Lance Hendrix - Overview
While I am passionate about technology, my primary driver in what I do is to enable people and organizations through technology. That is, I enjoy helping people understand how to more effectively use technology.
To that end, I have been working as an IT strategy consultant since the year 2000. This has given me a greater understanding of how organizations effectively use technology and also how they have attempted to use technology that did not enhance the organization.
In order to understand my interest and passion around technology as well as to understand how I might add value through the medium of technology, it is important for me to communicate some basics. First, I do not believe in technology for technologies sake alone, at least not within the context of a business. While I do quite a bit of discovery and "playing" with technology, this is purely as an interest, or hobby if you will. I believe strongly that any business considering the use of technology or any technology organization that has the best interests of the organization within which they find themselves must carefully consider any undertaking as to whether the actions and work being done can trace it's value back to the overall mission and objectives of the organization.
In short, technology should support the overall goals and objectives of the organization. IT is (most always) a part of a larger organization and no matter how important we technologist feel we are to the business, it is the business and not technology that must have first priority. Now, there are some potential exceptions, such as organizations that are purely IT focused; however, it could also be argued that their is still a core IT function within these businesses in support of the overall organization, regardless if the organization provides a product or service focused on the IT market in general.
Stated another way, technology implemented for the sake of technology alone, especially without at least a clear business case in support of the overall organization or business is detrimental to the overall organization. IT must be aligned with the business and the rest of the organization.
With this background and philosophy in mind, the next section takes you through my background and history with technology, that may at first seem at odds with the statements above, but hopefully, this background will help frame and reinforce why the concept of technology in support of the organization is so important to me and why I feel it is important to be constantly evaluating both at an organizational and personal level the value that is being added back into the organization by the actions and work being done.
Technology Background and History
I don't know if I can say that there was ever a time when I was not involved with technology. While this might not be a very surprising or interesting statement to hear from someone today, given that I was born in 1970 (rather than in the 1980's or 1990's) it is a little more unusual. I began working on computers in the early to mid 1970's by following my father to work. I cannot remember a time before I began working with computers and my earliest memories of my father were us working together on the Mainframe at Phillips Petroleum in Bartlesville. At a matter of fact, I probably developed some of my reading and vocabulary in my early years through working with computers.
Obviously, my first interactions with computers were not through programming, but rather through games. At that time, about the only two games I knew of were "Advent" (the collosal cave adventure, you can think of it like Zork) and "Pirate". I never played the pirate game much, but spent quite a bit of time exploring the colossal cave. I can also remember the punch cards and teletype that my father was working on. We even had a some puch-tape around the house for quite a few years.
My first development experience was through following my father to work in the early 1970's and developing FORTRAN on a Perkin-Elmer mini-computer in Dallas, Tx. My father would give me "assignments" and ask me to go code them in FORTRAN. As there were not manuals available to me, this meant mostly learning through trial and error, but for some reason, frustrating and difficult though it was, I found it interesting and continue to this day to be thankful for those experiences.
During this time, I also spent quite a bit of time on a (real) CRT logged into a mainframe at Mobile in Dallas over a 300 baud (yes, I mean baud, look it up) modem. In order to connect, you dialed a regular phone and when you heard the other end "screech", you pushed the phone into a device that had two "boots" and it connected to the CRT, which was just a "dumb" character device. You could actually read the information being transmitted as it was transmitted as it was being displayed on the screen! I continued playing and doing some programming in FORTRAN in this way until we got our first "real" computer at home.
Our first computer was an 8 bit machine that ran CP/M which was the predecessor to DOS (on micro-computers, as there was a DOS operating system that ran on mainframes as well at one time). It had 8 inch floppy drives that if you saw one today, would probably make you laugh. I began doing some initial programming on this platform using "ed". If you have never had the joy of working with "ed" or "edline", then consider yourself lucky. It was a line by line editor that allowed you to work with lines in a program, but only at a line level. If you make a mistake, you had to re-enter the whole line over again!
That computer was not around long before my father bought me a heath-kit computer to assemble. You have to remember that at this time in the PC's history, there were very few PCs on the market. The H/Z-100 was one of the first 16 bit computers on the market. It would run in either 8 bit or 16 bit mode. Now when I say a "kit", I don't mean a box of components. The H/Z-100 was a set of bread boards and electrical components (resistors, transistors, and ICs) that had to be soldered onto the board in order to put the computer together! I ended up building at least two that I can remember clearly and seems I also built a third, but I am not sure.
With this new platform, we initially ran CP/M, but eventually DOS (our first DOS, DOS 1.0 was actually PC-DOS and we also had a copy of IBM-DOS). This came with BASIC and eventually with MS-BASIC. Therefore, my second computer programming language was BASIC. I could often be found late at night or on weekends in my fathers office programming some project or another from grade school all the way through high-school.
In high-school, we would go to scholastic competitions at least twice a year, and even though my school didn't have any computer courses (we only had 16 people in my graduating class), I would always enter the programming competitions and win them! Needless to say, I spent many, many hours working with computers.
When I arrived at college, we were issued a computer as soon as we arrived (military college). So my first computer of my own was in 1989 and was again a Zenith, but this time was a 80286. I was also issued a set of software that included MS-DOS 3.3, Microsoft Word (for DOS) 1.0, and Borland's Turbo Pacal. Pascal was the primary language taught at my school, but I had already learned Pascal before my first computer course. One of the later versions of Turbo Pascal introduce object orientation to the language and was my first introduction to OO. I also acquired a copy of Turbo C and eventually Turbo C++ and began working with those languages, although not as rigorously as I did with Pascal.
While at this school, we were also able to telnet (well, we usually used Kermit) into the schools Unix systems where we did some programing, but generally, this was my first exposure to UNIX.
Another interesting sideline, since this was a military college, we also had access to what was known at that time as DARPA net. We were able to get on a fairly large network that connected a number of military bases and installations and use some interesting tools like gopher and email students at other military schools. For those of you that don't recognize this, it was the predecessor to the Internet.
After spending only two years at my first college, I left and started into another program. This program was more traditional and as a result, we learned COBOL and CICS. Also, about this time, I got my first "official" IT job as a mainframe operator working the night shift (7PM to 7AM). This allowed me to learn some very interesting technologies and gave me almost unlimited access to a mainframe that was only doing batch processing. I frequently used the time to work on my own programs and continued to develop my FORTRAN and other skills, like COBOL and CICS. I also had access to AS/400s and to RS/6000s running AIX. I also did some work on OS/2, as the business as a staunch "big blue" customer. There network was also token-ring, for those of you that remember that technology.
From here, the rest of my background and more detail can be found in the narrative resume found in this section of the site.