A week ago I had the honor of presenting a eulogy at Olivier Sanche’s Memorial Service. It was one of the most difficult tasks I had to figure out what to say about Olivier’s work in the data center industry. It would be easy if I had 2 hours, and I could try and tell a whole story, but my goal was 6-8 minutes highlighting Olivier’s impact.
I have notes from many people who contributed their interactions with Olivier and I put them on this page.
For those of you who know Olivier I hope you like what I wrote. For those of you who don’t know Olivier hopefully you understand how special Olivier was.
Here is one of my favorite pictures from the service when we were socializing with refreshments. Emilie, Olivier’s daughter can smile for the camera and show us why Olivier’s top priority in his life was his daughter, and how he wanted to save the polar bears with a greener data centers.
The resonating points I made that came as a pleasant surprise when I started going through the comments and thinking about how special Olivier was. Everyone remembers their first conversation with Olivier. How special Olivier was and how he was a joy to talk to. And, for the hundreds of us who had the pleasure of that first conversation, we sadly remember our last conversation as too brief, assuming we would catch up later. But, it was our last conversation with a person who we never would thought would be gone this soon.
The following is what I presented.
With all the people here today, I know you are listening. It was a challenge to write a eulogy and not cry. But, then it got easier when I decided to make you the audience and tell stories and memories others in the data center industry shared. It is an honor to give a eulogy here today. The one other eulogy I gave is at my father’s service 17 years ago.
When Karine asked me to speak I knew I could talk to dozens to ask what they had to say about your impact on the data center industry. You know me I quickly fired off e-mails, then a few more and now have over 12 pages of comments from people, but time is short, so let me give you the highlights.
One consistent theme is people remember the first time they met you.
Bryan Klein says
I first met Olivier in an interview for eBay where he made it very clear to me that character mattered as much as knowledge of the work being performed. He made a funny comment to me after the interview where he said to me "Don't bother to wear a tie again for me, I can tell what kind of person you are by listening to the passion in your voice."
Heather Marquez says
My first encounter with Olivier sticks out the most. He was new to the business and took the time to meet with every manager in the organization. He was open and honest and wanted to understand how he can partner and benefit from each others’ work. I had never seen a person do this and not only was it very impressive, it was a true testament of Olivier’s professional and personal goal to not only accomplish great things, but to meet great people along the way. He did this while always having a twinkle in his eye. He could command a room and a crowd with little to no effort and was a great mentor both personally and professionally.
My own experience meeting you for the first time was memorable as well. Someone said to you Dave has a blog. You said you like reading blogs. What is your url? I handed you my business card. You looked at the card and asked you are the one who writes this blog. Yes, I reply. I read it all the time and pass on many posts to others at eBay.
A year later you got an offer for your dream job, an opportunity to work on Apple Computer’s data centers. You and I chatted often as you debated if it was the right move as you had a great team at eBay. But 20 years ago, you read about Apple Computer and Steve Jobs in a book and had a dream you wanted to work at Apple. The path to Apple was not straight and took you through companies like AT&T and eBay.
The AT&T coworkers have shared their stories. An example from Chris Costello
He was incredibly customer focused. He always had a can do attitude and frequently went above and beyond to ensure our hosting services were world class and customers were happy with the service. He touched many people at AT&T and was very well respected by his peers and leadership team. He will be missed very much and always remembered for being very innovative, going the extra mile...and for being a person who truly cared about the people on his team.
Terri Jordan from eBay days
I remember we were talking about how Google was claiming how efficient their data centers were which was when I made a comment that not building a data center would be more efficient. Olivier latched onto that and started using it… I started seeing that pop up all over the place. I.e. the most efficient data center is the one you don’t have to build. We had a good laugh about it.
Most think of Google as a competitor, but even when you worked for Apple you were still able to have conversations with Google. Jimmy Clidaris shares your e-mail statement from Sept 2009
"I started on Monday at a company just as secretive as yours! I have hope that we can still find ways to share and collaborate on ways to improve our industry."
That's what I liked about him: Humour and ideology, with a dose of reality.
Your caring for people also comes up consistently, Craig Deering says
Olivier came to me privately with some concerns. Large among these was his own impact. He wished to know if he was being “too forceful.” I assured him that his “lead” on the project was just right – firm, re-assuring, and well timed.
And, we all remember the last conversation we had with you, but had no idea it would be the last. Nic Bustamente says
Many folks in the industry wear one or a few hats, but Olivier wore them all so well.
His was always a passionately genuine and humanistic approach. I am glad we had the opportunity to talk one last time, and I will always cherish the final experience.
I have a hard time thinking about it, cause every time I do I start to honestly cry. I didn’t think in a million years we would have to say goodbye like this.
Talking to Google’s Joe Kava, you were in the inner club; The Data Center family. And, you were the brother who everyone liked. Look at the card they signed in your memory. We can’t believe you are no longer with us.
You also made us laugh.
Daniel Costello says
One of the good memories I have is when joining Google I had put Olivier as a reference. When I asked him what his official title was he said "Data Center Emperor"
Many shared a story in the eBay data center project
During the design meetings for the Salt Lake data center, the discussion would get heated at times…
Every once in a while someone would let fly a curse word, then realizing that was not necessarily appropriate in a business setting would say “Pardon my French” and Olivier would immediately reply “That’s not French”. That would always draw big laughter and never got old.
The stories I collected have five themes. One; how much you loved your family. Two; your knowledge of data centers was top in the industry. Three; your passion to do the right thing for your staff, friends, customers and the environment was inspiring. Four, we remember our first conversations with you. And, sadly we remember our last conversation with you.
And, here is Olivier's brother Jean-Philippe eulogy.
Olivier, my brother,
For you who left us so suddenly, I am here today to pay you tribute. But how should I start ? What should I say ? How can one make a summary of such a rich and full life?
It is almost impossible to isolate just a few moments, just a few stories of these 41 years and still justify the fullness of your life.
You accomplished so much, with so much success.
Yes you were a brilliant student, so lovable and yet so original, you left an everlasting mark on everybody, especially your teachers.
After obtaining your engineering degree in your hometown of Montpellier in the south of France, you got quickly on the fast track and your carrier became exemplary on many levels to eventually become one of the leaders in your industry.
Olivier, you left no one untouched. Your generosity, your sense of humor and your ability to listen and to talk to people made you truly exceptional.
Your mere presence could light up a meeting, a party or an evening.
Olivier, your warmth and your zeal for life attracted others to you.
And your enthusiasm and energy touched people and made a difference in their lives. You were a true leader, generous, passionate and captivating.
But for us your family, you were of course way more still.
A son that made his parents proud.
A brother like one could only dream of.
A loving husband.
A thoughtful godfather.
And simply the best father a child could have, a father entirely committed to your daughter, Emilie, the sunshine of your life.
I see so much of you in Emilie and I know that your passion for life will continue to live through her.
Olivier, we are of course all very affected by your passing and like Mike Manos, one of your peers, said it so well: “ The world has lost a great mind, Apple has lost a visionary, his family has lost their world, and I have lost a good friend”.
Olivier, we will keep you always in our hearts as I know that you are here with us today and forever. Ton Frère.