The Original Founding Partner
When organizations are in their formative stage, there are a lot of ideas, excitement and aspirations. Many people want to be involved because of the possibilities. There’s a lot of talk and good intentions, but a much smaller percentage of those people step forward and commit. What I’ve found is it takes leadership to get it organized, focused and to sustain the momentum. I was blessed to have some of the biggest Infrastructure industry leaders step forward and provide that guidance. Specifically, my first board member, Maricel Cerutti, and the first eight members of the Advisory Council, Rob Roy, Joe Kava, Christian Belady, Eddie Schutter, Jim Smith, Tom Furlong, Peter Gross, and Ty Schmitt. These were friends of mine who answered my phone call and committed their valuable experience and time. They believed in the vision and wanted to support it. For that I am eternally grateful.
But, there is one aspect to this story that only a few people know about. A behind the scenes person who quite literally enabled this professional association to launch and grow. That person is Rob Roy of Switch. Rob and I have collaborated, debated and bantered back and forth for nearly a decade. Every time we talk, hours pass like minutes and a flood of ideas come out. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s step back first.
In February of 2016, I was wrapping up my handoff at Ebay and getting ready for my sabbatical. I remember being on a southwest flight to Seattle for a final Ebay meeting with Christian and team at Microsoft. I couldn’t believe nearly 7 years had gone by. It had been a blast but I was ready for a break. As I sat on that flight, reflecting on the past, I realized that I had lost touch with many folks during that time. My community, which we first formed through Data Center Pulse back in 2009, had built to 9,000 strong. I decided I would reconnect, but I also realized things had progressed since I left Sun Microsystems. Data Centers were important, but they only represented one layer of the stack. It was really about the foundational elements of the stack – Data Centers, Hardware, Network, Software and the business elements of running Metal as a Service. Those layers built the foundation for the internet of everything. It was clear that our community represented the professional tradesman of that Infrastructure. Similar to the Masons of the past. Essentially, we are the builders of the digital age…the Infrastructure Masons. That rung true with me. I was inspired!
The next day I sat in an Italian restaurant in downtown Seattle and registered InfrastructureMasons.org, created the IM logo, and established the first version of the membership framework to help classify member types. Based on previous experience, I knew I wanted this to be a non-profit venture. This should be about the professionals in the industry, not their companies. Things came together quickly.
The following week, I called Rob Roy and shared the idea. I said I am going to build this group during my sabbatical. In regular Rob style, he lit up. We had our normal extroverted, multi-hour brainstorming session continuously riffing off of each other’s ideas. He suggested forming an advisory council. I said that would be a great idea and asked if he would be on it. He said yes, of course! That jam session was awesome, but that’s not where it stopped. Rob said that he loved the concept and that his company would become the underwriter for the effort. He believed in the mission and wanted to help make it successful. He quite literally put his money where his mouth was and fully funded the first six months of iMasons. What I appreciated the most was Rob just wanted to help. He didn’t want to make the underwriting a marketing effort for Switch. He was just happy helping behind the scenes. This included being one of the largest private sponsors for our fund raising activity at our first iMasons meeting in Santa Clara in Santa Clara, CA. That meeting raised enough money to finish the first 10 classrooms for the Just Let Me Learn school that iMasons sponsored. Seeing how industry donations could make such a difference in a community established the vision for iMasons’ philanthropic role and launched the IM Fund. Things progressed quickly in the first six months, including adding Oliver Jones to the board, hiring Mark Monroe as our first Executive Director, creating the bylaws, and registering as a 501(c)6 professional association.
In September of 2016, I was fortunate enough to start the next chapter in my professional career by joining Uber. Before joining, the iMasons board agreed to change our financing from an underwriting model to partner sponsorships. We changed the bylaws and created guidelines and a sponsorship approval process to ensure all members would be able to comply with their company’s compliance policies. To this day, Rob continues to support the iMasons behind the scenes with very valuable business guidance, energy, and his never ending creativity.
At iMasons we leave our companies at the door. This group is about the individuals and their professional careers. It is to help them connect, grow and give back. This happens in many different ways, some big, some small, some visible, and some not. We enable members to give back to each other, the industry, and the world. Rob is the embodiment of that spirit and I wanted the industry to know. I consider Rob the original founding partner of Infrastructure Masons. We would not be where we are without his support.