A friend on another team reached out recently.

I heard you will be in the Philippines next month?

Yeah, I’ll be there for about a week.

We should get together and have a beer.

That would be great. I don’t drink beer, but it would be great to meet.

I’m more of a whisky drinker.

Actually, I don’t drink alcohol at all. It’s kind of a religious thing. But, I love bars.

It’s true. I’m a huge fan of bars. I love the atmosphere. I love the ambiance. (Okay, those mean the same thing, but they sound different.) Maybe it’s because my grandparents’ home had a bar. One back room was literally a bar room. It had dark panelling, A 15′ bar. Neon bar pictures. I don’t remember sneaking any of the alcohol. My cousins do so maybe I did too. Anyway, my memories of that room are about family gatherings and happy times. Maybe that’s why.

all I know is that I’ve always felt comfortable in a bar room.

And I never drink.

Many of my friends also do not drink. However, unlike me, they don’t feel comfortable in a bar, or even around alcohol. (Probably because their grandparents didn’t have a bar room in their house.)

While I like bars, I don’t much care for drunks. I don’t find “drunk” videos funny. I feel sorry for people who cannot control their urges and so end up allowing their urges to control them.

However, not everyone that drinks is a drunk, just as not everyone who drives speeds.

We recently finished a major project. The team was from multiple states. We met for dinner after the final sign off was done. My friends all drink. After dinner they started sampling various craft beers. Then, they started custom ordering speciality drinks. The only one I “recognized” was a White Russian. And by recognized, I mean I can remember the name and have no idea what’s in it.

After dinner, we all went our separate ways.

Did they drink too much? I have no idea. I know they drank more than I did. And to my completely unprofessional view, they weren’t impaired.

The point of the evening was that alcohol is part of the culture of IT. We once had a late night strategy session one time with the division president, senior VPs and various members of the project team. We had an important client presentation the following day. About half way through our evening one of the senior VPs handed me an unopened beer. It only seemed natural to him.

To be successful in my position, I have to be comfortable around alcohol. Fortunately, I am. I know some former coworkers who would not be.

For you, it might be something else. The thing about business is that your comfort zone and someone elses very likely might not line up exactly. You have to be willing to either become comfortable, or find a new position.

Hopefully, you had a grandmother who liked bars. I know it helped me.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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