When I die, I would like my epitaph to be very simple: He touched and he cared. Building and growing companies has allowed me so many opportunities for both. It is easy for me to list the big ones; many are in my book. Yet, it is the small ones that sometimes contain it all, and I just experienced one of them – or rather re-experienced it.
In 1981, when Catalytica was a small company of about 35 employees and had the beginnings of a chemical laboratory, we hired a young man by the name of Steve Weber. He had no experience in chemistry, having worked for his father in a manufacturing business after high school. Eventually, he took some courses at a junior college in the San Francisco Bay Area where one of the Catalytica managers was teaching. We were planning a move to a new facility, were building a laboratory, and needed help. Our manager spotted this bright and skilled young man and asked him to talk to me. I liked him and we made him an offer as a laboratory assistant. For the next six years he was everywhere, with his outgoing personality and his “let’s get it done” common sense attitude. There was hardly a job he would not tackle.
After six years Steve became restless and decided to move on. He bears an uncanny likeness to Tom Hanks, so when the film Forrest Gump came out in 1994, he found his niche as a look-alike, building a successful career as an inspirational speaker, author and blogger.
We had lost touch until Steve called me a few weeks ago, and over breakfast he shared with me how his life developed after he left us. It was wonderful to hear that his experience with Catalytica had helped shape his future, and to see the ways I personally had touched and inspired him. The fact that I spoke at his going away party is something he never forgot, and I never realized how much Dorothy Jongeward, a very special mentor of mine, had also impacted his life. Since he does a much better job than I could at describing our conversation I direct you to his February post: http://www.speakinggump.com/wordpress/?p=1042.