Welcome to WintellectRAW – featurettes about your favorite authors. Each month we’ll give you a quick glimpse into the life of a WintellectNOW author – how they got their start, some of their hobbies, their favorite projects, and more!
This month we feature Tim Huckaby, a Microsoft Regional Director, MVP, and one of the newest WintellectNOW authors.
WintellectRAW: Tim Huckaby
Home is… Carlsbad, CA
And this is from where I came… I am the only technologist in the entire Huckaby extended family and I am the “dumbest” Huckaby (which is not that big a deal, because the Huckaby’s are exceptionally smart people. Being the dumbest Huckaby is like playing on the same football team as Peyton ManningJ). The lion’s share of the Huckabys are teachers – both my parents were English teachers and my sister, Kerry, is a teacher. I am the oldest of four. My brother Tom does something in blue sky law that I don’t understand for Xylinx. He scored the highest score in the nation on the SAT. My brother Kevin is severely handicapped – helped to shape the type of person I am.
But let’s start at the beginning… Well, I got my start years ago…close to 35 years ago. I have been doing this a long time, so the digital-native-generation may not understand this, but it is relatively amusing. I went to an all-boys Catholic high school in Encino, CA called Crespi Carmelite High School and graduated in 1980. We didn’t have programming classes or computers; we had Latin, Calculus, and a mandatory full year of typing.
In typing class…40 of us on Royal manual typewriters… to avoid getting hit with Father Mike’s ruler, you couldn’t screw around and you had to keep perfect typing posture. I failed at both J. I learned to keep my elbows in and became a machine gun on the keyboard. When you can type faster than you can write, you have a distinct advantage in programming.
It wasn’t until I got to the University of San Diego that I was exposed to programming. At USD you fill out a profiling questionnaire to get your 1st semester freshman classes. Well, they gave me a PASCAL programming class and I fell in love with it. I fully remember something Dr. Dwight Bean taught me way back in September of 1980: “A program is never done; it can always be improved.” And that one statement is still so true today. I ended up taking every programming class that USD offered and talked my way into two programming electives.
I didn’t come from wealth. My parents were English teachers. I worked a lot. I paid my own way through college. You could do that back then. I saved to buy my first Apple II+. But, it was an illegal clone of an Apple II+ that I built myself. I saved a fortune by doing that. I pilfered every compiler I could get my hands on. Back then we didn’t have the internet. We had BBSs (bulletin board services). And at 2400 baud downloading anything was an overnight affair. Like many programmers I was fascinated by computer languages. I was fascinated by the software games I could hack into and change for my friend’s amusement.
My first job was at EDS back when Ross Perot still ran the company. By day I wrote COBOL and JCL to allocate resources to the COBOL. By night I worked on the $5,000 IBM XT that EDS had in the office with its 10MB hard drive! It was an awesome computer – way ahead of its time. The first real microcomputer (PC) with a hard drive; the first legit PC. That is when I found Turbo Pascal from Borland, an awesome compiler for the PC, and became a Turbo Pascal god J.
Ultimately I found my way to Microsoft. In the late 90’s, I worked with some pretty famous product teams – and some bad ones, too! Did you know Windows NT had 65 million lines of code? It was at Microsoft that l learned the difference between programming and building good software. I worked very hard – 12-14 hour days. My kids were babies and I commuted from San Diego to Seattle; only home for 32 hours each weekend for over a year. It was a huge sacrifice that my wife Kelly and I made, but it launched my career. It was shortly after my time at Microsoft that I started InterKnowlogy. I figured out that the brilliant and talented of Microsoft were just people too and I knew I could hang with anyone in any role in technology.
Through all of my years and experience… I tend to enjoy the team accomplishments more than the personal ones. The projects I am working on now really are just as fun and interesting as back in the old days when I wasn’t overhead. Here’s one from the past that pops into my mind… it was in 1998 and me and my team wrote the “mother of all set up scripts” who’s purpose it was to create a number of starter web sites that ran on IIS4.0. It created web sites, painted ACLS, configured the users in the directory service, created all the custom attributes, and tons more. It was used everywhere at Microsoft and was the heart of creating and staging sites on msn for years. Well, it got so big that it bombed the heap in IIS 4.0. My boss… brilliant guy…. His name is Bill Griffin….said to me, “We have to go visit the IIS team.” So we did…. I was so intimidated. Me, Bill and the head of IIS (among other products at Microsoft). My boss started by saying, “Tim wrote some code that bombs your product.” I almost died. He said, “Really?”… and he stared at what was effectively a dump. And then he looked up and said something that I will forever remember. HHhHG=e dead-panned: “You know what the problem with this company is?” We just looked at him and he answered himself. “There are just not enough 16 bit programmers here.” I just sat there in awe. In case it’s not obvious, he was one of the original architects of Win16 and he implied that the “young Win32 guys” were just not good at managing memory. Awesome.
But when I’m not doing all of that…I’m a fly fisherman. It’s the only place where I can get true focus; it really is my passion. When I’m fly fishing I don’t think about family or work or stress of everyday life; it’s just me in the wilderness and the river. And I get lost in it for hours. I have been hardcore, extreme catch and release fly fishing for over a decade. I didn’t grow up doing it, I fell in love with it mid-career. It’s also a pretty rare sport; not too popular. So, not many people know about it or what it entails. It’s very physical. I’ll often cover 20 miles in a day, and lose and gain 2000 feet in altitude. It’s constant action whether you are wading the river casting constantly or hiking or climbing to get to that perfect spot to enter the river. It’s usually in the middle of the wilderness and frequently dangerous. I’m so obsessed by it I even ties flies in my garage. Some of my creations, like the “Huck-Hopper” are even used by the fly fishing guides in Montana.
I’m a lot safer now, but some of my earlier years I got into some pretty hairy situations: lost in the wilderness; hiking up a cliff to get out of the canyon in total darkness. My animal encounter stories are epic. I had bears break into my truck just a couple months ago and drink all my beer and eat all my food; not kidding!
As crazy as it sounds, I’m also a decent snow-boarder and I can still hang with both my kids…and they are very good snowboarders.
I guess the net-net is in the latter part of my career I really have become a wilderness guy. I mentioned earlier that my parents were English teachers and it’s not like they didn’t appreciate the wilderness – we did cross continent camping trips. I just didn’t appreciate it when I was young. I really love the outdoors. I still mountain bike and trail run too.
If I could meet just one person it would be… Race Bannon….and if you are old enough to remember who that is, you are now laughing. Race Bannon is the single manliest stud in history; no question.
Tim is the founder of InterKnowlogy and Actus Interactive Software. He published his first WintellectNOW video – The Seven Tenets of an Engaging and Natural User Experience – earlier this month. To learn more about his professional life and experience, be sure to visit his bio.