Missing Missing Persons

I’m having a hard time focusing on work today. I just found out that a good friend and ex-teammate Robert Satterwhite passed away last week.

I spent a year on the .NET Adoption Team with Robert back in 2002 & 2003 – basically my last year in the Microsoft field organization. NAT – as were were known – was a national team of developer and architecture evangelists, so while we were all teammates, we didn’t see much of each other in person. However, Rob and I both lived in the Puget Sound area and called on many of the same customers – I was an architect evangelist and Robert was a developer evangelist – so we ended up working together often. We drove together to Olympia many times- he drove and I hacked code in a kind of strange pair programming effort.

Robert grew up in the Pacific NW and had spent almost his entire career as an enterprise technology sales engineer here, so he had friends everywhere. I often used the lame line from the Dragnet movie with Dan Aykroyd: “They ought to put you in Missing Persons. You know everybody.” because it seemed like everywhere we went we’d run into someone he grew up with, had worked with or had sold to. If we hung around before or after a sales call – coffee shop in Olympia before a meeting, debriefing with the sales rep on the steps outside of Costco HQ in Issaquah, etc – chances are someone would recognize him.

When I was leaving the NAT, Robert and I went to Phoenix so I could hand off my customers there to him. I joked that at least I could be sure we wouldn’t run into anyone he knew in Arizona. Yet, it turned out he used to work with the woman who was sitting in front of him on the flight home. She and her husband owned car dealerships in Phoenix and Tacoma. I was astonished – what are the frakking odds? – but Rob just shrugged his shoulders. It happened to him all the time so I guess he was used to it.

I only saw him off and on since I left the team, though as fate would have it I did see him last week on the day he died. I was heading into building 18 for a meeting as he was pulling into the parking lot – I hadn’t realized he was working on campus. We exchanged the usual pleasantries and promised that we’d get together soon. He was blocking traffic, so it was a short conversation. 24 hours later, he was dead.

Rob wasn’t your prototypical blue monster, but he sure touched a lot of people and he made the world a better place by just being himself. You will be missed, Rob.