Chapter 19: Tuesday, January 13 – The Unicorn Project

CHAPTER 19

• Tuesday, January 13

From:

Steve Masters (CEO, Parts Unlimited)

To:

All Parts Unlimited Employees

Date:

8:45 a.m., January 13

Subject:

Sarah Moulton is no longer with the company

Effective immediately, Sarah Moulton is taking a leave of absence to spend more time with her family. Maggie Lee will be taking over all retail-related concerns, and Pamela Sanders will be taking over product marketing, analyst relations, and public relations. For other matters, please refer them to me. We thank her for all her contributions to the company over the last four years.

See you at the next Town Hall! Steve

From:

Alan Perez (Operating Partner, Wayne-Yokohama Equity Partners)

To:

Steve Masters (CEO)

Date:

3:15 p.m., January 13

Subject:

Congratulations on a remarkable quarter

Steve—in confidence …

Congratulations on a remarkable quarter. As they say, two data points don’t make a trend, but it is still exciting to see. Your record-breaking Black Friday and Christmas holiday sales performance and contributions to profits are noteworthy and definitely change the financial posture of the company. I can see the glimmer of a growth story taking shape.

I am glad we supported you throughout this turnaround. Good luck closing the books, and I look forward to seeing the final numbers for the quarter.

Cheers, Alan

PS: It’s too bad Sarah never fully bought into your vision. She could have been a fantastic asset.

Maxine is sitting in the second row at the January Town Hall. She can’t stop smiling from the news of Sarah’s departure. And better yet, Chris sent out a memo saying that Kurt had been reinstated and cleared of all wrongdoing. Kurt is sitting next to her, and against all her wildest expectations, they both have a minor role in today’s agenda.

At ten a.m. sharp, Steve turns on the microphone and addresses everyone in the audience. “Good morning and Happy New Year to you all. And given the fantastic holiday season and the earnings call that I just got off of, here’s to this year being the best year for the company yet!” Everyone in the auditorium applauds and cheers. Maxine had seen the fantastic press about the company’s amazing quarter. Steve goes through his usual reiteration of the company mission, and then gives more specifics about the incredible performance of the company during December. To roaring applause, he asks Maggie to take the stage. “Congratulations on a job well done helping with the urgent inventory audit, and your new position as the SVP of retail operations!”

Until this Town Hall, it had always been Sarah talking about the company strategy. Maxine is so delighted and proud that Maggie has taken her place and is being recognized in front of the entire company.

“Thanks, Steve,” she says, looking sharp in her designer suit. “I’ll make this really short. In December we set records all across the board: revenue, average order sizes, conversion rates for promoted items, and margins. Even customer satisfaction.

“Because of all the amazing groundwork that Phoenix laid down, the Unicorn teams were able to quickly create promotions capabilities to drive people to our mobile app, e-commerce site, and physical stores. Of course, it wasn’t just Marketing. It was an amazing combined effort that included in-store staff and the technology teams,” she says. “In particular, I want to call out the amazing work of Kurt Reznick and Maxine Chambers and the entire Unicorn Project team.”

Maggie points out Maxine and Kurt from the stage, insisting they stand up and wave to everyone from their seats. Maxine waves at everyone, gritting her teeth.

Maggie walks through a series of graphs. “… In short, due to this incredible performance, Steve and Dick announced our first profitable quarter in almost two and a half years.”

Maxine hears people cheer wildly and realizes how significant this is to the future of the company. Maggie says with a big smile, “Rest assured, this is just the beginning. Steve won’t let us rest on our laurels. In fact, he’s raised our targets, and we’re scrambling, trying to figure out how to meet them. Thank you all very much!”

Steve takes the microphone back from Maggie, thanking her again for her great work. “I’d like to officially announce the winners of the Innovation Contest that we held in December. Over thirty teams were selected to pitch their ideas to a group of judges we picked from across the company,” he says. “There were a lot of incredible ideas, and I’m so delighted by the committee’s decisions.”

To Maxine’s utter delight, she watches as Brent, Shannon, Dwayne, and Wes go up on stage to be recognized by Steve, as well as the teams who pitched the service station ratings and the four-hour parts delivery.

