A Finland Swede in Bavaria

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Thank you, everyone behind MySQL AB!

For more than nine years, I worked for MySQL AB and its successors, Sun Microsystems and Oracle. I handed in my resignation late June, two days before Sun's German legal entity ceased to exist. Germany isn't a country where you quit HP one day and join Oracle the next, so I had a long summer with plenty of so-called Garden Leave. Last Thursday was my last day, and I'm now outside MySQL AB, outside Sun Microsystems, outside Oracle.

Like all the many former colleagues who resigned before me, I did so with mixed feelings. Leaving the colleagues, finding freedom, I think you follow. The topmost feeling I have, the one I want to highlight right now, is gratitude. I'm very grateful for what MySQL AB has meant for my career, my personal development, my life experiences, my social life. Let me mention a small subset of the people that made my life at MySQL AB, and later Sun Microsystems, a truly memorable and enjoyable one.

Back in early 2000, when MySQL AB founders Michael "Monty" Widenius and David Axmark were just beginning to see the traction for MySQL, I got a proposal from Ralf Wahlsten, an old friend of Monty's and mine: Since you've done training and consulting, and Monty hasn't, why don't you create a training program for MySQL? I'm sure Monty will help you and promote it. I followed the advice. So, in my company Polycon Ab where I was an entrepreneur for fourteen years, I started working with MySQL a good ten years ago. Ralf connected the dots! And extracted the MySQL Core Values from Monty and David, and found our first Chairman John Wattin, and became an Angel Investor in MySQL AB.

In February 2001, after a good half year of working with MySQL, it became obvious that I was experiencing something which was going to be big. My last doubts were removed when, at the outset of a boys' trip to Rio de Janeiro, I understood Mårten Mickos (whom I had known since the early 1980s and respected for his leadership and judgement) had signed on as CEO. I asked Monty (whom I had known since the late 1970s) whether he was interested in me selling out the MySQL training operations of Polycon and formally joining MySQL AB. He was. Monty was kind enough to have me, and welcomed me with open arms. And created MySQL the product and the MySQL community.

In May 2001, I formally joined MySQL AB, together with my Polycon colleagues Bertrand Matthelié, Max Mether, and Sylvia Arte, soon to be joined by Olivier Beutels. There was a good dozen of employees before us. My initial title was VP Training, and Mårten invited me to join the management team, together with Monty, David and others. In the years to come, I was to get a number of other roles, VP Consulting, VP Services, VP Engineering and CIO, before becoming VP Community Relations in 2005. Mårten gave me all these opportunities, trusted me, and supported me as his reportee until he left Sun. And made MySQL AB into a company, grew it from a dozen people to 500 people, created a success story, and was a role model for how to do business with Open Source.

During the many years until the Sun acquisition, I had the privilege to work with some members of the MySQL AB Board of Directors. I learned a lot from you. John Wattin, our first Chairman, successfully guided us through financing rounds and growth pain. I fondly remember John referring to me as a "fireman", given that I swapped roles so many times through the ride. I also had the pleasure to work with Fredrik Oweson of Scope Capital, Kevin Harvey of Benchmark (our second and final Chairman), Danny Rimer of Index Ventures, Bernard Liautaud (then of Business Objects), and Tim O'Reilly. Later on, at Sun, the board connections were replaced by contacts with Sun executives, where I most of all appreciated working with David DouglasRich Green and Alain Andreoli, and where all of us MySQLers got some unforgettable help from Rich Lang and Julie Ross.

MySQL AB opened the doors for learning to know many brilliant minds. Co-chairing a GPLv3 Committee with HP senior counsel Scott K. Peterson, I experienced Software Freedom Law Center's Eben Moglen first-hand. Through a combination of intelligence and diplomacy, he tamed a conference-call-ful of the seniormost US corporate counsels, who all bought into Eben's plans for the next generation of free software licenses. In 2005, I supported Florian Müller's successful efforts to (at least for a while) save the EU from the software patents. I think Eben, Florian and I all agree swpats are obsolete legal tools, used to protect incumbent players against having to innovate. Sadly, Eben and Florian have since had some disagreements. Speaking of brilliant minds, the SAP negotiations in 2002 and 2003, and MySQL AB's subsequent relationship with SAP AG, introduced us to people like Shai Agassi and Rudi Munz. Other memorable events was introducing MySQL Conference guest speakers, such as Guy Kawasaki and Mark Shuttleworth. I left the stage for Mark and his Ubuntu presentation on a MySQL conference by cheering him with "Поехали!" (Poyechale, Off we go!), a retired cosmonaut as he is.

