AE Zone to Sales Cycle Training in Colorado

by Mark Morris

First a few things about me at NI. I joined NI as an AE on January 15, 1996, as did Jamie Smith, David Beisner, and Nick Warren. I was the “old guy” because I had work experience prior to joining. Our AE manager was Andrew Barton who soon left to build the new webstore. Jamie, Nick, and I were quickly recruited to beta test the new LabVIEW 4.0 course, instructed by Anamita Mukherjee and Kyle McDonald (I believe they also authored the course). Although my favorite was still LabWindows/CVI.  

In early 1997, after teaching a LabVIEW class at Research Triangle Park, Guy Nunnellee recruited me to be an FSE covering New Mexico (to replace Gretchen Edelmon who was moving back to Austin).  As part of my FSE recruiting, I did a ride-along with Nancy Hollenback in Denver. She was such a natural. I decided to go for it and was soon covering Los Alamos (LANL) and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). Tony Vento had once covered the labs too, so I had big shoes to fill (as Gretchen and I always joked, as everyone always asked about Tony at our seminars). Luckily I had the help of Tim Brooks and Lance Butler from Alliance Partner B&B Technologies.

The labs were great customers. I sold my first PXI deal to some Los Alamos physicists at the hotel bar during NIWeek 98. They thought it would be a fun toy. My biggest deal was a near 7 figure PXI sale (that included motion, vision, DAQ w/SCXI, and GPIB) to LightPath Technologies, an Albuquerque-based startup, manufacturing gradium glass wavelength-division multiplexers. At the end of each government fiscal year, SNL would always come through for a quantity order of VXIcpu-030s, which they would subsequently destroy in their Z-Machine, the world’s most powerful pulsed power radiation source. 

Along the way, and with B&B’s help, we sold into all sorts of crazy applications. From down-range M1A1 tank ammunition testing with FieldPoint to laser guided in vitro fertilization microscopes controlled by LabVIEW. 

I eventually became an ASM. In 2003 I left NI to join ZTEC Instruments (a modular high speed source/digitizer and RF company that was eventually acquired by LightPoint/Teradyne). 

I’m now in Denver and work for Salesforce where I have become a master at building Lightning Flows, a LabVIEW-like graphical tool used to build workflows, user interfaces, and manipulate databases. 

And now on to the “really serious” NI memories!

AE Zone

Disclaimer: This is a distant memory! Forgive any mistakes. 

Timeframe was late ’96 or early ’97.  The AE group was at Bridge Point Parkway.  I was working for Reid Lee (who had just replaced Andrew Barton). At the time, our desks were setup in pods of four, with a telecommunications pole in the middle. Others in my pod were Jamie Smith, Clint Biggs, and Noel AdornoNick Warren and David Beisner were nearby. Whenever we had questions, we simply asked the “Reid Database” instead of using CAR.

Anyway, back then, departments would shoot silly videos to be shown at the company meetings, so that everyone could get an idea of what each department was doing.

Twilight Zone at Bridgepoint

I believe Ash Razdan (who was managing the AEs at the time) approached Travis Ferguson to make the AE’s video. He got a bunch of us together and coordinated the entire thing, including the idea to spoof the Twilight Zone. Our goal was to show how the AEs helped customers achieve project and business success. We also tried to highlight the good work of other departments, like manufacturing, shipping, and inside sales. For example, if my memory serves me correctly, the shipping department had just started a program to consolidate shipments into a single box (thus the joke about putting so much equipment into a single box). And our products shipped with so many manuals! 

Other jokes might not be fully understood today. Back then, CD drives and graphical user interfaces were brand new. It seemed that many customers had never used a mouse! There was no T&M Explorer and we often used DOS Terminals to troubleshoot. PCI & PCMCIA were just starting, so there was no Plug&Play (we used address dip switches instead). We often got dreaded register level programming calls (usually for VXI/VME applications running on VxWorks) which we always escalated to Ken Sadahiro (as Maurizio Basso joked). And customers always called to ask if LabVIEW could run on “this or that” operating system (thus the joke about running LabVIEW on the fictional “Space Shuttle Operating System”).  

I’m surprised we didn’t include a joke about searching CAR.

Colorado Sales Summit

Timeframe was 2002. I was the Area Sales Manager, working for Brent Mattson. The area went from El Paso, TX to Bozeman, MT. I was in Albuquerque but the rest of the DSM/FSE team (Ian Fountain, Paul Sweat, and Ed McConnell) was in Denver. We often had area meetings, which usually included annual reviews conducted on chairlifts at Copper Mountain or while stuffing our faces at Beau Jo’s pizza. 

Thanks to the global semiconductor recession (aka the “Asian Flu”) that followed the .com bust, the NI “bean counters” told us not to have area meetings. Naturally, we gave that dictate a finger and went ahead anyway. I drove to Colorado and we held PXI training sessions while riding mountain bikes all over Red Rocks. Nothing was going to stop us from getting together, especially bean counters. It was so much fun back then. I love how Ed, rest in peace, pretended to crash … sacrificing his body to save his FieldPoint!

Image Caption: We were too cheap to rent full-suspension bikes. As result, the hardtail catapulted Ed into a rock. Ed got tangled but his FieldPoint escaped unscathed.  

Image Caption: Ed demonstrating FieldPoint, the totally portable solution for real-time monitoring of all precious bodily fluids and the official telemetry sponsor of the 2002 Red Rock Gran Fondo.

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Image Captain: How many NI engineers does it take to fix a flat tire? Ed was no help, but he studied the SCXI catalog and was relieved to learn that the 1200 was still available. Paul had no interest as he was busy calling Austin on his fancy phone to make bar reservations for NI Week 2002. Mark arranged the remaining catalogs and literature to reflect the most sun for an optimal tan. Luckily we had Ian, who quickly pointed out to Mark where the signal wires go into a PXI system … and then used the remaining time to fix the tire with his amazing motocross skills. 

3 replies on “AE Zone to Sales Cycle Training in Colorado”

Wow! Great memories. You all worked VERY hard but you knew how to connect and have fun too. Matt….missing you a lot! -Kim McConnell

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