There are people who leave this world with the same kind of gentleness as they have entered it. Today, you are one of the rare few.
I remember you sitting with us in Starbucks. You were perhaps wondering why we had such a non-traditional panel interview. Having Roni and Proctor there as your potential peers was a measure of how well you could blend in with the team, how comfortable you could throw around ideas, whether you could keep up with the conversation, and most importantly whether you had a sense of humor. That last part was important given how demand-chasing the job ahead was. Yours was a kind of gentle assertion. I was wondering why you weren’t hard selling yourself. But you blended into the discussion as if you had always been with us. After the interview, Roni and Mike recommended we hire you. Roni, most especially.
Prior to your demo, we had a lengthy conversation about who you were, your past projects, and what you would like to accomplish in life. Again, you took on simple answers, devoid of the kind of know-it-all cockiness with Six Sigma practitioners of your age. I wondered whether you were simply not ambitious. I quickly realized, as you walked me through your experiences, that you were more concerned about the journey and the results — not so much about the benefits it gave you. What i really liked was how you worked with others to ensure your past projects were effective. You said: “I don’t know everything, Teki. But talking to people in non-formal settings helps in moving projects to completion.”
During your demo, i had to ask you why there was a need to show a Kruskall Wallis ranking test on your slide. The question was not about accuracy but whether executives needed to know that detail. More importantly, i wanted to test how you took criticism. You took a deep breath and simply exclaimed: “Well, you are right. This can be placed as an appendix. But I wanted to highlight how we got the numbers just in case the question came up.” You confided in me after that you thought i wasn’t impressed. But truth is when Raj left to go to another meeting, i was already recommending we hire you. The team said that they learned something from your demo and wanted to hear more. And that’s when i knew you had the capacity to teach without having to throw it down.
To this day, i have never thanked Karlo enough for recommending you.
You had a calming effect on the team. I was impressed at how you managed to soothe demanding stakeholders; how you took initiative without being told; and how you could rally your operational peers with you without having to assert, raise your tone and without having to talk ill of anyone. You always saw the positive in others. Never have i heard you speak ill of anyone. When disappointed, you always had that resigned look, but never contemptful.
I saw you build up your team single-handedly. Remember when you asked me to support you in building your own analytics team? I was hesistant at first because the starting talent your team had was so raw. But you were so deadset about it that you broached the idea to Nat, your stakeholder. She approved. You invested the time to teach, created bite-sized learning sessions, introduced simple but new ways of thinking: like using a “word cloud” system to do an introductory sentiment analysis, teaching the girls to utilize quadrant management and to harness the power of impact analysis. All done in less than a year. And i could see that what you have taught the team bore fruit: it gave Jevon the courage to apply himself and branch out to a higher role; it helped Madz to realize that she wanted to be part of Training; it helped the 4Js (the girls) how to think for themselves and rise from what they used to be to what they can be. You have touched lives in large doses in all of that gentleness.
You confided in me about how you were struggling with one or two of your people who needed motivation. At some point, i had wanted to intervene. But you said: “It’s okay, Teki. I can handle this. This is too small for you to get involved with. I’d feel bad if i have to burden you with something i should handle.” I knew you had matured at that stage. And like all other things, it was you being your silent strong self, taking responsibility and not wanting to be a burden.
But more than the confines of the office, you shared things about you — about how important you uphold family; that of all the things you don’t want is to disappoint your parents; of all of the people you love and hold dear; and all the other conversations between the two of us that will continue to remain in confidence.
You once told me about how you chose to remain composed in times of conflict. You said “because drama is just unwanted headache.” (You were the kind of guy who believed that world peace is possible.) And you shared with me who you wanted to be.
Looking back, a part of me regrets how i could’ve spent more time supporting you. But you said that you wanted me to look at you proudly — that one day you’ll create something amazing on your own.
I remember our last conversation face to face. You were happy that night we had dinner at the Shangri La. You were focused on the future despite the occassional stress you said you were experiencing. We parted with the promise of keeping in touch. You gave me a knowing look, you were gloriously happy to the point of giggling. It is an enduring image forever etched in my mind.
And as the news of your death came suddenly, i questioned God why good and gentle people like you who had so much to offer are plucked away from this world. But Marge reminded me that you should not be remembered by how you died, but by how much you have lived.
And as the Easter morning breaks, God sends a message. That despite all the tears we may shed at graveyards, Hope exists beyond death. Easter is a testimony of God’s promise to the world. And today, Jesus carries you along with Him.
And so Dave as you enter the realm of His eternal grace, know how grateful and honored we all are for sharing with us a big part of you.
You will be forever missed.