Sunday, August 09, 2015

Goodbye to a Colleague

Yesterday, my former coworker Alan Gorman died of cancer at 51.

Alan and I were hired a month apart at the then CambridgeSoft to work on ChemDraw. He was the PC guy, and I was the Mac guy. For 7 years, we'd chat over cube walls or sat back to back. I've been in more meetings and exchanged more Emails and had more, cordial, arguments with Alan than any other human being. 

Given the stress of keeping ChemDraw's old codebase moving thus paying the salaries of 150 CambridgeSoft employees, plus my own ego and snippiness, it is remarkable that we got along. He was an amazingly dogged debugger, and would follow the trail of a bug for days. It was to him that new document features were assigned, so if you are a chemist who makes use of the Stoichiometry Grid, or need to do an R-group analysis, or if you are a biologist composing biopolymers, thank him.

He was better suited for management, and much more organized, than I, so to him fell the horrible task of eking out productivity from our outsource developers. I certainly didn't envy him that but he took the burden with characteristic stoicism and, mostly, contained temper.

Being the Mac programmer, I fancied myself an artist of sorts, but it was Alan who shamed me with his constant flow of lovely vectored templates for BioDraw such as this one displaying the organelles of an animal's cell.

While commuting by train, he'd draw these out with ChemDraw's own spline tools, making him the absolute master of using ChemDraw to draw. Who knows into how many PowerPoint presentations Alan's bright and joyous vectors have found themselves. 

If there was anything I learned from Alan, was something he didn't learn while I worked with him. He commuted 3 hours a day with some combination of train, bike, truck or car. He was known to sleep in his cubicle if he missed the last train. Whenever I think of getting one of the many available iOS jobs down in Boston, I remember Alan and say no. 

Being a transplanted Brit, he loved both kinds of football.  The only time he made it to my house was to watch the World Cup when England was playing and he couldn't get it at his home.  He was a Pats fan; I remember telling him the Pats had traded Randy Moss and him looking like those words made no sense in English.

I hadn't talked to him since February of 2014, I was regrettably miffed with him for two, in hindsight, trivial slights and hadn't even known he was fighting for his life this whole time. Alan was a good person, coder and father, and the world is a lesser place without him.