‘Remember all the people in your life who helped guide you on your road to success. Thank them sincerely and often.’ Robert Cheeke.
A few weeks ago I received some sad news by email. A friend had passed away. It was a surprise; he was not that old. I have been thinking about him since.
John Paul was one of the smartest engineers I ever worked for. I met him when I moved with my young family to work in Brunei in the late 90’s.
Back then, his office was always messy. His filing system consisted of placing documents in piles on his desk and, when that was full, starting on the floor behind his chair. I tried to help by creating a space in a set of storage drawers where we could keep documents ordered, but John simply stuffed the vertical suspension files with paper in much the same way he did on the floor. Despite this, he never once had a problem locating something when I asked for it. Sometimes I wondered if he had a photographic memory; always, I was amazed.
He didn’t like change - emails had become common place by the time I worked with John, but he hated them (especially when they came from the Project Manager, who he felt should walk to his desk instead). I remember once thinking that we might upgrade the pipe stressing software to the current Windows version. I obtained the approval of the General Manager but John refused, insisting instead that I persevere with the DOS version that he understood. It was slow and cumbersome, and intolerant to mistakes in the entries. It definitely made made me careful about how I put the data in, because otherwise I would have to start over. I guess that John knew that already.
John went against many of the conventional approaches that I had been taught as a young engineer. He often insisted we press ahead with our work rather than wait for inputs from others. He was about getting on with the job, making the best assessment that you could with the information you have today. When the inputs finally arrived from others we would invariably find that his decisions were correct. He inspired me to educate myself so that I could also work that way and use the best data at hand to make decisions.
Inside and outside work, he was a quiet man. At least until you got to know him. That’s when you found out that he was opinionated; and, if you didn’t agree, you’d soon also find out how difficult he was to argue with. He was also very funny. We had some hilarious times when we had to travel together and his emails, after I had returned to Australia, always contained a certain dry wit that would make me smile when I read them.
John Paul was a mentor and friend to me; not only while we worked together, but for the many years that followed; and, although I won’t ever get to see him again, he will always be an important part of the person that I am.
Rest in peace, mate.