Rocket at 25: Rocket + Music @ IBM Insight
October is one of my favorite times of the year. Autumn brings perfect weather to Boston. The leaves start to turn from monochrome green to explosive yellows and oranges and reds. Everyone is back from summer holidays and we begin our final quarter of the year with renewed energy and our passion for solving (hopefully really hard) problems for our customers and partners. And did I mention that I love October because I get to play guitar in The Rocket Band at House of Blues in Las Vegas again! I love playing guitar and I love performing. But what I love the most about this gig is that I get to collaborate (in this case, musically) with my fellow Rocketeers from all over the world.
The Rocket Band started out as an informal jam session in my basement during Rocket’s annual Leadership Summit a few years ago. That night, my wife Mariann and I hosted an evening of food and fun for about 100 or so Rocket leaders at our house. At one point during the night, a group of us found our way to the music room in the basement. We weren’t particularly good, but we had lots of fun. We didn’t have a bass player. My son Michael kept time on his drum kit. A few of us switched off on guitars and keyboards and various percussion instruments. None of us had played together before – all of us from different cities and countries – and most of the group hadn’t ever met before. But our music connected us.
At our annual Sales Kickoff meeting the following month in Bermuda, we decided that we should try to learn some classic rock covers and perform for our global sales team. And The Rocket Band was born. Our first few appearances were at internal Rocket meetings, but as we got better and better we were ready to play a real show. Last fall we finally got our chance – we played a short set at House of Blues as part of IBM Insight 2014 (full disclosure: Rocket was and is the Marquee Entertainment Sponsor of IBM the event!) We had a few weeks to get a set list together, recruit more musicians from inside Rocket, try to orchestrate at least one rehearsal, and then get everyone to Las Vegas for the show.
So why would a software company do something like this? It all comes back to collaboration. As a global company with 1300 employees we put a lot of time and effort into, and value on, meeting in person. Of course we get together virtually all the time – conference calls, instant messaging, text messages, Web conferences. But we believe there is no substitute for getting people together, in person, to create amazing things.
The Rocket Band is a metaphor for how well we work together – across boundaries, across cultures, across languages. The Rocket Band that will be performing this month has members from California, New Hampshire, and Ohio, from England, Japan, and The Netherlands, and (of course) Boston.
When we perform, we know if you are listening and enjoying our music and dancing, or if you are on your phone checking Facebook or sending text messages. How our music makes you feel is important to us. And that translates to our software and our company. How our software makes you feel is as important as what our software does. And how our company makes you feel is as important as what our software does. There is a magical connection between software engineering and music and those threads certainly weave together throughout Rocket. (See my TEDx talk from May of this year on that topic.)