Mark Minasi’s most recent e-mail newsletter, it seems, will be his last. He’s announced his end-of-2017 retirement from his most active tech pursuits, including his world-famous public seminars and private classes. For me, it’s definitely the end of an era.
As a young Windows NT 3.51 admin back in the day, there were few industry heroes to look up to. Sure, the developers had plenty, and magazines to go with ’em; we had Windows NT Magazine, Mark Minasi, and Mark Russinovich. The latter looks to be nowhere near retirement, fortunately, but it was always Minasi’s columns I flipped to first. They were accessible, concise, and relevant – and I always felt like I knew just a little bit more “insider detail” after reading them. Plus, that silly Bob Vila-esque photo of him for “This Old Resource Kit,” amiright? Reading something Mark has written is very much like listening to Mark speak in person – an approach that’s been successful for him, and one I learned to emulate in my own writing.
In the late Nineties, I got my first gig speaking at a (developer) conference, thanks to a partnership between the conference organizer (Shirley Brothers, who is still a dear friend to this day) and my employer at the time, Micro Endeavors. When Shirley later partnered with Duke Publications, publishers of SQL Server Magazine and Windows NT Magazine (as it was still called at the time), she created conferences for those products. I was the first chair of her new SQL Connections show, and it put me in the same conference center as Windows Connections, where Mark Minasi was delivering a keynote and several sessions. Like most tech people, I’m a bit of an introvert, and I’m not the kind to run up to one of my heroes and say “yo,” so it was a couple of years before Mark and I actually met. And what a great guy – I’m incredibly proud to say that Mark and I have, over the years since, become pretty good friends.
Much of my career direction came from Mark, whether he knew it or not. Here was a successful guy in the Ops field – and there weren’t so many of those, back in the day. So I aped his career decisions whenever I could. Mark spoke at conferences – well, I had that going already. Mark wrote a ton of books – on it. Mark got his own book series – OK, I’ll chase that. Mark had a Fortress of Solitude – a goal I only achieved in 2015, but it was a goal for a long time (and a wonderful idea). Mark ran a successful and close-knit conference of sorts (consisting of his Forums regulars) – fine, I’ll give that a shot. If Mark did it, it had to be a great idea for you career, so I tried my best to do the same. There are two people deserving of high-level credit for the state of my career, and Mark’s one of them (the aforementioned Shirley Brothers being the other).
Visiting Mark’s former home in Virginia Beach was a personal highlight for me. Not only was it, well, Mark’s home, but it was in Virginia Beach, not half an hour from where I’d gone to Junior and Senior High School, graduated from an apprenticeship, and basically done most of my growing up. Who knew he’d been more or less right down the road the whole time? Seeing Mark’s Strategy Guide for Wing Commander (did you know he wrote one?) was extra-cool – I’d played Wing Commander, of course, and struggled with it like many probably did.
It was from Mark that I learned the importance of putting your best face forward in public, and he’s why I ditched the standard conference speaker shirt in favor of – well, not Mark’s suit, obviously, but my own twist. It was from Mark that I learned the sacred nature of opt-in mailing lists, and that making money off of something wasn’t always the goal – sometimes, it was just the right thing to do, and you’d get paid back in other ways.
We’ve not always agreed. Professionally, Mark and I are on opposite sides of the “cloud” thing, for example, and we’ve had more than a few spirited debates about other aspects of the industry. But that’s one of the cool things about Mark – unlike many people in today’s world, you can have a debate with Mark. He’s more than smart enough to hold up his side of the discussion, but it’s not a religion for him – it’s not an argument. It’s truly a relief to be able to have a really intense conversation with someone who you know isn’t getting ready to explode – it’s a way that you can work through details, sort out your own perspective, and grow intellectually. One of the things I valued most from our time around the hotel lobby bar was those kinds of debates.
Mark’s also a lover of language, and turned my passing interest in it into a real hobby. Shady Characters, a book he recommended to me, remains one of my current favorites. Discussions on defunct characters (ye old “thorn,” for example) were another wine-time fave of mine.
While it’s sad to see Mark stepping down from his “public life,” it’s certainly well-earned. The guy has been at this forever – he was a regular contributor to Byte Magazine back in its day, and that was in many ways at the start of the modern IT industry, if not a bit before. Mark says he’ll still be writing, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he pops up at a conference now and again – those are hard to give up, once you’ve had a break from them for a bit. In lieu of his newsletter, he’ll be using his Twitter account to publish announcements and so on, and I certainly encourage you to follow him.
Mark, thanks for all your years of hard work, your inspiration, your patience, and your great advice. Enjoy your new home, and good luck with whatever’s next!