I am currently in training for the Shine Manchester Marathon after rather drunkenly saying I’m Cumbrian and was born to walk and egging my friends on to do the full 26 miles. The need to train came very real when I received the entry pack and my number and T-shirt yesterday.
Whilst not really liking to do anything for big charities that pimp out their fundraising activities to private companies who take rather large commissions and spend millions on advertising, especially the heart-tugging advertising that I’m sure some of the big agencies do, I am actually doing something for Cancer Research UK.
So on my walk to the gym this morning, note that I’m not driving! My thoughts actually wandered to an old Professor, mentor and friend, Professor Ken Green, whom sadly passed away two years ago. It wasn’t until I got home and realised it was two years ago to the day that I figured I should really write a short tribute to him. Indeed I have been relatively unhappy that the University hasn’t really made more of an effort, I went to a memorial lecture last year and felt that it just wasn’t really a fitting tribute to such a great man.
Of course they always say you have a handful of inspirational teachers in your life who you’ll always remember and whom have such a significant impact on you they shape your thinking and understanding of the world for life – and from my school days there’s certainly a few I remember, but I met Ken after my undergraduate degree when I studied Technology and Innovation Management, at Manchester School of Management, then part of UMIST. The great thing about this is you can actually go for a beer with your teachers and put the world to rights – as a card carrying Northerner, one of my favourite past times and as I found out one his too. And about the Northerner thing, he did tell me that I had a chip on my shoulder, and so did he, but, his was bigger!
It’s funny, but Ken’s lecture notes were non-existent, there was no use of PowerPoint, often OHP’s were produced that seem well used or written ad-hoc. However in that particular course and probably a few that preceded and followed I’ve retained more that he taught than any other lecturer. Ken had a talent for delivery of his points in witty, sarcastic and downright funny ways.
One of the weird things about Ken is that he didn’t take offence to my rather challenging nature (Unleashed’s suppliers will testify to this), indeed he was impressed that when choosing my MSc I’d managed to get out of the competition that he was due to be promoted to head of School so I put him on the spot about it prior to even starting the course. My first lecture with him, he asked me how I had found out and told me that most of his colleagues didn’t even know. On another lecture he slapped me down about GM crops, his point being that less pesticide is used and therefore healthier. My point was that they’d been engineered to resist pesticide so they draw up more chemicals and pass that into the food chain. I later produced the evidence and got an apology. Damn right.
Ken’s teaching certainly made me realise that although that I am a trained computer scientist, that technology is really my passion and the business of technology and innovation is an even more exiting puzzle to me. When I became one of the youngest ever to start and graduate from the Executive MBA programme to study these issues, Ken backed me when I was having problems with the “computer says no” admission teams. To this day I still don’t know what Ken wrote my reference, but I was told by the admissions lecturer that it was good, but there were some negative points but they were said about him too – so I was in!
Ken later ended up as acting head of Manchester Business School post the merger between UMIST and the Victoria University of Manchester. He was probably the only career-academic I’d ever met who had a handle on the commercial and political pressures within the academic sector and indeed the only one with an idea how to manage – he knew what you could and couldn’t do to get to a future state and how long that would be.
One of my favourite lecturers with Ken during my MSc, which are always very much interactive was when we discussed why Betamax beat VHS and against what the textbook said, it had nothing to do with the amount of Hollywood studios signing up to the format, he said it was due to the amount of porn available. If you actually think about it, the printing press, the video-recorder, the internet and many other media technologies have been accelerated and format wars resolved due to the amount of porn available. These technologies were named ‘pornologies’ it would have made an interesting paper even if not-so-much academically robust!
So for those of you I frequently mention ‘pornologies’ to, now you know why. Feel free to use it.
We had many a beer and I later ended up living round the corner from him, always good to develop a new pub-based theory on something like “crapacity.”
So whilst this is quite a maudlin blog entry, there was someone who (aside from my usual suspects like family) I would like to be proud of what we’re achieving. So here after my formal training complete and too many years of service and experience under my belt is Unleashed which a Technology business through and through and we do what we do with a good sense of humour, intellect and wit. Just don’t ask us to use “pornologies” in a business context. The firewall’s content filter is set to block them, as standard!
Whilst this is no-where as good of a tribute as I think Ken deserves, I hope somebody finds it in the slightest bit amusing or interesting. Ken is certainly missed by a lot of people but his influence will never be forgotten.