Pointing at the people on stage, Steve says, “Incredibly, each of these teams have already worked with Maxine and her teams to explore, prototype, and validate these ideas. We will report the results to you quarterly.”

Each team gives a five-minute presentation of what they’re planning, and each are able to show a demo of what they’ve already created, what they plan on doing next, their goals for the next three months, and the help they’re looking for.

Maxine is very, very impressed with what they’ve all created.

Steve thanks them, asking each team to share a learning, whether from a mistake or from an experiment. “It’s important to share our wins and losses,” he explains.

“Our future depends on innovation,” he says. “That doesn’t come from process. It comes from people.” He describes the Three Horizons to everyone, as well as the steps he’s taking to move people from Context to Core.

“As a company, we don’t want to leave anyone behind. We want to invest in you at a level we haven’t since the 1920s, when the founder of Parts Unlimited made it his mission to create the most skilled workforce in the nation.

“To that end, I’m increasing the frequency of these Town Halls from bi-monthly to monthly, and I invite everyone to submit questions in the chatroom we’ve created for this, or you can even just post an emoji,” he says, projecting all the questions and emojis behind him.

This is exciting and new, Maxine thinks.

Before he adjourns, Steve says, “Oh, one more piece of news. I’d like to congratulate Bill Palmer, who has been promoted to chief information officer, allowing me to vacate that position. And I’m pleased that I’ve gotten board approval to make him provisional chief operating officer, provided that he doesn’t wash out of a special program we’ve created for him over the next two years.”

Maxine looks over at Bill in surprise. She had absolutely no idea this was coming. No wonder it seemed like Bill had such a great relationship with Steve. She punches him on the shoulder and says, “Congratulations, Bill.”

As promised, Steve has another Town Hall in February. From the stage he says, “Every month in between our normal Town Halls, I’ll have one like this. It’s only an hour, and it will be mostly for small announcements and then open questions and answers.” He talks again about the vision of the company and the focus on enabling Core by managing down Context.

He says, “Before Q&A, I have an announcement to make. I said last time that we must become a learning organization or we will lose to another organization that is. To help advance this, thanks to Maxine Chambers, we are creating something called Teaching Thursdays.”

Maxine’s heart leaps at the mention of this. This was something she had lobbied for, and now she’s getting it. Not just for the technology organization, but for everyone in the company.

“Every week we will create time for everyone in the company to learn. For two hours, everyone is expected to teach something or learn something. The topics are whatever you want to learn: cross-train in another silo or business unit, take part in our famous in-store training program, spend time in our stores or manufacturing plants, sit with your customer or our helpdesk, learn about Lean principles or practices, learn a new technology or tool, or even how to better manage your career. The most valuable thing you can do is mentor or learn from your peers. And you can expect to see me there too. Learning is for everyone, and it is from there that we will create competitive advantage.”

In that moment, Maxine feels an incredible sense of professional pride, and by announcing his participation, Steve has gone a long way to reduce the embarrassment that often comes with learning something new. Leaders must model the behaviors they want.

“Good job, Maxine,” Bill says, who is sitting right next to her. “This is absolutely awesome.”

Maxine can’t stop smiling. As Steve starts fielding the Q&A, the #ask-steve-town-hall chatroom is projected behind him. As promised, he asks how people feel about the company, asking them to fill out a poll question where the answers are emojis. The majority of people answer with a heart or smiley face. About five percent answer with the poo emoji, which results in Steve encouraging them to email him about their complaints or with any suggestions.

The next Thursday, Maxine is sitting at the front of the lunch room with over forty other people. It’s Teaching Thursday, and Shannon and a data scientist are in the front of the room giving a tutorial on creating machine learning models using real company data from the Panther data platform. Everyone, including Maxine, has their laptops open, following along with the lab assignment.

Steve is sitting next to her with his laptop open. When Maxine stares at the machine learning book next to his laptop, he says, “What? I was in logistics for decades. I actually wanted to study math in graduate school but didn’t have the money to go. I used to love linear algebra and statistics. I’m still the best at Excel of anyone I know. But I’ve got a lot to learn too.”

