5 Year NetScreen Reunion

When I first moved up to the Bay Area, it was a career decision for me. I had worked for 4 years as an IT person at E! Entertainment Television, and I just didn’t feel myself growing technically. I decided I needed to move to Silicon Valley, the center of networking technology.

I eventually landed at NetScreen, which is now legendary, because it was the first, “easy to use” hardware based firewall. I never get tired of telling this story, but I essentially saw how easy to use the GUI was, and I knew I needed to get into this company, thinking that it found a niche, and it is going places. I had painful experiences working with Checkpoint, and my first experience working with NetScreen was a breeze, and very refreshing.

NetScreen made many strides, and it was extremely successful. We went from startup, to taking away major deals from Checkpoint, and even Cisco. Eventually, Juniper saw how strong we were, and they ended up buying us for $4 billion. This was 5 years ago, and we all had a nice 5 year reunion bash.

We had it at Fibbar McGee’s in Sunnyvale, and it was wonderful to see some of the old gang there. There wasn’t as many there as I hoped there would be, but I guess they just couldn’t get off of work. I only wish Mark Smith, who was the VP of Sales at NetScreen, was there. He was really cool, and one of the few friendly high level Sales execs to the Tech Support gang. Many people ask me how it was at NetScreen, and it was your typical startup company, spending 12-15 hours a day, everyday in the office … however, it was fun. The management at NetScreen made it fun to come to work (can’t really say that too enthusiastic now). So when someone mentions a reunion for the old NetScreen gang, I jump at the chance to come. It brings back good times … fun times.

Brett, who was in Professional Services, was there, and we had a great time. We reminisce about our experiences with the big boys, like NMCI, Verizon, and the marathon conference calls we had. For some reason, when people are successful, they all take up golfing. I never really got it … some of the developers are now retired … and not even 50 years old yet. Well, a bunch of us were talking golf, and Brett, who is like me … a golf newbie … made one suggestion of how to play golf. Instead of carrying an entire golf bag, with 10-12 golf clubs, just carry one bat and one putter. A 34 ounce Louisville slugger, and when you tee off, freehand it, and give it a nice baseball homer swing … once it gets on the green, do your putt. Hmmm … why didn’t I think of that, or anyone else for that matter?

I also met Richard, who was in our product marketing, and he too is retired, and yes, < 50 years of age. He is a cyclist, so naturally, I spent quite a bit of time talking to him. Last year, he spent 39 days, riding across from Santa Barbara to South Carolina. That was cool … and he was one of the younger ones too. He is now starting to race for San Jose Bike Racing Club, and he even got promoted to Cat 4. Way to go Richard! He even competed in Sea Otter, but after about 5 laps, he had to pull out, being too far off the back.

Many of my friends at NetScreen, went on to other startups … many failed, and some are just barely surviving. Some ask why I have been at Juniper so long … well, I have a job, for one. Plus, I don’t think they will ever find another startup that was so successful like NetScreen. The upper management was so cool, and customer service focused … that even included from the top, at the CEO level, all the way down to me. The CEO and me … talking eye to eye, rubbing shoulders … imagine that! Robert Thomas was the CEO at NetScreen, and he is the coolest exec I have ever met. When we had our last NetScreen party, we had closed down all the bars, and there was one left in the lobby. A bunch of people were huddled in the lounge, and someone was pouring champagne to everyone. Who was pouring???? None other than the CEO himself. Now that is cool. When was the last time you saw a CEO pouring champagne for someone in shipping, or tech support?

Good times 🙂

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