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Getting Lucky: A reflection

PERSONAL STORY

By Edward J. Fern, MS

California, USA
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Twenty-five years ago, the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants were engaged in the World Series baseball championship. Game 3 of the series was scheduled to start at 5:35 PM at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. I was stretched out on my couch, in Mission Viejo, watching the television. However, instead of a baseball game, the TV was showing pictures of a bridge, a familiar bridge. I did not, however, recall ever having seen the upper deck of the Bay Bridge collapsed onto the lower deck.

Slowly my mind turned from baseball to the new reality I was seeing. It occurred to me that there might have been a reason for the collapse of the bridge deck, perhaps an earthquake?   I really didn’t know until a voice from the TV confirmed my suspicion. At that time, I was responsible for the management of the wide area data network of a division of TRW that has subsequently become Experian, the consumer credit reporting agency. I called my network control center, in Garden Grove, and learned that our major hub in Foster City, was not responding.

A magnitude 6.9 earthquake had occurred on the San Andreas Fault near the town of Loma Prieta. That’s a fairly significant earthquake. Without the services of our node in Foster City, we were out of business in many of the north-western 48 states, in Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam. What was supposed to have been a pleasant evening watching a baseball game had suddenly become a challenging time for problem solving.

I considered two alternatives. I could simply ignore the problem and wait till morning to go into the office. There I could expect visits from each of the division’s executives who would each ask the same two stupid questions; Q. “What is happening in Foster City?” A. “I don’t know’” and, Q. “What are you doing about it? A. “Nothing.” As an alternative, I could organize a project to transport resources to Foster City, spend most of the night driving more than four hundred miles, get within 25 miles of Foster City, find myself confronted by a very young man in a military uniform and carrying an automatic weapon who would inform me that the area was under martial law, and then spend endless hours camped at the side of the road waiting and waiting and waiting. Somehow I concluded that the young man with the automatic weapon posed less danger. The plan was to try to get to a building that might no longer exist in order to restore a node that might have been reduced to a pile of useless rubble. This project had a bit more uncertainty than most of my projects. 

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About the Author

ed-fernEd Fernflag-usa

California, USA

Edward J. (Ed) Fern is President of Time-to-Profit a Project Management training firm providing services on four continents. He has held director level positions with Sprint, Control Data Corporation, TRW, and Infonet Services Corporation. He earned an MS in Technology Management from Pepperdine University in 1992 and his Project Management Professional designation in 1998. Ed has conducted project management seminars in forty-six cities in fourteen countries on four continents. He is the author of the book Time-to-Profit Project Management: A Primer for Project Managers in Commercial Product Development and co-author of Six Steps to the Future: How Mass Customization Is Changing Our World, both published in English, Russian, Romanian and Brazilian Portuguese. Ed can be contacted at [email protected].