Dean Clough

June 28, 2024

Portico Darwin: Introducing "Maybe It Was Destiny"

We are interrupting our regularly scheduled broadcast to bring you this important announcement.

As I've said before, Biden is too old and should have stepped aside.  He didn't and here we are.  It took last night for me to realize the Democratic party leadership backing Papa Joe is almost as mindless as the Republican leaders sticking with the convicted felon and noted liar Donald Trump.

I will still vote for Biden's brain in a jar over Trump, but I fear if Biden doesn't drop out, a loss is nearly guaranteed.  Yet if VP Harris would get behind it, a ticket led by Mark Cuban, Gretchen Whitmer or the Gav-Meister would have a chance - perhaps an excellent chance - against the hideous Trump.  Harris leading the ticket would almost be as bad as running Biden at this point:  She is not popular.

Whereas I fear it's over already if Biden remains the candidate.  Last night was a fiasco.

But Trump?  Trump?  I still can't process why we are doing this to ourselves.  Again.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming.


5 Minute Read

Hello, and happy Friday. 

With London Calling, I told the story of my proudest accomplishment in big business.  As if that weren't enough, I will bookend it with a new series, this one documenting Casa Integration, a company I started from scratch in late 2001 and shuttered in 2018. 

It is my proudest accomplishment as an entrepreneur, and the success of this business made my dreams (at least the realistic ones) come true.

Who cares?  I do.  And I love to write.

Narcissistic?  That's on you to find out, but I believe there are lessons in Maybe It Was Destiny for everyone. 

Like this:  If I could do what follows, anybody can. 

Well, if you're entrepreneurial, but I have an entire chapter coming up on that subject.

And lucky, if luck is the intersection of opportunity and preparation.  Which it is, and there's plenty on that coming up, too.

As with London Calling, I will attempt to publish a chapter once weekly on Fridays going forward until the story is finished.   You know, like sometime next year.

A disclaimer:  Interspersed are recycled and/or edited bits from my monograph On Entrepreneurship.  But only bits, and who's read that anyhow?

Here is the first installment of Maybe It Was Destiny.

Destiny Cover.jpg
Like my father, pictured above in the 1950s in the employ of The Bell System, I had resigned myself to being a company man.  Because in mid-2001, I was doing even better than the man in the gray flannel suit - or whatever my dapper Dad was wearing - above.

A Technical Director at Charles Schwab, I had successfully started and managed their first Program Management Office in 2000, and was now well-established in the IT group there.  I was making $120,000 a year, with big bonuses that made that number even better.  Despite being an entrepreneur at heart, I told myself that with our low overhead and no kids, I'd only have to put in another 10 - 15 years at Schwab before I could retire.  This was easy to envision in the summer of 2001, believe me.

But then 9/11 happened.  And, like many others, my destiny changed.

But did it?  For one, I'd return to entrepreneurship.  And similar to Dad above, I would get up close and personal with a LOT of telecom and other technical gear very soon.   Via Casa Integration, a home technology design/build firm I started in late 2001.  
 Because of Casa Integration, all of my dreams - at least the non-fantastical ones - came true. 

The picture is important for this story.  It was taken at The Adler Thermae, in Tuscany, in 2006; I am getting fatter and fatter and look at that watch.   

We had never taken a personal vacation like this one, let alone one with me sporting an Omega Seamaster.  It was all because of the success of Casa Integration; almost 5 years on, it was good and truly working.  And in a lot of ways, it felt like a natural progression after the hardcore entrepreneurship of Epigraphx and the glamour of London.  My destiny.  

But holy fuck, was it not pretty getting to that deck overlooking Val d'Orcia.  And even after attaining success, the work involved was often worse than failing.  

Have you ever been in an attic or crawlspace?  

In fact, by around 2015 the success was so bad I couldn't stand it any longer, and was already scheming of how to get out.

Of my own, wonderfully successful business.   

But I am getting ahead of myself.   Why did I have an opportunity to start Casa Integration in the first place?

My God if there were one thing I could change about myself, it would be the effect I have on certain women.  Rather than the win on my best days of looking like Sting, I am instead speaking of something that has come close to wrecking my life:

I unintentionally intimidate some women.

That was a disaster at TEECOM, but I got a healthy taste of the same shit at Charles Schwab.  Like at TEECOM, I absolutely own a portion of it.  But sadly, also like TEECOM, I can only swallow some of it.

In early 2000 Schwab initiated The Availability Program; I was hired in January of that year to help stand it up.  It consisted of 70+ information technology projects aimed at improving their client-facing IT reliability to "five nines," or 99.999%.  Run by Schwab VP John Nai, I was his right-hand man, and responsible for the program's day-to-day operations.  It was the biggest thing in Schwab IT that year, especially after several well-reported outages during the dot-com boom.

That's how I came to be sitting in his corner office for two weeks, probably in April or May of 2000.  John was on vacation and he left me in charge, and I was meeting with Gail Abrams.  She reported to John, not I, but it was still kind of the same thing, whether John was in the office or not.  Everyone knew my role as the operational leader of the program, and of course, I loved that. 