Perhaps most rewarding was learning to know and appreciate the colleagues from nearly 30 countries. Yuri Gagarin's exclamation when he left into space was something I learned to know from Alexander Barkov and other Russian and Ukrainian colleagues, whom I've had the pleasure to work with since 2002. I learned so much about sales and customer relations from Larry Stefonic, Kerry Ancheta, Joe Pen, Mark Rubin, Mark Burton, Mick Carney, Magnus Stenberg, Richard Mason, Philip Antoniades and Ivan Zoratti. I learned about Services and Support from Ulf Sandberg, Dean Ellis, Tom Basil, Alexander "Salle" Keremidarski, and Sinisa Milivojevic. I had the privilege to work with top engineers like Serg Golubchik, Kostja Osipov, Jan Kneschke, Igor Babaev, Georg Richter, Georgi "Joro" Kodinov, Heikki Tuuri, Kent Boortz and Brian Aker. I enjoyed working with my Community Team members, such as Lenz Grimmer, Jay Pipes, Duleepa Dups Wijayawardhana, and Colin Charles, and with management team colleagues, such as Zack Urlocker, Dennis Wolf, Clint Smith, Jeff Wiss, Tomas Ulin, Hans von Bell, Maurizio Gianola, Jeffrey Pugh, and Boel Larsen. And my sanity was saved through being excellently supported by some of my longest-time reportees, Patrik Backman and Giuseppe Maxia. And now having gone out on a limb by mentioning names and thereby most certainly having omitted at least a dozen people absolutely worth mentioning, I would like to thankfully highlight Edwin Desouza for labeling me as diplomatic, although this blog post is bound to fail on that account.

What next? As I resigned from having worked for and with MySQL for nearly ten years, I decided to give myself some time to spend on matters not directly related to IT. First, I enjoy expressing myself in writing, mostly in Swedish, German, and English. Second, I appreciate the beautiful things in life, and for me, aesthetics go hand in hand with photography. Third, I think there are opportunities to combine these into some experiments in the social web. Let's see how long the break will take, before I return to more conventional duties, such as developing a startup, evangelising technology or devoting myself to Venture Capital.

What I want to do today, though, is simply to express my gratitude. Thank you, everyone behind MySQL AB!

17 comments:

  1. Kaj, thank you for allowing me to be part of your journey at MySQL. I wish you much luck and hope fervently that our paths will cross again, both personally and professionally.

    Welcome to the MySQL Afterlife! I do find partitioning a little more difficult but the stored procedures are improving. That could also be me getting older though.

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  2. Oleksandr Byelkin4 October 2010 at 08:26

    Good luck in whatever you are going to do next ;)

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  3. Kaj,
    Thanks for the exciting ride! Working with you has been one of the best experiences in my professional life.
    I hope you will have at least the same amount of fun in your next career!

    Giuseppe

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  4. Kaj, you should have mentioned the people you hired, me being one of them. :-) BTW, I think it was me who came up with this sentence: "I’m very grateful for what MySQL AB has meant for my career, my personal development, my life experiences, my social life. " But it's okay to borrow it from me. :-)

    Best of luck and looking forward to meeting you again, maybe next summer in Nagu?!

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  5. Kristofer Pettersson4 October 2010 at 12:40

    Good luck Kaj!

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  6. Thanks for your very candid introduction to MySQL for us, your India colleagues at Bangalore.
    All the best for whatever you have in mind.

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  7. Kaj,

    It was a great honor and privilege to work with you. I will never forget what Morten said during the Sorento meeting keynote (that coincided with first day @MySQL) : "If you find yourself in a room full of very bright people chances are that you're not that dumb yourself". To me you and the rest of the really, really smart people that this room was full of back then have really gave me a great chance to broaden my horizons.

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  8. Thanks for the great time. You were an important part of the impressive leadership MySQL AB had. With the languages you speak, I bet you could even greet Klingons in their local language and make sure they like us earthlings.

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  9. Yeah Stefan, but then he has to mention the people hired by the people he hired.

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  10. Thank YOU, Kaj. And good luck in all that you do in the future :)

    -jay

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  11. Hi Kaj! Nice blog post. Thanks for sharing these memories! It has been a pleasure and honour to have worked with you - you will be missed. All the best for whatever the future has in stock for you! Take care.

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  12. Kaj,

    Wonderful blog posting. Thanks for standing by me all these years, helping me navigate one difficult passage after the other.

    I agree that it was the team, the whole team, that made it such a unique and successful experience.

    Enjoy your time off and whatever you undertake!

    ///mgm

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  13. Kaj, wish you all the best for all things you have planned. You will be missed here. The curiosity, willingness and openness to learn and connect with people inside and outside of organizations are some of your traits that I will always admire!

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  14. Best wishes on your adventure! And thanks for your tireless diplomacy and excellent example at MySQL. You are truly the most relentlessly positive person I have ever worked with, and your example has been a real inspiration, even 4 years after I left.

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  15. It was a pleasure to meet you, Kaj. I'm only sorry we didn't have a longer time to work in the same group - I think we were about to do some very interesting things together.

    Have a great time, and hope our paths will cross again.

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  16. Kaj, It was great to meet you and be part of the MySQL AB family myself. Only last night I remarked about how great the MySQL community and company has been for friends/family and the ongoing long term relationships because of this culture. It's the best technology family I've ever been part of in 20 years and I know that where ever I go in the world, there is always somebody to share a story and drink with, just as I did last night in Canada.

    Good luck in your pursuits.

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