My first training course was a 3 day Introduction to SPSS/PC+. It didn't go very well, nor did the next course which was a 2 day Introduction to SPSS on VAX/VMS using the tortuous command prompt. After the launch of SPSS for Windows things got easier (and a lot busier). Some training courses that stand out for me are: the Conversion to SPSS for Windows course where one attendee was waving the mouse in front of the monitor; an on-site course in the Brecon Beacons and the realisation on the day that I had forgotten the diskette containing all the course data, syntax, etc., then the arrival of a leather clad motorbike courier with said diskette (thanks Kelly Smith!); an on-site course in Belfast at the height of "The Troubles" when I narrowly missed a bomb exploding in Belfast's train station; writing the SPSS Tables for Windows course guide from scratch without a manual. I also recall in minute detail the setting up of the training room @ Chertsey starting with the trellis tables and benches and velour table cloths, followed by a sweep of the office and commandeering of every PC in sight. These 386 PCs were torture to work with and were eventually replaced with 486 PCs – a happy day in the SPSS UK training department!
SPSS UK was a fantastic workplace and I look back on those 2 years with great fondness. It was a time when SPSS UK was no more than 20 people strong and so it was possible for the entire office to head next-door to The Crown for a few pints of Young’s and a game of “Killer” darts. The Christmas parties were always hilarious featuring fancy dress and practical jokes: I recall one Christmas party with a Gangsters and Molls theme where the two new hires were fed false information: they were told it was a cross-dressing Vicars & Tarts theme duly arriving in fishnet stockings, silk basques and make-up (Kevin Lancashire, Andy Wilson – you looked stunning as maids)! Then of course was the SPSS UK Summer Party hosted by Major & Sharon Lester at their home on the banks of the Wey River. This event drew in SPSSers from around the world particularly from SPSS Benelux (Fred van Alphen, Hans Oostrum, et al) and SPSS Inc (Nancy D, Jack Noonan, Jason Verlen, et al). Of course, no SPSS UK Summer Party was complete without the “no-rules” boat race around the island which one year ended with Steve Barr in hospital getting his stomach pumped.
Those 2 years at SPSS UK were a prelude to a career that has, to this day, been SPSS-centric. When the chapter working as a trainer at SPSS UK closed another chapter opened, namely in a brand new role created for me by Ian Durrell, VP SPSS International. In this new role as SPSS Channel Manager for Central & Eastern Europe (“CEE”), I was responsible for growing the SPSS indirect business across the former communist bloc. These were exciting times at a period when the region was just starting to emerge from those dark days of communism. Some memories that stand out from those early days: visiting SPSS GmbH in Munich with my new boss, Tim Dimond-Brown, and the look on Renata’s face when we told them about the CEE territory carve-out; visiting Moscow in the mid-1990s, staying in a military hotel with no phone lines and a corpse in a Moscow Metro station; the first SPSS CEE Partner Meeting in Brno in 1995 with welcome drinks in my lounge; Ian Durrell’s reaction when he heard I had settled in Brno: “What the F*** are you doing in Brno; I thought you were in F****** Prague!!!”; a long drive to Krakow with Tim Dimond-Brown to visit the newest SPSS partner at the time (COMPANION) with a boot full of the latest SPSS 3 ¼ diskettes and user guides; the SPSS UK delegation in Brno during my wedding in 1998 and their quest for the cheapest Pilsner lager (20p a pint I think was the record!); a single ATM in Brno and my sole source of funds in the early days; my first mobile phone (the Sony “brick”) and data card that connected me to the internet at 9600 baud – barely enough to download email from my CompuServe account (this was before @spss.com corporate email).
In the ensuing years, my role as SPSS CEE Channel Manager morphed into a more international role bringing me into contact with more and more SPSS business partners and franchise owners from across Europe, Middle East and Africa. I am proud to have been involved in SPSS’s international expansion with many stand-out moments such as: the first ever release of the Polish and Russian versions of SPSS for Windows back in the late 1990’s; the creation and expansion of the SPSS franchise network in the late 1990’s / early 2000’s; together with Jack Noonan, closing the largest SPSS sale in the company’s history at the time at a bank in Poland; a smooth(ish) transition of SPSS partners into the IBM family following the IBM acquisition of SPSS Inc. in 2008. Over and above all these commercial milestones are the numerous SPSS friends I have made all over the world – friendships that endure to this day and ones I will continue to treasure.
Fast-forward to today, and I am happy to say that my work is still heavily centred around SPSS and the SPSS partner and user community worldwide. After a 5 year spell at IBM following the IBM acquisition of SPSS Inc, I joined Predictive Solutions Ltd, the former SPSS Poland franchise, as their new VP International (a job title inspired by Ian Durrell’s role at SPSS). In this role I am once again reunited with my SPSS friends from around the world from Singapore to the USA, from Kenya to Russia. A few weeks ago after a “brief” hiatus of 20+ years, I was once again in the classroom delivering a training course on SPSS Statistics. It occurred to me then that the one thing that SPSS and I have in common: we are both 50 years old this year! Long live SPSS!