Carlos Leyva

Silicon Stories

Chapter 1: Dirty Little Secret

The Rexx Underground

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I was plugged into the Rexx underground, and I was keenly aware that some of my colleagues were doing fantastic work that could, and should, be leveraged by the entire organization. In particular, there was a developer on the west coast who was doing amazing things with Rexx (screen building tools, search tools, etc.). A few of us were already leveraging this stuff, but apart from the insiders, the rest of Big Oil Company was oblivious. I put some credible numbers together, got the support of a senior executive, and presented my case in front of the IT executive committee.

I must have been waxing poetic about the virtues of reusability and happened to use the phrase “in this business” (meaning the software business). I then began speaking of reusability as the Holy Grail (or something to that effect). Before I could finish making my point, however, one of the executives interrupted me and yanked my chain. He said, “What business might that be?” I hesitated for a New York nanosecond and responded with, “the oil business.” That was the politically correct answer. What I should have said was, “Listen moron, you have 2000 people in IT, and whether you know or not, you are in the fucking software business.”

Not long after my “quality” presentation, I landed a position on the hottest IT project at Big Oil Company. I had developed a reputation as a technologist with good business skills. I was also teaching “C” at Houston Community College during this time. The powers that be assigned me to the architecture and framework team, which had been conceptualized and in early design for about a year prior to my assignment. The project was not being called a “project.” It was called a “program.”

The program’s charter was to develop, from scratch, a purchasing and financial system for the entire Exploration and Production organization. By the time I transferred, the program team was comprised of three layers of IT management with about fifty people in all. There were also a number of folks from the business side that had been assigned full-time to this effort. The program King Fish was a high flier from one of the business units. The kicker was that the proposed system was to be completely PC-based. Big Oil Company was a Big Blue Shop, and OS/2 was poised to take over the PC universe. This was really exciting stuff back in 1987.

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