Friends Forever – Demon Internet Hostmasters (1996-1999)

South Beach, Miami, USA 16 October, 2010 11am ET

I met up with my dear friend Sam last night… the first time in nearly 3 years as that is when I was last in the area.

It is always good to catch up with him, and although I follow him on FB, it is actually nicer to chat with him in person… and see the progress in his career and life. Funnily enough, even though we had met after so long, it did not feel that way. We chatted as though we had seen each other just a few days prior.

Thinking about this, I get that same feeling when I see other friends I am close to in heart but distant in miles, or have not seen for a while. Each one of them is like family to me.

Seeing Sam made me think about my old team at Demon Internet… by this I mean the Frontline and Backline Hostmasters rather than the Technical Hostmasters (sorry Ivan and Pat Mac), or the ones in Demon NL, or the ones from Scottish Telecom/Thus… or even the newer team members that joined during my last few months at Demon. I still think about those days with great fondness. I truly enjoyed those days, looked forward to going to work and being with my colleagues whom I considered to be true friends.

Talking about ‘my old team’ in no way diminishes the respect and admiration I have and had for the other people I worked with at Demon Internet, or the fact that with Cliff Stanford at the helm, I was able to progress in my own career and standing within the industry, or the fact that I learned a lot from my greatest business mentor, Ronald Khoo.

I may have been senior in rank according to my job title, but I never considered myself to be above my colleagues. They were my equals and truth be told, when it came to dealing with senior management, my colleagues made it very easy for me. We were productive, whatever we needed to do got done, and none of the management had any complaints against us! Going to work was fun for me, and I looked forward to going to work! It is how it should be… I am sure the rest of the team will agree on this.

Weirdly enough, I considered the team to be my babies.. and in some ways I still do! My role was to nurture and develop them, and I do not mean this in a condescending way, but I am really proud of each one of them… looking at them now and how they have progressed in life and career gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling.

So, who are these stars in my eyes? They are, in alphabetical order, Bijal, Darren, Lee, Leo, Patricia (Trish), Ryan and Sam.

Of the above, I have not had the pleasure of recent contact with Lee or Ryan, however the last I heard from them they were doing well… Ryan with a small family now, Lee progressing in his career and independent. Guys, if you are reading this, please get in touch.. or I may start posting things on your FB walls. 😉

Bijal: She joined the Demon Hostmaster team straight after she finished university. I remember the interview that Darren and myself conducted. She was so… nervous. The thing was that although she had no experience of the job, I was more interested in how she handled the questions we threw at her. What transpired for both Darren and myself was that she would pick things up very quickly…and she did! I think she was surprised that she got offered the job. I have stayed in touch with Bijal throughout the years because she attends a lot of the meetings that I do, and it is a pleasure to see her go from being a Hostmaster to one of the most respected and well known senior network engineers in the industry!

Darren: He joined the Demon Hostmaster team a few days before I did. We instantly built up a friendship and I remember telling numerous people that I considered him a brother.. I still do. He is also a fellow Northerner. We were both thrown in at the deep end and basically helped each other through the various tasks we had to do. There were times when he got into a mood, but that was ok with me… did not last long. There were also the friendly jibes which continue to this day! I had lost contact with Darren for a few years, but am extremely glad to say he is back in my life. So many changes in the interim period. He is now married, has a lovely little daughter, and is no longer in the Internet industry (he successfully escaped).

Lee: He had been working at Demon since he left school and joined the Hostmaster team from Corporate Services as the youngest one in our team. Lee was into his MUDs and games. I remember a few times where he came into work and not feeling like doing any, so I just let him sit there playing games all day and whatever else he wanted to do… because I knew that the next day he would have caught up with all the work and tasks he needed to get through. An incredibly intelligent chap although he did need a bit of a nudge from time to time. 😉 Nevertheless, I had no complaints about him. I do think that he excelled in his career and in his life after he left Demon though and once he became more independent.

Leo: I dub him Mr Internet. 🙂 He joined the team from Demon’s Corporate Services.. I thought his skill set was wasted in that department… and I was right! Always meticulous and analytical, also thought provoking. He was always helpful if someone was stuck on anything and spent time teaching them what he knew about the topic. He was always mild mannered and never (well, hardly ever) lost his temper. I remember the one time he did, and that was a unique experience for me. It was not temper against me or anyone else in the team though, so I guess we got spared, although I had to deal with a manager in another department about it. That was a one-off experience! Since those days at Demon, Leo went on to do things for the good of the Internet… and is now in a position where he is in charge of global IP address distribution. He is the man that all the Regional Registries such as RIPE, ARIN, APNIC etc need to go to to get IP Addresses to distribute in their regions. Now that is real power!

Trish: The Hostmistress. Imagine someone in a dominatrix outfit. Yup, you get the picture. 😉 Trish joined the team after having worked at BT Internet where she did Hostmaster stuff too. Hostmasters in the different ISPs knew each other as we had to liaise with one another. She had gone on maternity leave and when she wanted to get back into work, BT no longer had a job for her, so she gave me a call. I needed another person in the team and her call had come in at an opportune time. Trish was probably the loudest person in our team, and one of the most ‘forward’. 🙂 I say that with admiration. She brought a freshness to the team that made us blush from time to time. That said, she was also quite motherly and did a great job of looking after the Frontline Hostmasters. Life and times have changed, but Trish continues to be the same – chirpy, dedicated to her work (she now works at another ISP), children, family and of course her friends.

Ryan: Another one to join the team from Corporate Services. Ryan, a fellow Northerner, was probably our quietest team member. He came in to work, did whatever needed to be done, contributed to team discussions, blushed the most at Trish’s remarks, contributed to the jokes, and of course got together with the other team members to gang up on me.. they gave me as good as they got from me. 😉 Ryan had this calm aura about him, he was the most softly spoken in the team and was the ying against Trish’s yang. He left Demon to join another large ISP where he managed a couple of very large client networks… names that pretty much anyone in the UK would recognise. I have not seen Ryan since April 2001 at a meeting in Bologna, however I do know he is now married and has 2 lovely children.

Sam: The eternal goth with the Tennessee accent. He actually came to be interviewed for a role in the newly formed ‘E-Commerce Department’ which I was also put in charge of. The Sales Director and myself were interviewing for this role. Sam was the first one we interviewed. I used my normal interview techniques, looking for character and the type of person Sam was, more than what knowledge he actually had about the role. The Director interviewed in what I consider the standard way.. in my view not the best way to judge an applicant. The Director did not think Sam was suitable for the role, whereas I disagreed. However seniority came into play. As there was a vacancy in the Frontline Hostmaster team, I ran to Trish, mentioned Sam to her and when she wanted to interview him. She said she had full faith in me and did not need to interview him. So, I rushed to the building entrance but he had already left. I ran down the road and luckily caught up with him – he was about to enter the tube station! I mentioned the role was available to him if he wanted to take it, he showed surprise and said he had no idea what it was about, and I told him not to worry about it as I had full faith in him picking up most things within a couple of weeks. He accepted the offer and to this day I have never regretted the decision. Sam excelled at the job – he picked up the skills extremely quickly; and during his time at Demon became a senior hostmaster, and well respected within the industry. Sam now lives in Miami and is another one who successfully escaped the Internet industry and is now a Social Studies and English teacher – teaching students in middle to high school.

With colleagues of this calibre, how can I not be proud? I love them and I truly miss them.

-DB