Dec. 10, 2014 Miracle of Breadsticks and Anchovies

The Miracle of Breadsticks and Anchovies (An excerpt from an upcoming book)

The Software Development Forum used to hold SIG meetings at Cubberly Community Center in Palo Alto. Barbara Cass, one of the founders of SDForum, liked it for the location, cheap rates and convenient parking. Around six o’clock people would wander in, pay Barbara three dollars for pizza and soft drinks and talk about emerging technology. A speaker would give a presentation and there would be a discussion. Someone might get a job or even start a company.

The community center also hosted a local homeless shelter, which led to some confusion. One cold winter’s night a homeless person came in and got some pizza. He went out and came back with some friends. They started networking with regular attendees. Many of them had worked at the same companies and were just going through hard times. Others were disabled veterans. Some were both.

With more visitors than usual, we were running out of pizza. I looked over at Barbara and saw her pick up a phone. Was she calling the police? No. She was ordering more pizza. She ordered the works, including breadsticks and anchovies.

This says a lot about Barbara. She was a class act. She treated everyone with grace and tact. Her SDForum was open, transparent, and served its community well. She knew that to think globally meant you had to act locally. No one was turned away. No one.

Sadly, Barbara died a few years later and Susan Lucas Conwell took over. SDForum came to and end and SVForum came into being. The SIG meetings at Cubberly moved to corporate boardrooms and gated mansions with valet parking. Discussions about creating jobs here were replaced with moving them overseas. Exclusivity replaced inclusivity. I recently heard that there will be no more SIG meetings. Not a place for homeless disabled veterans to reconnect with society. Just thanking vets for their service and tossing them out is not acceptable to me, so despite the recent changes, I will continue to support other organizations that do. Other people matter. If the future is not evenly distributed, we might follow Barb’s example to work and make it so.

At another meeting, a woman in designer wear who had spent several years in Europe walked up to Barbara and wanted to know who all the important people were. Barbara waved her arms to the crowd and said “All of them.” She was right.

Back to the meeting at Cubberly. It turned out that one of the people we thought was homeless turned out to be the speaker. In Silicon Valley, you just never know who the important people are.

Happy Holidays!

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