Maxine is impressed. Looking around the room, she sees many of her former MRP teammates, as well as some of the project managers and QA and Ops engineers whose positions were going to be eliminated. A few appear to be here only grudgingly, but most have jumped in with gusto, including Derek from the helpdesk. Good for him, she thinks.

As painful as the RIF exercise was, to see all these people here eagerly learning some of the hottest and most-desired skills makes Maxine smile. It removes all doubt that it was the right thing to do, not just for the company but for these engineers as well.

Maxine acutely understands the psychological barriers that sometimes come with learning new things. Which is why she is here too, showing that even she needs to be learning new things.

Many years ago, when she took a workshop at MIT, her instructor said that adult learners often hide the fact that they’re trying to acquire a new skill, whether it’s learning a new language, swimming, or even taking golf lessons. It usually comes from embarrassment or being afraid of being seen doing something that they’re not good at.

Indeed, decades ago she wanted to learn to be a better swimmer. She couldn’t even swim one lap without stopping in the middle of the pool. She was embarrassed, imagining that the other swimmers, both kids and adults, were laughing at her. She was incredibly self-conscious about the lifeguards sitting in those chairs whose job it was to watch everyone.

She remembered that she even started walking with a fake limp, so that the lifeguard would excuse her for being a bad swimmer. Finally, she started taking lessons at the same time as her kids, and after years of practice, she is proud that she can swim laps for an entire hour.

She never wants any engineer to feel embarrassed, like she did in that pool. Everyone is a learner. And this is why Maxine has such a deep sense of satisfaction about how many people Teaching Thursdays is reaching.

Two weeks later, Maxine finds herself standing around a big pile of Kumquat servers in the parking lot right outside the loading dock of Building 5. There’s still snow surrounding the parking lot and the weather is still freezing, but that doesn’t stop nearly fifty people from crowding around.

Maxine knows why so many people are here. In addition to working on the four-hour delivery service, Maxine has been working tirelessly to help Brent and Dwayne migrate everything off of the Kumquat servers. And now that their work is complete, all these people want to give these old Kumquat servers the farewell they deserve.

To her astonishment, Steve, Dick, and Bill are here too. Steve says, “My heartiest congratulations to Wes and team for successfully retiring these old, tired servers. Our job is to serve our customers, and quite frankly, they don’t care about these things. Through all your hard work, we can harvest all the energy that used to be spent propping these things up and redeploy them in Core, where we can further delight our customers. I’ll be having Wes share this story at the next Town Hall so we can all celebrate it together.

“With that, Wes, I turn it over to you,” he says, to the applause of everyone gathered round.

Wes steps forward, addressing the crowd. “Thank you all for coming. This is the first of many ceremonies we will hold as we bid adieu to these things that used to inhabit our datacenters, tormenting us on a daily basis. I grew up with Kumquat servers nearly twenty years ago,” he says. “I learned almost everything I know on these things. Back then, they were a technological marvel, on the absolute cutting edge of what was possible. But these days, they are the bane of our existence. The middleware it ran made it difficult for anyone to get new work done. They’re prone to crashing, and worse, the entire cluster takes almost a half day to reboot because of the filesystem disk checking.

“We’ve worked hard over the past months to migrate all the applications off of these machines, either onto commodity servers or entirely into the cloud,” Wes says. “And now that it’s complete, we’re able to haul them out of our datacenters and out of our lives.”

Wes pulls a giant sledgehammer from behind him. “As the person who has been on more late-night outage calls because of these ancient hulks, I’m giving myself the privilege of taking the first swing at it. And then anyone can give a speech and smack the crap out of them too.”

With that, Wes raises the sledgehammer over his head, screams out, “Goodbye, you awful pile of 1990s 8U garbage!!” and slams the sledgehammer into the pile of servers. There is a cacophonous sound of fragile parts breaking, and Maxine cheers. Wes takes a couple more swings at it, whooping with joy. He laughs, yelling out, “Wow! That felt good!”

