Saluting a Mentor
Heikki Kanerva, Right.
(At left is Juha Niemisto, a Programmer from the Excel Team and Mutual Friend)
Taking a bit of a break today from “technical” posts and doing that whole “professional observations slash storytelling” thing.
My first real mentor at Microsoft was a guy named Heikki Kanerva. I learned many, many things from that man, but the way in which he cared about his people, and PROTECTED his people, will always eclipse even those things. I wouldn’t have had the time or the space to learn had I not lived in the Heikki-created “safe zone” for those crucial early years of 1997-1998.
And the charisma. The leadership. You know those fantasy stories about barbarian clans in the frozen wastelands of the North, where the clans have perpetually been at war with each other, but now a New and Evil Threat looms from the South, and the clans must set aside their pride and biases and band together, or face certain extermination?
In those stories, there’s always a charismatic leader who emerges to unite said clans, the Strong Leader who possesses brains, brawn, and charisma in just the right proportions.
And Heikki was pretty much the real-life embodiment of that character, in every way. He played that role every day for the entire Office organization, and I have never seen anything like his powers since.
A Mentor’s Parting Lesson
Years later, when I no longer worked for Heikki, he passed away suddenly under tragic circumstances – a story that I may someday tell here, but not the focus for today.
But leave it to Heikki to still manage to teach AFTER departing this world.