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March 05, 2008

0.069: i work with smart people

Lots of them, actually.

In fact, pretty much everyone I work with is smart. By definition. That's why they are at EMC in the first place - the company seeks out smart people, and smart people like to work with other smart people.

As a result, there are an amazing number of smart people at EMC.

But you know, with so many smart people around you, it is all too easy to overlook just how smart they really are.

Now, before I go any further, it is important to note EMC is intensely focused on inspiring, nurturing and acknowledging the contributions of its people. In fact, the most recent edition of EMC.Now (a quarterly magazine for EMC employees worldwide) included a review of several of the newer ways that EMC is cultivating inspiration across the company. I thought the article might be of interest my readers, so I requested and received permission to reprint it here:

EMC.now: Inspiration cultivation
Copyright 2008, EMC Corp. Reprinted With Permission.

After reading that article, you'll understand that inside EMC we frequently get the opportunity to celebrate the innovative contributions that our fellow employees around the globe make to the continuing success of EMC - it's part of our culture.

But when one of your peers gets external recognition, and it's the kind that puts him in the  company of the most notable software engineers in the history of computing, it really makes you sit up and take notice. I mean, to be recognized alongside the inventors of UNIX, TCP/IP, the remote procedure call, the World-Wide Web, Mosaic, java, TeX & PostScript, SMALLTALK and VisiCalc (to name a few), well...that puts you in a whole different class of "smart" in my book.

So please indulge me this post to say "Congratulations" to Amnon Naamad for his recent ACM Software Systems Award...


the award

Last week, Amnon was among those honored by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)  for the pioneering contributions made to the creation of Statemate, the first commercial tool ever to apply visual languages to conquer design and development challenges of complex computer systems.

Statemate was the first commercial computer-aided software engineering tool to successfully overcome the challenges of complex interactive, real time computer systems, known as reactive systems. The ideas reflected in Statemate underlie many of the most powerful and widely used tools in software and systems engineering today.

Pretty incredible stuff, and to this day an indispensable tool for solving complex relationships (I wonder if Steve Todd used it for his RAID state machine?) For more background on Statemate and the team that created it, please see the ACM press release.

More interesting perhaps is the list of past recipients of the ACM's Software Systems Award - a virtual who's who of modern day computing. I know first-hand that Amnon is most honored to be included alongside the likes of Knuth, Andreessen, Berners-Lee, Gosling, Bricklin, Frankston, and Ritchie.

I know, because it was the first thing he told me when he found out about the award.

about dr. naamad

Amnon Naamad(He hates to be called that Dont tell anyone)

Amnon is currently the Sr. Director of the Innovation and Systems Engineering group within Symmetrix Engineering, a gentleman with whom I've had the pleasure to work with since almost my first weeks here at EMC back in 2001. With masters degrees in both mathematics and computer science, and a Ph.D. in computer science, he is easily among the best and brightest at EMC, and his contributions to Symmetrix are countless.

Since joining EMC 11 years ago this week, Amnon has been synonymous with Symmetrix performance engineering. Initially hired as an individual contributor in the performance group, Moshe promoted him to the manager/director of the group within 3 months. From there, Amnon went on to define "performance engineering" for Symmetrix. He developed the performance models for the 4th and 5th generation of Symmetrix, as well as cache simulations that led to many (if not all) of the performance optimization algorithms that Enginuity uses to this day to maximize cache efficiency.

In fact, that's how I first met Amnon. He was giving a technical review of the various algorithms to a group of product marketing folks, and I was fortunate to be in attendance. I recall to this day the passion and enthusiasm he exuded during that two hour session, and how he managed to make some very complex concepts understandable to virtually every one of us, no matter our technical background. I still carry to this day the respect for those algorithms and how they leverage the predictable access patterns of different workloads to dynamically optimize prefetch and cache fall-through, rendering uncanny cache hit ratios for a near-chaotic range of concurrent application workloads.