He hands the sledgehammer to Brent, who picks it up and yells, “This is for waking me up almost every night five years ago!” He then swings the sledgehammer, resulting in more horrible noises. He yells, “And this is for ruining my last vacation while my family and I were at Disneyland!” and swings it again.

As Brent continues to exact his revenge on the now-inert servers, Maxine, along with everyone else, is recording the carnage on her mobile phone, smiling maniacally. Brent finally passes the sledgehammer on to the next person. As Maxine gets in line to bid her own goodbye, Wes smiles at her, “You know, this is really amazing. We’ve hauled away almost eight thousand pounds of equipment out of the datacenter to be recycled. Only fifteen more tons to go!”

Weeks later, Maxine is hanging out at the Dockside with the Rebellion crew. Everyone is sharing what they’re working on, and Maxine is delighted that everyone seems to be having as much fun as she is.

“These engine sensors are such cool devices! They’re manufactured in China, but the company that designed them is based not so far from here. I think it’s a very small shop,” Shannon says. “We’ve done some experiments modifying the software on the devices. They have ARM processors that run Linux. I’ve managed to change the configurations and reflash the devices, so now they’re sending their sensor data to our back-end servers instead of theirs.”

She laughs. “I’m pretty sure what we’re doing isn’t legal, because it violates their Terms of Service, but it’s so fun. We’ll be sending a team to talk with them about entering into some sort of joint venture, or maybe we OEM their products outright.

“Their data ingest and webpages are crap. It crashes at least daily,” Shannon continues. “We want to build a huge data ingest mechanism in the cloud and then pour it all into the Panther data platform. We’ll build something that can easily handle millions of devices,” she says, obviously excited. “I want to show the people who make these devices what we’re building and show them that the smartest thing they can do is partner with us. Or it’ll be the last mistake they ever make.”

Seeing Shannon’s fierce grin, Maxine is reminded of just how competitive Shannon is, in the best possible way.

“By the way, would you be willing to join our team?” Shannon asks. “We could really use your help on the application and data side. Working on this with Brent and Dwayne is a blast. It’s such an incredibly fun project!”

Maxine blinks. She’s honored at the request, and she’s very tempted. “Who would we backfill onto the four-hour delivery service?”

Shannon looks around, pointing at all the new faces. “I’d bet that any one of these people from the MRP and mid-range teams would jump at the chance,” she says with a smile.

Maxine nods, smiling. She’s sure they would too.

During the March Town Hall, Steve looks more upbeat than ever. Of course, he starts by talking about the corporate mission, and then he describes how excited he is by all the novel ways the company can help keep their customers’ cars on the road.

He brings Maggie onto the stage, who shares the recent updates from the second meeting of the Innovation Council, tasked with reviewing the progress of the three chosen initiatives after ninety days of experimentation and execution.

The garage recommendation service had seemed promising. The in-store managers liked having the data, but the complications created by sales account managers who owned the relationship with those garage owners with lower scores was sufficiently problematic. The business lead needed more time to come up with a better policy of what to do with those organizations. It was decided that further development of this idea would be suspended, and the Innovation Council decided to start the next most highly rated proposal, which was the idea to provide services for rideshare drivers.

“In contrast,” Maggie says, “the four-hour delivery team is exceeding our expectations.”

Maxine sees Debra join Maggie on stage, describing how their service station salespeople loved the offering. In the pilot markets, they were able to sign up more customers than they could handle, serving them a limited number of important parts where speed of delivery mattered.

Debra says, “We’ve learned that many service stations have multiple locations, and they often need to have their mechanics drive urgently needed parts from one location to another, which means they’re not working on cars. To them, it was a no-brainer to use our service instead.

“We’re excited that they’re starting to share with us the parts they need to cross-ship most often, and we’re figuring out which ones we can deliver, some as soon as thirty minutes,” she says.

As Debra leaves the stage to loud applause, Maggie introduces Shannon and Wes, who give an update on the engine sensor project. They show off a prototype of the mobile app and website they’re building, and they describe how they’re in negotiations with two sensor companies, pitting them against each other to land an exclusive deal with Parts Unlimited.

