Today the announcement was made that Bill Gates will be stepping down as Chief Software Architect and in two years will retire to his part-time position as Chairman of Microsoft. Instead he’s going to focus on efforts such as battling tuberculosis, a topic near to our family.
My “little” sister is a microbiologist for the CDC, running Tuberculosis projects around the world. Yesterday she IM’ed me from Botswana-a surreal moment. She was in Kazakhstan just a few months ago, it’s amazing. Regularly she talks about Bill Gates a reverence not seen (in my parts) in a while now. Despite all the flak he received in years past, Bill is doing something incredibly worthy with his immense wealth.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with and talk with Bill on four separate occasions. In each of these, he had the air of an elder statesman, on one occasion even sticking around for an extra hour to brainstorm a few ideas with a group of us. It was energizing to have this kind of engagement with him, outside of a review, just like a group of friends and co-workers out of the office shooting bull about the industry. He’s human, we didn’t necessarily share all the same ideals but could discuss and debate. I enjoyed our time in this capacity.
Bill is part of the reason I joined Microsoft- the mystique inspired me like many; the desire to meet him “one day” was strong (checkbox filled plus pictures). But in actuality his is just one person. Microsoft is filled with bright and passionate people I learn from every day. He’s not the only one. The transition is bittersweet, but now it is perhaps my sister’s turn. I know she (like many other scientists) would like to one day work at the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. Perhaps she’ll get her opportunity one day to meet Bill and the two of us can compare.
For now, we can all joke about how Bill is following Robert Scoble’s lead :).