I began working in New York City after taking a job at Merrill Lynch in 1999 as a consultant doing Change Management. It was the coolest job interview I ever had. They flew me from Dallas to Manhattan and I was pretty sure I would take the job before the wheels landed at La Guardia.
I did my interview at the World Financial Centre the next day. The project was called CMXtra – a joint effort between IBM and Merrill Lynch using IBM’s well known Rational Unified Process and Clearcase. I was in the US Cash Equities Group and would help introduce CMXtra to programmers doing financial systems. I had lunch at Windows on the World in the World Trade Centre and the feeling that my life was at a turning point. The .com boom was in full swing and, like most of us, I was thinking this wave was going to last forever.
Waves are interesting things, they go up and down.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was on the train heading to a planning meeting at the World Financial Center. I never made it to the meeting and my favorite restaurant in the world was now turned to dust and spread all over Manhattan along with 2753 people who died during the September 11 attacks, many of whom I brushed shoulders with each day on the way to work.
The folks at Merrill Lynch were very good to me, and amazingly I still had a job with them after 9/11. Everyone was under a lot of stress and people were being let go. The global economy shifted over to defense and the drums were beating for war with Iraq. I was let go by December and was now isolated and alone at my apartment in Queens. This is where SAGETEA began.
My experience at Merrill Lynch had me thinking that there had to be an easier way to handle continuous change in the business of software. The problem was basically how to take a general set of requirements for any kind of system and represent them in a process that allowed programmers to respond to constantly changing needs.
Back when I was at Carleton University, a professor said once that any logic problem can be solved if you have a sufficient level of abstraction. So, I asked myself how I would have achieved the goal of Merrill Lynch’s giant tech project if I could start from the ground up. The key would be to be able to name the fundamental things which any computer program truly needed in order to be built.
The first problem was the data fields on forms. At the time, UML was the state of the art, but just not refined enough to handle thousands of changing data fields. So, I picked the most basic name: “Element” and just went from there. A collection is a “Group” of Elements. I worked my way through that sequence and found that there were just 7 fundamentals. My goal was to get to the smallest number in order to manage the potential complexity that would no doubt come. Eventually I spelled out State-Activity-Group-Element-Transition-Event-Action.
I used Smalltalk to quickly figure out how to make those 7 fundamentals into objects and store them in a little database I wrote. I then chipped away at figuring out how to display SAGETEA on screens and making it work to do business logic. The tool that runs SAGETEA is today called Text to Software. And that little database has turned into the biggest breakthrough in database technology in the last 30 years.
So, after a lot of help from friends, a group of talented programmers, techies, investors and business partners, SAGETEA is now launched and on its way. We are bringing a revolutionary solution, based on using the power of simplicity to solve complex business challenges, to a wide variety of industries. The SAGETEA story is still unfolding. Please join us for the exciting next chapter.