As I wrote the other day, my friend Anne is leaving Time Inc.
I started working at Sports Illustrated in 1995, shortly after graduating from Carnegie Mellon. One of my first assignments at SI was working on the Power Mac 7500, one of the earliest Apple computers that used a PCI bus. Several new technologies were introduced with this machine, including MacOS 7.5 and Open Transport. It was a rocky start. MacOS 7.5 didn’t work very well, and QuarkXPress 3 barely functioned. As I recall, I only started to get the machine working with pre-release builds of MacOS 7.5.2 and QuarkXPress 3.3.2r5.
Peter, my boss at the time, stopped by my desk one day with a slight woman with a short dirty-blonde haircut, a pixie grin, and a cheerful demeanor. He introduced her as Anne; she was responsible for technology on the publishing side of SI. (At the time, the editorial and publishing divisions of SI had two different tech support departments. The editorial operations group had close and technology responsibilities for the editorial division, and the corporate group provided technical support for the publishing division.) Anne had just bought a bunch of 7500s and was having some trouble getting them working. She gave me her card, and we discussed what was required to get the machines minimally working. As I recall, she couldn’t wait for a working OS and ended up returning the systems for computers that actually worked.
Less than a year later, I learned that Peter was leaving his editorial operations position to become head of SI’s online efforts. When I asked who would be replacing him, he smiled and said, “I have someone on the publishing side in mind.” By the time we all went to the Olympics in Atlanta, Anne was working by my side. It was Peter’s last event for the printed magazine, and Anne’s introduction as a manager on the editorial side of the house.
SI produced a daily magazine at the Olympics, and the magazine production went very well. I would like to be able to say that the Olympics went smoothly as well. However, on Day 9, an evil lunatic set off a bomb in Centennial Park across the street from the main press center. I remember the bomb going off; it sounded as if someone was moving around on the ceiling above but the ceilings were 20 feet high. More importantly, I remember the concern Peter and Anne had for my welfare. Even though I wanted to dash outside with a camera, they held me back because they were concerned for my safety. SI considered changing the cover to an image of the bomb site, but decided to stick with the original. Anne had a color photocopy of the cover that never ran in her office. And now it is on my wall.
The Olympic daily was certainly a great way to start an editorial career at Sports Illustrated. It was high pressure and high profile. During the Olympics, I learned several facts about Anne that are as true today as they were then: she is wicked smart, she cares about the brand, she knows what is important to produce a magazine, and she cares about people.
Anne is wicked smart. She has an ability that is unique to intelligent people: if she doesn’t know a fact or a figure, she asks a question. She isn’t shy about asking, and she remembers the answer. She draws a distinction between making a guess and stating a fact, but her guesses are rarely wrong. This isn’t to say that Anne is overly cautious when speaking. She just knows what to say.
Anne cares about the brand. Anne knows the Sports Illustrated brand as well as anyone currently at the magazine. She had her 16th anniversary working at Time Inc. with Sports Illustrated on Monday, and she used that time to get to know the people and the culture. She has done almost every support job at the title, from orchestrating huge projects to taking care of guests at hospitality events. Anne has been a shining example of the work ethic here at SI. She understands the decisions we make from both an editorial and publishing point of view, and has acted as a bridge between the two distinct organizational cultures.
Anne cares about people. Anne is one of the most compassionate people I know. Not only does she follow basic rules of courtesy (she doesn’t miss a thank you note), but also she provides comfort to people in need. She has volunteered to read to children in schools, and she volunteered around the city in the aftermath of September 11. She has always been available for her staff at any hour of the day, and she understands what is important in life.
September 11 was a horrible time for everyone, but I will always remember the help Anne provided for me. As I have written before, I was in Paris during the attacks on September 11. Like everyone, I was upset and confused. I spent most of the evening trying to get in touch with everyone I knew. I reached Anne later in the evening; she was on a train from Chicago to New York City. She was the one who told me about a former coworker who had perished in the attacks. I didn’t believe her at first, but she made sure that I accepted the facts. I mentioned how hard it was to stay in touch with everyone as I was calling people from a pay phone on the street. Anne immediately provided her AT&T; calling card number and told me to make as many calls as I needed.
In the weeks following the attacks, like most New Yorkers, I was walking around in a haze. I remember sitting in Anne’s office on the spare chair reading the papers or simply zoning out. Anne never asked me to leave or gave me any kind of criticism. She allowed me to grieve and sit with her as a friend and as someone who also felt the great loss and pain from the attacks.
I have been trying to find a way to describe how important Anne has been to my success at Time Inc. It’s hard to figure out where to start. She has more than put up with an unbelievable amount of complaining from me; she has always taken the time to address my concerns and guide me towards finding a solution. Not to mention given me guidance on how to communicate concerns in an appropriate manner. From a purely work perspective, Anne has given me an environment where I can flourish and accomplish great things. (As one columnist recently wrote, Anne provided an abstraction so that I could easily complete my work.)
Anne’s help has gone beyond providing a good place to work: she has helped me become a better human being. The quality of her interaction with other is a metric I strive for in my dealings with other people. Her advice and talks with me have been honest, forthright, and spot on. Her perspective on life is mature and balanced. When I remarked last week how she must be a glass-half full type of person because she was dealing with the job change in such an upbeat manner, she responded, “The glass is not half-full or half empty; it just needs to be refilled.”
In one way or another, I have worked for Anne for almost ten years. We have seen each other several times per week; this is more than I see most other friends of mine. I believe Anne will succeed at any job she chooses to do, and I would be glad to work with her again. More importantly, I am glad that she will remain my friend.
I am reminded of Lord Polonius’s exhortation to Laertes in Hamlet. Anne has no need of this advice, but I feel it captures her personality and spirit:
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!
I have to say that I’m frustrated as hell to hear about the “right-sizing” that’s led to Anne’s departure at SI. You’ve done an amazing job of describing the Anne I know (hell, I spent that Olympics with all you guys, and remember incredibly well all the conversations she and I would have as we scurried around to get coffee to keep everyone awake!). Thanks for this post.
I have been searching for a way to express who Anne really was for all of us. You really did an awesome job at it. I would not change a word.
In 1996 I was on maternity leave when I got a call from Peter Herbert, then the Director of Editorial Operations. He told me he was leaving to head the New Media department, and then offered me his position. I told him I needed to think about it. Part of me thought: “Are you crazy? What is there to think about?” But I had planned an 8 month maternity leave and was not about to abandon my brand new baby daughter to take a job that would certainly absorb more of my family time. However, my main concern was, what kind of person would be my new boss?!
And it was a wonderful relief to find out that Anne, who had taken the job, was exactly the person that you describe in your blog Sam. In my nineteen years at SI, I’ve seen people come and go, I’ve been very sad about some people leaving, but this is the first time I actually shed tears at anyone’s departure. Her guidance of our department has been masterful, in all aspects.
Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
–W. S. Merwin