Monday, July 16, 2012

A chance encounter, a life changing moment


Barton Biggs passed away over the weekend.  When I read the headline "Charming Man of Deep Intellect", I thought how much I agreed with that observation.

Back in the early 80's I worked in the MIS department at Morgan Stanley in New York.  They had hired me to work amongst some of the most brilliant computer gurus.  I was not hired because I had a degree from MIT, like most of my peers.


All that was on my resume at that time was my work experience, which included six years with Xerox Corporation.  I was working with their word processing, microcomputers, graphic equipment and telecommunications.

Morgan Stanley had Xerox word processing workstations on most of the secretarial desks and in their word processing pool.  I was hired to be the system's analyst that worked as a go-between with the technical staff and the department heads of the firm to automate systems.


New to the world of mainframe computers, the microcomputer was trying to find it's place as a stand-a-lone workstation in the world of shared networks.  One day my boss asked me to go on an assignment with a peer to Greenwich Connecticut.  I was to place the first microcomputer on the desk of Barton Biggs in his home, and I was to teach him how to use it.  The purpose of the assignment was to give him the capability to communicate from his home to the office via dial-up communication.


When Barton Biggs made a recommendation in the market, everyone listened.  I didn't know what to expect.  I only knew that my job was to teach him how to use the micro.  He was so modest and very gracious.  I have to say, that this was not the way I was accustomed to being treated by some of the other investment bankers in the firm.  He was a pleasure to work with, and I almost forgot how important he was in the world of finance while in his company.

"Morgan Stanley hired Baron Biggs in the early 1970's as a research director, and before long he was pushing the firm into investment management, which he also headed.  Morgan Stanley made great inroads in Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, and other parts of the Middle East and the Far East, gathering up large, prosperous clients."1


I sat with him and showed him which buttons to push.  He admitted that this was going to take some time to get used to, but I assured him that I was leaving a tape that I had created with step by step instructions.  I also gave him my work telephone number should he need assistance.  He never called, something tells me he became quite proficient at communicating his findings.



His young teenage son was there in the room with us and making his dad feel quite self-conscious, as most teens do.  I wanted to say to his son, "do you know who your father is?"  His valuable knowledge was much more important than learning how to use a mundane computer.  When I returned to the office, I laughed on learning that Barton Biggs was on his way to Kuwait later that day.  What an honor to have met such an amazing man.

Here is a recent interview tithe Barton in his home in Greenwich, giving advice on the Big Interview.

While watching the interview, I found myself glancing around the room where the interview was filmed.  I wanted to see what computer he was using now.  Something tells me that Barton replaced that old clunker long ago and most recently with an Apple iPad for his briefcase, no doubt.  I am sure also, that his grown son now is so proud of his father's contributions to our world.


Working at Morgan Stanley was fascinating and truly changed my life in so many ways.  I am thankful that they afforded me the pleasure of meeting Barton Biggs.  I will never forget the experience.

Reference:
1 The Innovation DecadesPaper Fortune $ : Modern Wall Street:
where it's been and where it's going
by Roy. C. Smith



The photos used for this post came from my personal files, and old disks.  Support Rep photos are from an old Xerox brochure of mine.

5 comments:

Vee said...

Karen, how fascinating! I have zero idea who Mr. Biggs was, though I am fascinated by your work history. To me, you have always been the amazing Karen who creates fabric and graphic designs and beauty everywhere. That you once taught a Mr. Biggs who was "big" in the corporate world how to use an early computer is very interesting. Now I must learn who Mr. Biggs was.

Pondside said...

That was interesting - just the sort of post I enjoy - a little slice of memory, a bit of a story, something new to me.

Snap said...

Wow,Karen... what memories!!!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

What an amazing experience this was, Karen! Your life has been so full. I do indeed know who Barton Biggs is. Sometimes, but not often , the most prominent people are the most humble.

Sarah said...

Karen, this was fascinating. Glad you shared this story. What an amazing experience.