Jeff Vance has acted as essential as postal carriers to the HP 3000 community during his 28 years at HP: traversing everywhere, bringing new solutions, essential to communication. His departure from the company leaves a hole that HP will work to fill with Craig Fairchild, another HP 3000 engineer whose decades of duties will now include part of Vance's regular tasks: being the public voice to the customer base, as well as an in-house advocate for the 3000 user's point of view.
Vance leaves HP along with Mike Paivinen, the most forward-looking HP staffer regarding the post-HP segment of the 3000's history. Jeff Vance leaves behind his own take on the future of HP's relationship with its 3000 customers, too. As recently as this week he posted a message on the 3000 and OpenMPE Internet mailing lists, restating how HP views your MPE/iX licenses.
But this avid mountain biker was at his best in customer contact at meetings, or in Command Interface development in his offsite lab. Over one rainy weekend during 2001, he told us in an interview, (right after HP's discontinue announcement) that he created "customer delight" CI enhancements for fun:
Stories are out there about things you wrote “because it was a rainy weekend.”
Well, that’s how I like to do it: If it’s a nice weekend I want to go out and do something fun, and if it’s a rainy weekend I have fun programming. Especially if I see leverage, if I’ve already been in the code for something else I’m doing and it’s just a matter of doing a little bit more. I like to be able to leverage as much work as I can into a patch, so there’s less administrative overhead and more time actually creating code.
This illustrates the generous spirit in Vance, something akin to the "information wants to be free" creed among the 3000's founding community. He explained about his decision to leave HP now, after a few other chances to do so — a choice seemingly centered on getting to new work closer to customers of a strategic product, in a much smaller company.
"The decision was very difficult, as you can imagine. My entire career, since graduating from college, has been HP, MPE, and the 3000. It's been 28 memorable years, but since the end-of-life announcement in Nov 2001, the focus of my job evolved such that there were fewer opportunities to delight customers."
"I always have liked working with 3000 customers, even now. And, I have had really excellent managers and just plain good people here as my bosses over the years. The value of this cannot be overstated. My managers have supported every work decision I’ve made, while also providing me work-life balance, trust, independence, and their confidence."
"I like to create (invent!) and develop code and solutions to delight customers. Unfortunately, there are simply fewer opportunities for this kind of work on a non-strategic product, even though I still enjoy my chances to help customers continuing to use their 3000s to run their business. I tried to be a voice of the 3000 customers in our meetings where policies and decision were being made. I tried to find win-win scenarios."
Vance sometimes took an adamant stance to represent customer needs in HP's meetings, always keeping in mind his first allegiance to his employer. He took a similar sort of risk as a matter of course in his passionate hobby, mountain biking, where he pushed his limits to new levels.
"This was the first Enhanced Early Retirement offer which I actually thought about. I guess I wanted to work on something more strategic to a company. I searched around some within HP and concluded that my best bet was to find a new job outside of HP, which I am in the process of doing now. I am looking at other companies where I can wear several hats, and help them create solutions to delight customers. I want to remain close to the end users."
He feels confident that the substitution of Craig Fairchild for his public liaison responsibilities — Vance was often the bearer of HP policy over the Internet channels — will meet the community's needs.
"Craig is eminently qualified to hand off my responsibilities to. He's been here 20-plus years and cares for our customers and partners. He has a good sense of what's right and will be an asset to our customers."