1983 - 2013
Lotus Park, the home of Lotus software in the UK for the last twenty years.
For those of us who worked there this is a bit of a melancholy occasion. Not because of any particular love for the building itself; it struck me as a typically bland corporate box when I first encountered it in 1995 and it felt no different on my last visit about a year ago, when the tumbleweed was already starting to gather in the corners. No, what makes it sad is that this is the death of Lotus in the UK.
For several years, IBM has been slowly killing Lotus, the brand it paid 3.5 billion dollars for in 1995. You could argue that there have been several milestones that mark its actual demise: the decision a few years ago to rename the Lotus division internally to ISC (don't ask, it's too dull); the re-branding of Lotusphere this year as IBM Connect (zzz); or even the announcement that the next version of Notes will be marketed as "IBM Notes" (although obviously this won't stop everyone else calling it Lotus Notes forever more). While there were still some of the old faces clinging on in Lotus Park, we could claim a spark of the old firm was still present inside Big Blue, but no longer. Now there are just scattered ex-Loti, some of whom still work for IBM.
I have my own valued memories tied up with the place, many good, some bitter-sweet and a few bad. They are mostly about people. The place itself - an anonymous building in an anonymous business park in an anonymous suburb - is merely a container for these events, a vessel for the reminisces. Don't get me wrong, it was pleasantly situated on the Thames and comfortable enough, but being in ISSL (née CSG, LC and LPS) meant I spent significantly more time on customer site than any sales person, which may explain why I'm not as sentimental about the building itself as some. Indeed, if I recall memorable working locations, my two years in Edinburgh comes up first, followed by the 18 months in Halifax.
No, Lotus wasn't a particularly special place or even a uniquely gifted set of people, but it was, for a good while, a proper team, with all that implies. There were many great people, some of whom I am still in touch with and some of whom I wish I was. (There were some right wankers too, but that's inevitable.) We worked together, we played together, a few even loved together. Unsurprisingly, nearly all the stories we swap concern the latter two; for some reason there aren't many anecdotes about great business wins.
Lotus HQ) and lived for the duration in a luxury apartment on the 26th floor of a building overlooking Boston harbour. On a separate occasion I blew $4,000 in two weeks at the Charles Hotel on Harvard Square (although they've left me off the guest list for some reason). We had an annual summer family gathering, at one of which the number of people injured by the activities on offer outnumbered those uninjured. And I worked for services, generally considered to be a poor cousin of the money-spinners in sales. They had serious amounts of cash thrown at them.
As an employee, I consider such generosity a good thing, of course. However, it's generally acknowledged that Lotus was losing money when they were bought and it couldn't last. IBM makes money almost despite itself, thanks in part to an intensive policy of penny-pinching (current restrictions include not buying laptop bags for new joiners), but I've yet to meet anyone who feels the same about working for IBM as we felt about working for Lotus.