Tuesday, February 24, 2009

For Keith

A friend of mine died today. He wasn't a particularly close friend, or even someone I had spent a long time with. He was a work colleague - we'd worked together at TOWER Software. To Me, Keith was a bit of an enigma - a records manager, ex military, he was organized and careful in his approach to his work. I could always be sure that when I needed a stapler, or sticky tape, that I could find it easily at Keith's desk. When the cancer took hold of him, his desk was often empty. (This made the task of sneaking paperclips much less pleasant. )

Keith's specialty was the JITC (Joint Interoperability Tactical Command) Certification process. If that sounds boring, well, just wait - it gets way more detailed. The US Defense force certifies Record Keeping solutions to ensure that they comply with their strict policy of retention and control. This process is immensely complicated - it requires compliance with literally thousands of different rules and regulations. Because it is so complex, (and so difficult to understand, yet alone comply with), the JITC standard has become something of the Holy Grail in record keeping. TOWER's record keeping software, TRIM Context, was the first system to ever be granted the accreditation under this hyper-complex maze of compliance regulation. This was largely due to the work of Keith Cameron - a dilligent, smart, and careful man, who paid attention to the detail.

His was a kind of talent that I am deeply envious of. There is no way that I could possibly be even vaguely competent at the kind of work that Keith did. I am too short-minded, too impatient, and not careful enough to watch the details. As you go through your life, you meet people who are different to you. At first you might be tempted to mock them, or to give them a wide berth, because they don't fit into the way you see the world.

Over time, I've become profoundly appreciative of those people like Keith, who think differently to the way you think. They are an opportunity for you to learn something about yourself.

The world lost Keith today. Like lots of us, he was a husband, and a father. He had an infectious laugh, and a great attitude. I remember that when I last saw him, at my farewell from TOWER, he gave me a hug. It was a bit awkward, and I think we both knew that it was a permanent goodbye. We were a couple of colleagues, who respected and liked each other. It seemed the right thing to do.

So, Thanks Man! - Although it's only work, and not "real life" - your presence in my life for a couple of years was important to me. And the work we did together was always great fun.