“A bunch of us are using some prototype sensors in our cars, and all of us can’t imagine life without them anymore,” Shannon says. “Here’s an example of being able to see daily driving patterns, showing it on a map, highlighting where the car exceeded the speed limit. And here are dashboards that show maintenance programs and alerts that could indicate urgent mechanical issues, like oil temperature overheating or when tire pressures are low. Just think about all the amazing features or apps we can make to help our customers!

“We want to have sensors on sale by the May Town Hall,” she says. “As soon as we line up a partner and confirm that all the pieces fit together, we’ll start taking orders. It’ll be a small-batch production run, but we want to see if there’s real customer demand. And we need to make sure we get security right. We don’t want to collect data that creates liability for the company, and we need to protect our customer’s privacy.”

Maxine applauds with everyone else, and she’s pleased beyond words that she’s now a part of the engine sensor team, as are many of her former MRP teammates.

As promised, Steve brings Wes and his team to celebrate the hauling away of all the Kumquat servers, thanking them for enabling the company to focus even more on creating value for Parts Unlimited customers.

Steve is really good at this, Maxine thinks. And she never would have guessed how Wes and his team would be so proud of dismantling an empire they helped create.

During the May Town Hall, Maggie talks about the updates for the engine sensor product, and Shannon shares the good news: “When we showed the engine sensor company executives what we’ve built and how strong our channel to their target market is, they were excited to partner,” she says with a grin. “Or maybe they were frightened at what we’d do if they didn’t partner. Either way, they agreed to make modified sensors to our desired specs.

“We are now taking orders for thousands of engine sensors per week, and it’s taking everything we’ve got to keep up with demand,” she continues. “And I’m so pleased that our investments into the Narwhal database and Panther data platform are paying off. All our pilot sensors are sending their data to our platform and are being analyzed by our data scientists and product team.”

Thanking Shannon, Maggie then says, “Surprisingly, we’re bringing an entirely new category of customers into our stores,” says Maggie. “We’ve found that many customers are car fleet managers and solo rideshare drivers, people whose livelihoods depend on keeping their cars running. We know we can help these people in many ways!

“And another surprise is that many customers are installing our sensors in luxury cars, many of them electric. They’re very tech-savvy and love the information we provide them. They love the historical data and mapping. This demographic is extremely desirable, which could open up many opportunities for the company, including all sorts of add-on subscriptions,” she continues.

“In fact, we’re doing an experiment to contact them when we detect that their tire pressures are low,” she says. “We found that a large number of Tesla owners are driving around for weeks with low tire pressure. We tested an offering to drive out to their car and refill their tires and their fluids, and we were all stunned at the high conversion rate.

“This is a market that is not very price sensitive,” she says with a smile. “We confirmed that we can charge a much higher fee. I suspect there are many other problems we can solve for them, with high margins.”

Maggie presents on a new initiative using machine learning to analyze in-store camera footage to examine foot traffic. They’ve already discovered certain endcap displays that were incredibly effective at capturing attention, resulting in dwell times much higher than normal, which meant they could sell more products, charge a higher price, or even create new related product offerings. They also found stores with unusually high queue abandonment rates, where customers waited so long in lines that they just left. They found that increasing in-store staff in these stores paid off big time.

Similarly, there was an in-store pilot that notified store managers whenever a high-value customer entered the store with their app installed. These managers loved it, able to use their already broad discretion to make sure these customers were always delighted. If the customer wasn’t using the app, the store manager was notified when they presented their loyalty card or swiped their credit card. Already, these customers have noticed and expressed their appreciation.

Next up, Debra shares the exciting updates on the four-hour delivery project. As Debra wraps up, she says, “Sorry, I have to tell you one last story. Last time, I asked for help, about how we needed ideas to more quickly find couriers in new markets. Someone noticed that ninety percent of our current couriers were engine sensor customers too. So in our latest pilot market, we tried sending an email to engine sensor customers in the area who were known to be professional drivers. The response was amazing. We had ample capacity within a week. This is an incredible competitive advantage, so thank you to Darrin Devaraj who suggested this!”

