“Mahler and Me”: Gartner Employee Recollection, From 1982! I Admit Guilt!

Gideon Gartner, "Mahler and Me"[The following recollection, written by Ken  in his own words rather than my paraphrase, is included for its charm (e.g. it does not really belong in the 'Advisory' category); it describes an unusual interview process even for me, which I’m sure was the result of  circumstances, long forgotten-GIG]

MAHLER AND ME by Ken Sonenclar
It is the winter of 1982. I am a senior editor at Information Systems News, a trade paper that will later morph into Information Week, and that I helped found two-and-a half years earlier – roughly the same  time Gideon and Dave Stein were opening the doors on Steamboat Road in  Greenwich. Gideon recently hired someone away from my old staff. She seems  happy. Meanwhile, I am chafing – not for the last time – under an  uninspiring boss, and tech research looks like a way out. Plus it has  to pay better than journalism.

I write Gideon and he soon calls. Gartner Group is a small business at this point, with only 40-some employees. Gideon conducts some interviews himself, at least for the professional staff. He says he’s glad I  wrote, which puts me at ease and lifts my confidence.

I am living in Manhattan. Gideon, then as now, is frequently in the  city and offers to meet in town one evening. He suggests the following Wednesday. I say, fine, I’m free.  He hesitates for a moment, and I  assume he remembers some conflict and is about to pick a new date, but  instead he says that after we meet and talk for a while, he wants me to join him at Carnegie Hall. The Boston Symphony is in town and he has an extra ticket. Would I like to come along?

The question throws me. I pull the phone from my ear and look at it as  if it will reveal something deeper about this surprising request. Like most people, I’m not used to symphony invitations from strangers, let alone as part of a job interview. “Sure,” I say.

“Terrific!” Gideon chirps. “Why don’t you pick some place  to eat beforehand. Just call my assistant…

I was not used to symphony invitations from strangers, let alone as part of a job interview. Dinner is pleasant and passes quickly. We talk about restaurants,  movies, and Gideon’s recent ski trip. Nobody mentions Gene Amdahl, System/38, mass storage, or a college dropout we’ve been covering lately in my paper, Bill Gates. But Mahler never comes up.

Before work the next morning I grab the Arts and Leisure section and find the Carnegie Hall ad. A single work shows up, Mahler’s 3rd Symphony. Mahler? I knew he was ensconced in the classical pantheon but there are no Mahler recordings on my long shelf of albums. Not that I’m a complete philistine. Like most baby boomers, I survived Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts in grade school, and by college I eagerly went to see him lead the BSO in a frenzied Beethoven’s 9th. I had also seen Ormandy conduct the Philadelphia several times. Still, mu tastes run to the pedestrian end of the canon.

Before long we’re sinking into the red velvet seats at Carnegie Hall,  and Claudio Abbado takes up his baton. There’s no denying the orchestra’s brilliance, but the piece is still only a patchwork to  me. At least I stay awake.

As we leave, Gideon’s passion for the performance shows. He is  energized, but he can tell I don’t share his fervor. “Don’t give up on Mahler,” he says. “He’ll grow on you.” I’m about to suggest otherwise,  but instead I simply accept the challenge, a tactic I don’t employ often enough in our future dealings.

Outside on 57th Street, Gideon tells me he’ll be in touch as he and his girlfriend hop into a cab downtown. Six weeks later before my planned first day at GG, a freak spring storm drops a foot of fluffy snow across lower Fairfield County. Gideon, also acting as head of human resources, calls early to tell me the office is closed. My Gartner career begins the next day.

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