Over the years, Amnon has been the Yin and Yang of performance engineering, continuously challenging the microcode engineers to improve their algorithms while simultaneously building an organization that helps customers optimize their workloads and configurations for the inherent realities of spindle contention and I/O bottlenecks. Amnon intuitively recognized that one feeds the other, and he has masterfully expanded the organization's comprehension of how to optimally deal with what to most would otherwise appear to be totally unpredictable chaotic I/O patterns. In fact, while most vendors tend to focus on minimizing the I/O overhead of performing an I/O to disk, Amnon and his team have helped to pioneer algorithms that predictably avoid the overheads of disk I/O altogether for real-world application workloads.

That the ACM award was for a system that enabled model-driven development based on logical associations and visual formalisms comes as no surprise to those of us who know Amnon - understanding complex logic and visualizing patterns out of what appears to be chaos are core to just about everything Amnon does. For example, when I wanted to understand the availability implications of XIV's RAID-X for my obligatory xiv post, I went to Amnon for help. He immediately recognized that the probability of a dual-drive failure causing data loss with RAID-X was actually higher than for a system made up of only RAID5 groups of the same disk drives. And then he spent the next 15 minutes helping me build the model that proved that RAID-X is actually riskier than 6+1 RAID-5.

But my favorite story about Amnon is this: One day while I was in his office discussing some performance algorithm or another (I think it was related to flash drives), he asked me to mix up a Rubik's cube behind my back and hand it to him, which I nonchalantly did. After only the barest of glances at it, he tried to sucker me into a bet that he could solve it in 47 moves.

I passed on the bet (hey, I'm no dummy), and he solved it anyway. In exactly 47 moves.

OK - you get the idea - Amnon is one smart dude. And given all the contributions he's made to the success of Symmetrix and its customers, I just couldn't let this award go by unmentioned. The award and the recognition are well deserved, and I for one am honored to be able to say that I have worked alongside a member of this elite group of software innovators.

Big Hug

Applause Congratulations, Amnon! Dancing

Not worthy

There, I've probably embarrassed him enough.

and the scary thing is...

...at EMC, Amnon is just another smart person working alongside a whole lot of other smart people.



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Polly Pearson

Dear Anarchist,

Your headline caught my attention. I recently completed a bunch of interviews with random EMC people -- across age, function and location demographics and asked them the question, "What about EMC inspires you? Why do you work here?" The answers were errily similar. So much so that I had to write them down. I'll share that in a minute -- first, one word they all had in common was the 'SMART' people that they go to work with here. Actually, they called them 'SMART and PASSIONATE.' (You used the passionate word as well!)

After hearing this from a bunch of EMC folks who have been here for at least 2 years, I started asking a similar question to EMC new hires, "What do you find notable about the EMC culture?" They immediately use the "smart" word. One sample reply, "Wow. I get to be in meetings and hear unbelievable ideas ... then listen to how they get executed! It overwhelming and great at the same time."

About a year ago I did some research on software developers in particular. I asked a bunch of developers who a) recently joined EMC; b) declined a job offer from EMC and c) had worked in EMC software development for some time, "What do you find appealing about EMC?" Every group included a comment along these lines, "The best people at what they do work at EMC."

So what are the other words I heard consistently the people I interviewed -- from Chicago to Shanghai?

"CUSTOMERS" and first... Enable their success

"BEST" and fast... Best products, best performance, best practices, doing the best for customers, for the world, the bar at EMC is set at "BEST" ... Create Success

"PASSION & SMARTS" and family ... We surround ourselves with passionate and smart talent, treat them like family and a member of a championship team ... Attract Success

"CHALLENGE" and fun ... Show us what can't be done and watch us do it. Smart Fun! ... Love success.

"RESULTS" with focus ... No excuses execution.... Deliver Success.

One sample quote from a sales woman in the midwest: "EMC is known for having the best of the best. They surround themselves with the best. At EMC they only hire engaging, intense, passionate people who care about the customer and believe in winning. The passionate word. That's how you win. I feel good about what I'm selling, who I'm selling with and to and that I have a career that can continue to grow."

Here's a quote from a developer in Mass.: "I can't see a need to ever leave this company. I could meet another intelligent person at EMC every hour of every day and there is enough creative challenge and opportunity here to last a life time."

-- Thanks for the post. I see a pattern! Most important, CONGRATS Amnon!

Polly Pearson
EMC VP Employment Brand and Strategy Engagement

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