When Steve thanks her, he adds, “Remember, our business is built on customer trust. We have made a commitment to our customers that we will protect their privacy and data. I want to thank Shannon Corman for creating the Panther platform that is enabling us to turn data into a competitive advantage and also protect it for our customers.”

Maxine smiles. She knows that none of this would have been possible without Shannon’s initial proposal that led to Panther. They say that ‘data is the new oil,’ and these are only some of the many ways that they’ve enabled the entire company to harness value from it.

By democratizing the data, they’ve made it available to anyone who needs it. They may have decentralized teams, but they can access the vast expertise across the company. This learning and sharing dynamic has obviously and vastly amplified the effectiveness of some of the most strategic efforts in the company. Erik would be proud, she thinks.

Taking a break from the endless and exciting whirlwind of the engine sensor project, Maxine goes for a walk. Without a doubt, this project is already a runaway success. Sales have recently hit over ten thousand sensors a week, and rumor has it that their mobile app was just nominated for an interactive design award.

Maxine and her team are having a blast, but they need help. They started lobbying Maggie for another five engineers to accelerate building out all the awesome ideas on the roadmap.

On a whim, Maxine decides to go into the datacenter. She looks around, amazed at how it’s changed in the last five months.

Before, it was packed from wall-to-wall, filled with servers from floor to ceiling mounted on nineteen-inch racks. But now, there’s an area one hundred feet long and nearly fifty feet wide that is entirely empty, the racks having been hauled away.

On the floor are pieces of masking tape and paper tombstones indicating the business systems that used to reside on those servers.

“Email Server: $163K annual savings.”

“Helpdesk: $109K annual savings.”

“HR Systems: $188K annual savings.”

There are nearly thirty tombstones, and on a nearby wall is a sign that reads, “Rack Funerals: Over ten tons of obsolete equipment removed and recycled … So far … May they rest in peace.” The “ten” has been crossed out and replaced with a hand-written “thirteen.”

Also posted on the board are pictures of removed equipment. Seeing the picture of the wrecked pile of Kumquat servers still makes Maxine smile.

Maxine knows that later in the year, large portions of her old MRP system will be replatformed to a commercially supported offering so it can be safely retired. She is helping Glenn, her old manager, in that effort. Glenn’s newly stated goal is to build the “world’s best manufacturing supply chain,” As reported by one of the industry trade organizations, he vowed. “I’m so pissed off we fell off the top ten. Give me three years, with your support and Steve’s, and we’ll be the envy of the industry.”

They will finally consolidate from twenty different warehouse management systems down to one. They will finally migrate to a current version of their ERP system. Almost all customizations will be converted to what the vendor provides, unless it creates competitive advantage, such as certain key MRP modules—any customizations would be done outside the ERP in separate applications.

When Glenn declared his incredibly ambitious goal, it became clear that they needed more top-talent engineers, and he has no problems getting budget to do it—everyone knows that this effort will help Parts Unlimited for decades to come.

There were other surprises, as well. They used a technique called Wardley Maps to better localize what parts of various value chains were commodities and should be outsourced, which should be purchased, and which should be kept in-house because they created durable, competitive advantage. They used this exercise to methodically disposition their technology stacks, given the business context.

In doing so, they found another technology gem right next to the MRP group: it was an event bus that ingested all the equipment sensor data from their manufacturing plants, which had been running flawlessly for years.

When Maxine found this tech stack, she couldn’t believe it—it was exactly what Shannon had wanted when she had first pitched Panther but had to be taken out of scope. Although Maxine kicked herself for not thinking of it sooner, she knew exactly what to do with it.

It is now at the center of Project Shamu, forming the foundation of a massive architectural change that will eventually touch almost every back-end service and API across the entire company. Maxine knows that this is one of the most important technology initiatives in the company, because it solves something that has been bothering her for over a year. In the first Unicorn mini-launch, the transportation options service took down the entire order funnel. It was just one of twenty-three deeply nested API calls made whenever someone checked for product availability.

Even after a year, this problem remained unfixed. It was simply too expensive to shore up all twenty-three APIs to be a Tier 1 service—an SLA that requires five-nines of uptime, guaranteed response within ten milliseconds, and all sorts of other things that cost tons of money.

