Phil’s Visit

Last November I had the pleasure of entertaining an old friend of mine, if only for a couple of days. Phil Lee was my boss, twice, back in my southern California life. First, he hired me for the position of Document Control Specialist for Energy Innovations, an Idealab startup located in Pasadena, CA.  It was only my second gig as a document control person and my first position where I was met with so many young and talented engineers straight out of Cal Tech just down the street, eager to make a difference.  

I don’t remember how long Phil and I worked there before Phil moved on to WET Design in Burbank, CA, but I do remember getting a call from him at some point asking if I wasn’t interested in working for him again. And, I did.  To Phil, I owe a debt of gratitude for showing me just how awesome engineering is, even though I was just a guy handling change requests and maintaining product drawings books at the time. 

But it’s that culture of no-limit engineering that has propelled me to this day to work with people far smarter than I am and to witness the greatness that is materialized once the project is done. 

So when Phil wrote me sometime in 2022 that he’s doing a trip through Europe and Poland is on his list I of course jumped at the opportunity to spend some time with an old colleague. 

The plan was intense; Phil was due to arrive in Wroclaw in the evening, and we were to get up early and drive about 2.5h to see both the Auschwitz museum and the Wieliczka salt mine before I would drop Phil off at his hotel in Krakow. I will post on these two destinations next. 

Below is a photo of the Energy Innovations team playing football sometime back in 2006 or 2007 I think. Unfortunately, that quality is all I got. 

Below are a couple of photos from the past as well as one from us standing in my living room. That firefly project shirt is 14 years old though it used to fit a little better.

There’s also a story to be told about the Idealab banana fruit bar. Idealab is a well-known incubator of startups, and a pretty great one, too. Energy Innovations was just one of many small companies housed within the Pasadena building. I don’t remember what hour exactly, but a few of us at EI always gathered around the fruit bar for coffee and snacks at the same time every day, and supposedly that became an issue to some as we later read in an e-mail sent out by the administrators. The e-mail claimed that we made others feel uncomfortable by crowding the bar, enough so that they felt threatened and were unable to get their fruit at the same time we were there. So we were asked to disband the banana gang. It was funny at the time and still is, but having worked with introverts a decade more now, I can see how someone may have felt uncomfortable with all of us there.

And the book I’m holding was indeed written by Phil himself about his food journey through Japan. I had an opportunity to read an early pre-release version a while ago, but I received this printed color copy as a gift. Thanks Phil!


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