Rocket was launched that morning because Johan Magnusson Gedda (with whom I co-founded Rocket) had confidence in me. Johan and I met each other in 1988 at a Boston-area startup. I was the first full-time official software engineer hired there; Johan’s role there could be described as Corporate Development, CFO, and COO all wrapped into one.
Rocket was launched that morning because Mariann Youniss, my amazing, beautiful, generous, incredibly smart, and endlessly supportive wife (of now 32+ years!)—who, by the way, was three months pregnant with our first child—said “yes” when I asked her if it was ok to quit my job and start a company with Johan.
Rocket was launched that morning because I believed in my ability to code (I worked hard at being a good coder/programmer in high school and college, in internships while in college, and in my two jobs after college), to listen (I learned to listen well), to serve (I grew up in a family and a community that believed in service to, of, and for others), to promise (your word is both everything and the only thing), and to deliver (solve problems, deliver value, and do what you say you are going to do, always).
To be honest, I didn’t know much more than that. That morning I wasn’t thinking about 30 years. I probably wasn’t thinking beyond 30 months, because that’s about as long as that previous startup company gig lasted.
Looking back, I can say that on that morning I had a belief that this thing we would ultimately call Rocket Software (because we wanted to be rocket scientists!) would be a successful venture. And after the first 30 months or so, I had a strong conviction that Rocket would be long-lasting and it would make a difference IF we could put all of that – writing good software, solving real problems, listening well, always serving others, keeping our promises, delivering value, and always doing what we say we are going do – together.
Let’s take a moment and think back to 1990. The internet as we know it didn’t exist. Email, mobile phones, social media, the cloud, machine learning, artificial intelligence, agile/devops, Amazon, and podcasts weren’t things yet. Spotify and Pandora and Apple Music? We listened to music on cassette tapes and CDs that we purchased in stores. And we listened through our speakers, instead of our speakers listening to us (“Alexa…” anyone?) Uber and Lyft? We bought cars for our daily commute, we rented cars when we traveled, and we hailed taxis when we visited big cities. Kayak and Expedia? We called travel agents to plan our vacations and business trips. We took pictures with cameras and developed pictures in darkrooms. We captured videos with devices that were slightly smaller than those used to film motion pictures. We wrote letters and dropped them in metal boxes on the side of the road. We made phone calls using rotary dials and push buttons on devices that were on desks and tethered to walls. Space travel was all about NASA missions, not corporate billionaires. Siri, Apple, Google, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Baidu, OpenTable, online banking, Chrome, Firefox, AWS, Waze, WhatsApp, apps themselves – none of that existed that morning when I woke up and wrote those first 30 lines of code.
Only 30 years later, we find ourselves in a world that feels very, very different, where everything around us – technology, climate, geo-politics, and yes, even spillover viruses and pandemics – is changing at an ever-accelerating pace that is both unprecedented and incomprehensible.
In between those bookends of April 1990 and April 2020, a lot has changed in our world and in our everyday lives. We have seen multiple global financial crises. We have seen countless global terrorism incidents. We have seen the Soviet Union fall. We have seen the world truly become flat, with globalized and interconnected commerce, travel, climate change, and public health. We have seen an internet bubble boom and bust and boom again. We have seen bad times and good times, challenges and opportunities.
With all of that context as backdrop, a unique and special story has unfolded that I believe deserves celebrating and sharing. Reflecting on the way things have happened over the past 30 years of Rocket – I actually prefer to call them the first 30 years of Rocket – I can assure you none of it was projected, planned, nor envisioned. The Rocket you know and see today is the result of a series of (mostly) fortunate events that began that morning and have since rippled through—and because of—tens of thousands of people, companies, organizations, relationships, and partnerships around the globe in ways that nobody could have ever imagined.
But at its core I think our story is special and worth celebrating and sharing, because who we are and what we stand for is more relevant today than ever before. You see, ours is a story about empathy, humanity, trust, and love. Those are our core values. That is what Rocket and our 1500 Rocketeers stand for. That is what we aspire to do and be every single day—for our first 30 years and our next 30 years.
We believe that it is important to put ourselves in other people’s shoes to truly understand what they are feeling – and why. We believe that in this crazy, complex world it is our responsibility to treat people well, treat people as people, and treat people the way we want to be treated. Running a successful software business is about spreadsheets and models, profits and losses, revenue and expense and profit, ones and zeroes, but we have strived to bring a dose of humanity to our customers, partners, investors, and each other, each and every day. And without trust and love we would have no customers, we would have no partners, and we certainly would not have each other.
I can’t wait to tell you more about our story; however, I will wait until the current COVID-19 global pandemic is more widely understood and controlled and all of us – as a global, interconnected community – begin living in and with our “new normal.”
Today I simply want to thank each and every person who played any role—big or small, then or now—in our 30-year story. Thank you for being a part of Rocket. I sincerely appreciate everything that you have done to create this legendary company—as a customer, partner, investor, friend, colleague, advisor, mentor, and Rocketeer.
We will talk soon. Until then… Onward and upward!
And Happy 30th Birthday to Rocket Software!
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