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 What Would Joe Do?
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at www.aycinena.com. She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

Marie Pistilli: She’s got a ticket to ride

 
October 22nd, 2015 by Peggy Aycinena

Matt Wood, in his poignant journaling about Marie Pistilli, is only wrong in one way: Marie is not the only one living on borrowed time, we are all living on borrowed time. We do not, however, all live on time travel time.

For that, you have to be really special. You have to be that one-in-a-zillion person who gets an invite to ride in a Time Machine. And not just any time machine, but my Time Machine!

A highly innovative craft of my own creation in which I am at the controls in the cockpit, and my carefully chosen passengers just sit back and enjoy the ride. Marie Pistilli, naturally, is among that handful of unique individuals who deserves an invite to travel in my craft, and Pat of course. Today’s destination?

1999! (As in, let’s party like it’s …)


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First Class …

Hopefully back in the cabin of my Time Machine, sitting (appropriately) in First Class, Marie is taking special pride in all that she and Pat are about to see through their portholes into the past. She has been the force of nature that’s grown the Commerce Side of DAC from there’s no there there to vibrant Center Stage.

While Pat’s pushed the science and engineering since the conference began in 1963, Marie’s pushed the exhibits and the exhibitors to participate and excel. This 36th DAC is as much hers as his, and if this is a successful trip they will see all of that as we transit back to 1999.


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1999 …

Omg. New Orleans is such a sensory overload!

There are people all over everywhere in this Convention Center. I can’t even comprehend the order in the chaos. Thousands of exhibitors, hundreds of booths, dozens and dozens of barkers, magicians, and dancing-girls hoping to lure people into this EDA web or that. Both Y2K and the dot.com boom are fueling this tech bubble, and everybody’s loving it.

The 36th Design Automation Conference seems hellbent on endless partying like there’s no tomorrow.

Mentor’s sit-down dinner on their assigned ‘day’ is elegant, casual, and ends early enough in the evening to facilitate a timely arrival at Denali’s seemingly all-night blowout in an upstairs den of iniquity overlooking the French Quarter.

Synopsys has taken the opposite tack on their ‘day’, hosting what seems like an enormous Kardashian-style wedding atop the World Trade Center across from the Convention Center. Cocktails flowing, 30 floors up, overlooking the city and out to the far reaches of the Mississippi Delta. Distinguished guests are welcomed with Old World chivalry by the CEO himself, followed by a sumptuous multi-course dinner on crisp white linen, sparkling crystal, ginormous floral centerpieces, countless white roses as far as the eye can see. After dinner, cigars and brandy in the smokey lounge, blues wafting from a piano off in a shadowy corner.

Striking yet a different note, two dozen manly men of CMP at their intimate pre-conference dinner, seated around an endless oval table in a dimly lit private dining room upstairs in a mysterious hotel. A low-light affair that Don Corleone himself would have been proud to host. “We are on the verge of world domination” is served up along with the dessert.

Then, of course, there’s the Cadence soiree. A caravan of black limos carrying press and analysts to the outskirts of the city – accompanied by a motorcycle phalanx of New Orleans’ finest, sirens wailing – past the poverty and on to the posh: The New Orleans Museum of Art. Cocktails amidst a lobby awash in flowers, a private viewing of an Edgar Degas exhibit, and a complementary copy of the exhibit catalog. Then back to the limos and legions of cops, and a majestic return to the city center for dinner at Paul Prudhomme’s. The great chef himself there to welcome us, talk us through our meal, and sign copies of his latest cookbook. Dessert is simple: Endless Booze at the House of Blues.


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Keynotes …

But parties are not all that Marie and Pat are viewing up close through their portholes as we travel through time to New Orleans in 1999. They’re also seeing the daytime sessions at DAC36.

The Tuesday morning keynote with Intel EVP Paul Otellini demonstrating remote design collaboration between workstations at opposite ends of the stage. The Pistilli’s see that many in attendance are annoyed by the spectacle. Too much sales pitch, too little substance, too many Grecian columns.

Marie and Pat are also seeing, however, the Thursday mid-day keynote delivered by Aart de Geus: “System on a Ship”. The talk is amusing, clever, witty, well-illustrated and coy. The kind of stuff that should define a keynote – inform and entertain, and not necessarily in that order. The Pistilli’s can see this is exactly the tone that Marie has pushed for – and succeeded in achieving – on the ferociously vibrant Exhibit Hall floor at DAC in 1999.

But our trip to New Orleans is not yet complete.


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Workshop …

My Time Machine now has us arriving on Sunday, 20 June 1999, and the singularly most extraordinary session at DAC36 – The Workshop for Women in Design Automation.

I know that Marie and Pat are watching through their portholes. The huge room upstairs in the Convention Center is packed for an event that starts at breakfast and runs through the afternoon.

Kathryn Kranen is workshop chair and keynoting, but the program also includes Mary Levine-Young, author of Unix for Dummies, as well as a panel of leading women in EDA, lunch-time discussions, aggressive career advice, and mountains of optimism: Women can have it all, if they carefully define what “all” includes. Career success, personal fulfillment, money and pride, in equal measure.

Sitting at the center of this maelstrom of enthusiasm is an immaculately dressed woman of such particular dignity, it is obvious that everyone around her defers to her. The entire room acknowledges repeatedly throughout the course of the day that the support and mentoring of this remarkable woman has encouraged many people to attend this annual workshop, and many to pursue careers in a field that is neither kind nor welcoming to members of the ‘weaker’ sex.

As Marie and Pat look out over the landscape of this dynamic workshop at DAC, from their first-class seats in my Time Machine, I too am looking out of my own porthole. I am remembering that when I first caught sight of the elegant woman sitting at the center of the Workshop for Women in Design Automation on 20 June 1999 in New Orleans, her aura of strength and steel was so compelling I presumed she was 6-feet tall.

Only when she stood up to receive the applause of the crowd, did I discover that Marie Pistilli is amazingly petite. Powerful, serious-minded, committed, organized and steely. But petite nonetheless. Yet when I approached her to introduce myself in 1999, I felt distinctly shorter in comparison.


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What a place and time …

But I digress. This special Time Machine voyage is not about my trip to DAC in 1999.

It is about my passengers, Marie and Pat Pistilli, and what they can see through their crystalline portholes as we transit through time back to the glory days of New Orleans and 1999. Although I’m up here in the cockpit and they’re back there in First Class, I know they can see it.

Their creation. Their Design Automation Conference. Their vision, energy, discipline, intelligence, sense of fun, duty, and family.

Their New Orleans, circa 1999. What a time. What a place. What a celebration.


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Borrowed time …

But our journey is coming to an end. As Matt Wood says, our jets are running out of fuel. We do not have forever, we cannot linger in 1999, we are living on borrowed time.

I am forced to turn my craft around and bring us back to October 2015. My Time Machine pulls up to the doorstep of the Pistilli home in Colorado and I have to let my passengers off, but I find it hard to let them go. Particularly Marie.

As she steps with dignity from my craft and thanks me for the journey, I want to go with her but I know I cannot. No more than she and Pat, and everyone who loves and respects them, can ever return to 1999.

But just for a moment, just for a heartbeat, just for a magical second, I wonder.

What if we could …


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One Response to “Marie Pistilli: She’s got a ticket to ride”

  1. […] DAC of 1999 has already been memorialized here in and around an homage to the late, great Marie Pistilli – but the DAC of 2000, at least the […]

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