INSITEVIEW- - tom shugart's weblog

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Rude Awakening

Thanks again to all those who have written such kind remarks after my interview with Frank Paynter. Some people have asked whether I'm any relation to disk drive pioneer, Alan Shugart. Ha! I only wish.

All my life, I was accustomed to having a name that was obscure--peppered constantly with, "how do you spell it?" and "how do you pronounce it?" Then, in 1979, I got my first gig in the high-tech sector. In this new universe I suddenly found that my name was practically a household word. Shugart Drives were in their heyday, having been installed as the 5.25 inch floppy driver for the wildly popular Apple II. Also in 1979, Shugart founded Seagate Tecnology, making a big splash in the business and technical press.

So, almost overnight, the questions changed from "how do you pronounce it?" to "are you any relation?" It was a jolt to my reality until I began to get used to it. I developed a pat reply for use at business mixers, those dread events where you're trying to make small talk. I'd say, "No, I'm no relation, but I'm tempted to walk into the Seagate HR department some day and announce, 'Dad says it's time I got a job. What have you got?" Semi-suitable as an ice-breaker.

Then, after playing this card for a dozen years or so, I got caught short one evening. I had never factored in the advance of Father Time. It was one of those moments that smack you right in the face and announce that the game has changed. So I'm tossing my customary ice-breaker at this guy and just before I get to the word, "Dad," he interrupts. "Oh, I get it. You're going to tell the HR people that your BROTHER told you to get a job!"

That convenient little ice-breaker never emerged from my lips again.


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