I think it was about 10 floors up in this building; at the time, 211 Main in SF was Schwab's IT HQ.

Sadly, I would come to learn I needed to watch out when I was flying high like this; my insecurity and the resulting arrogance can ruin good things quickly. 

Fuck was I cool.  I had bailed on WestConnect, scored this job, and now here I was - running an important program at a big-time financial services company.  

In just a few months, I had applied what I had learned in London, and we had established the first full-on Program Management Office at Schwab.  Senior Managers in our program - like Gail - interacted and assessed the health of the program's projects, via weekly sit-downs and status reviews with the projects' respective managers.  That information was then presented weekly in the form of dashboards to a committee of Schwab's tippy-top IT execs.  It was a big deal.

But the feeble Gail wasn't getting it done with her projects.  So I called her into John's office, which he had told me to use while he was gone for two weeks.

I wish I had gone out for coffee that morning instead.

"Goddamn it, Gail, get with the fucking manager of that project and get some answers."  Simultaneously, down went my fist onto John's desk, and my voice, loud normally, was worse now.  "These pricks know we're not fooling around, and Dawn is all over this," Dawn being Dawn Lepore, Schwab's CIO at the time.

Then, as now, I love name-dropping.  And using foul language.  

We discussed the situation a bit further, Gail left, and that was that.

Whoops.  Not quite.

As it turned out, Gail "ran to HR" as I liked to put it then (now, too, frankly).  A human resources manager called me and we had a sit-down.  It did not go well, especially after I was told I was "aggressive and too direct." 

Because I thought those were strengths.  

So I couldn't believe any of us were wasting our time on this.  I had gotten a little heated, sure, but that was it; to me, it was two colleagues intensely discussing a situation behind closed doors.  I did not threaten Gail in any way and certainly didn't intend to make her feel uncomfortable.

I honestly didn't understand what the issue was, and that turned out to be a problem. 

A few months later, I was in the office of Chris Russell, a manager in Schwab IT.  She administered a SQL Server database that I wished to use to load 1,000 records of data, to prototype a workflow tool I was developing.  In other words, I was asking for literally nothing.

But Chris said the database couldn't handle any more records.

Knowing that to be impossible - any SQL Server instance that would collapse under the addition of 1,000 rows has bigger problems than a demanding Technical Director - I raised my voice, lowered my fist down onto her desk, and said "Damn it, Chris, that's ridiculous.  I've built database servers myself and I know what they can do."

She mumbled whatever she mumbled, and as I left, I thought, "Well, that was worthless."
You might be able to guess what happened next, except now it was getting serious - I was developing a pattern of intimidating women and being overly aggressive.  To me, I was interacting with them no differently than I would with men, but that made no difference.  HR was not pleased - at all.

But Schwab and John Nai saw enough in me that rather than being punished, I instead received private sessions with the same executive coach working with Schwab's CEO at the time, (the soon-to-disgraced) David Pottruck.  Kim Soskin was her name, she was fantastic and she educated me on what a jackass I was. 

But it was too late, at least for me at Schwab.

When the 9/11 tragedy occurred, and with stock markets cratering upon their reopening on September 17, 2001, Schwab decided to lay off some people.  Like 1/3 of their 24,000-person workforce. 

I thought I might be spared, given the investment they had made in coaching me.  I had also just gotten some stellar 360-degree reviews, and I remained, 18 months in, Nai's (who would soon be promoted to Senior VP) right-hand man.  We had also become friends.

None of that mattered.

On a bright morning in November of 2001, John called me into his office, and cut me loose.  I cried, got in the new Saab 900 convertible we had bought a few months prior, and drove home, still crying, with the top down and the back seat full of my boxed-up crap from almost 2 years at Charles Schwab.

I was told later, by Nai, that the big boss, Executive Vice President David Dibble, deemed me too much trouble, given the two HR scrapes.  My performance didn't matter; when he saw my name on a list of all of the people in his org - all candidates to be cut loose - it got a red line through it.
To this day, I have never really accepted what happened at Schwab.  I was in the room with both women, and know what I did and didn't do.  Too loud?  Yes.  Too intense?  Probably.  Threatening or intentionally a bad actor?  No - that's on them. 


No, of course not.  But I wouldn't have to worry about corporate bullshit like this for another 17 years.



Randy Smee was all over the map in a recent communiqué from Blighty.  One minute complimentary, the next minute worrying about his girlish figure.  It must be the upcoming month of freedom with his drinking buddies.

Regarding the Fashion Friday post, I always remember admiring your choice of clothes and styling. But, never mind recommending all this slim-fit stuff.  What is your recommendation for the more comfortable-sized gentleman (I’m asking for a friend of course 😉)?

My wife is in Japan for a month, so I’m waiting on an SUV-load of fisher-buddies to turn up for a few days.  It’s going to be mayhem . . .

Try not to fall into the water.

Thank you for reading this newsletter.  


Featuring the amazing "It's Different for Girls" and so many other stunners (OMFG "A Slow Song"), this is one of my favorite albums, live or otherwise.  Here is Joe Jackson and his Diamond Certified Live 1980 - 1986.

About Dean Clough