כבוד המת (Kavod Hamet) — Honoring the Deceased
The team of engineers I manage builds and maintains the services and APIs that provide all video and article content for a branded sport’s websites, apps, and connected devices.
We abstract the complicated business logic for getting content, videos, and live games to the fan, including authentication, video on demand delivery, and partner syndication.
To be succinct, we are a “cannot fail” operation.
When my VP of Engineering brought me into his office to discuss whether I was up to lead this initiative, I told him this story that I had learned only about 6 months prior:
My grandfather was very humble and reticent to discuss any of his accomplishments. It was his business partner who related this story to me at my grandfather’s funeral.
My grandfather, Jack Schillinger, was a construction engineer and was a pioneer in using concrete in building materials. He patented the process of pre-stressing concrete beams with wooden inserts — a development that revolutionized stronger structures and is still used to construct high-tension structures, such as building foundations and parking garages.
However, when my grandfather pitched this new process to architects, nobody wanted to use such a radical and untested idea.
To prove the concept to his first customer, my grandfather constructed a platform with this technology and stood underneath it as one of his crew drove a cement truck on top.
And to quote his business partner: “I’ve never seen a man sweat more profusely in my life!”
My grandfather was meticulous in his math and engineering and even taught himself Fortran in the late 60s/early 70s in order to best run the computations to understand the tensile strength and fail points in his pre-stressed concrete joists.
After regaling my manager — the VP of Engineering — this non sequitur, tangential story, I told him that I feel this same anxiety before every service deployment. I know the change won’t break anything–my various test suites have ensured the changes’ veracity and the service’s integrity. However, I acutely know how many unknowns I do not know in relation to how things integrate.
My manager assured me we would be successful in our venture. And the next day he told me how much he appreciated my story of my grandfather. He named this new team Foundational Platforms.
This team has operated for over 3 years, and the team of 7 engineers I lead have put in amazing thought and efforts and continue to produce miraculous feats.
I thank each of my teammates often and profusely. As a manager, my success — and the success of all of our apps and platforms — are contingent on this team’s dedication, decision making, and hard work.
After one high-profile deployment night, I told my team about the Jewish tradition of Kavod HaMet (כבוד המת — Honoring the Dead) and how our leadership named this team in honor of my grandfather.
Each successful service we build, each time that we provide the foundation for a new product, each time someone thanks our Foundational Platforms team is another way that I keep my grandfather’s spirit of engineering alive.
As Jack Schillinger’s grandson, this idea of כבוד המת (Kavod HaMet) is a powerful motivator to ensure we adhere to the highest standards.
And as a team manager, I learned that sharing this story with my teammates created a mythology, an intentional focus, and an ethic to our individual and group decisions and actions.
In a small but powerful way, we are part of something bigger than ourselves.