What’s always bothered her was why twenty-three API calls were needed in the first place, why they had to respond within milliseconds, and why they had to be so expensive to run. After all, it’s not like the transportation and shipping options changed every millisecond—they changed monthly. Product categories only changed once per quarter. Product descriptions and pictures only changed every few weeks.

Many thought caching the results solved the problem. But for Maxine, functional programming and immutability showed a much more elegant, even beautiful, solution. If they could represent all these API requests for information as values that were re-computed every time one of their inputs changed, they could reduce the number of API calls from twenty-three … to one.

Maxine never tires of the aha moments that people have when she explains this use of the event sourcing pattern, “Instead of calling twenty-three APIs to tell the customer when they can get their order, she asks them to think of this process instead … “It’s like leaves on a tree, all sending data that eventually end up at the trunk. One service knows only about products, another service only knows about zip codes or warehouses. Another service combines these, to describe what products are in-stock in each warehouse. Another service combines this information with shipping options to tell customers how soon they can have that product delivered. And all this information ends up in a specialized delete key/value store.

“It’s no longer twenty-three API calls that all must be available and respond quickly. Instead, it’s just one API call that takes a product ID and zip code, and returns the shipping options and delivery times without having to compute anything,” she would say. “Doing it this way will save millions of dollars per year!”

But that’s just the beginning and a fraction of the value it will create, Maxine thinks, smiling. This will be such a massive simplification over the mess they’ve lived with for decades. They will do this for customer orders, inventory availability, customer loyalty programs, service station jobs … almost everything.

It will decouple all of these services from each other, allowing teams to make changes independently, no longer reliant upon the single Data Hub team to implement their business rule changes. If all goes well, and Maxine will make sure it goes well, Shamu will replace Data Hub and all the point-to-point API calls across the entire company.

It will make the tracking of data and state across the enterprise simpler, safer, more resilient, easier to understand, cheaper to run, faster to deliver … It will lead to better business outcomes, happier stakeholders, and happier engineers.

This is not functional programming principles applied in the small—it will be applied to how the entire enterprise is organized and architected. Their technology landscape will now resemble the tech giants and enable an agility that is difficult to even imagine right now. She can think of no better manifestation of the First Ideal of Locality and Simplicity. She knows with certainty that it will enable competitive advantage, even if she doesn’t know exactly how—any company who doesn’t do something like this will continue their slow, but inevitable, decline. This will be the biggest triumph and achievement of her entire career.

Thinking about everything she’s achieved and all the triumphs that are sure to come, Maxine looks around at the datacenter again, so much emptier than when she was here last.

It is still difficult for her to believe how much has happened to her since she was exiled to the Phoenix Project. Back then, all she wanted to do was get a Phoenix build going on her laptop. Even undertaking that modest task, she faced adversities and obstacles that seemed insurmountable at the time, even with her vast experience and skills.

She had almost given up when Kurt approached her to join the Rebellion, asking for her help to liberate developers so they could get done what needed to get done. They were a seemingly crazy group of misfits who were out to overthrow the ancient, powerful order … and against all odds they did.

They started off as a group of redshirts, trapped in the engine room. They were later joined by brave and like-minded junior officers who pitched in to help. And in the strangest turns of events, they eventually found themselves working side-by-side with the bridge officers, helping turn the tide in their collective fight for survival, and they were even drawn into political battles with Starfleet Command, who wanted to break up their ship and sell it off for parts..

Maxine smiles. She thinks about how much she’s learned, how many times she was about to give up, and how the Five Ideals guided her on which battles to fight and why those battles mattered. And how she couldn’t have done it without a team of teams around her, supporting her quest for excellence.

She stares at the servers that run the MRP system she shepherded for six years. She thinks about how later this year, she’ll be standing in the parking lot celebrating the completion of the MRP migration, telling everyone about how proud she is that the MRP systems served their mission so well, and now they could be retired and hauled away.

Steve will say some words, and then Wes will hand her the sledgehammer.

Thinking about it all, she smiles and makes her way back to her desk.