Monday, 26 June 2017 12:00

A Final Farewell From The “B” List To One Of The Good Guys

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I have to admit I was thrown for a bit of a loop when I got the news that Jim Demarest had passed away on Thursday, June 22nd.  Jim was an analyst relations (AR) guy for Nortel for many years, then for Avaya after they acquired what was left of Nortel in 2009.  It’s not like Jim and I were great friends or anything like that, more like business acquaintances.  But I always considered Jim to be one of the good guys in an industry vendor community that isn’t populated with as many really decent people as you might expect. 

Jim also played a prominent role in one of my earliest memories of starting Saddletree Research in 1999.  It was one of my first lessons in learning how most vendor companies in the contact center industry would treat independent analysts like me in the years to come.  


As an analyst with Dataquest, then with Cahners In-Stat Group, for most of the 1990s, I was invited to almost all vendor-sponsored analyst briefings in the industry, including Nortel’s annual soiree.  Nortel’s analyst briefings were always among the best of the year and I always looked forward to them.  At a conference in London in late 1999, I ran into Nortel’s VP of marketing, Vickie X (last name withheld to protect the guilty), and told her that I had started my own company and was looking forward to continuing to work with her and with Nortel.  She told me to mark my calendar for Nortel’s annual analyst briefing early in the next year, which I did.


As the date for the aforementioned analyst briefing got closer and I hadn’t yet received my invitation, I decided to call Nortel and ask when I could expect to see it in my inbox.  Nortel’s longtime contact center AR guy had just left the company, so my call was passed off to Jim Demarest, whom I had never met.  When I asked Jim where my invitation to the analyst briefing was, he told me I wasn’t invited.  I asked him to double-check that since Vickie herself had mentioned it to me and he assured me that he had gone over the list with Vickie and I wasn’t on it.  Welcome to the real world!


I think Jim could sense disappointment and puzzlement in my voice, and he assured me that if anyone on the list declined Nortel’s invitation, I would likely be moved up.  After I hung up the phone with Jim I realized that I had just gone from the “A” list to the analyst “B” list.  That became a running joke between Jim and I from that point on.


As promised, Jim did call me after other invitations were declined and invited me to attend but I told him that he’d have to find someone else from the “B” list as I had lost interest in Nortel and their events.


Not long after the Nortel event, Jim was stricken with leukemia and began a long and difficult fight with the disease.  Whenever he or his wife posted something about his battle with cancer on Facebook, I always responded with something like, “Best wishes and prayers from the ‘B’ list.”  He typically responded with something equally good natured.  From that point on, every time I had occasion to correspond with Jim, it was always “from the ‘B’ list.”


Jim eventually beat the cancer and went back to work.  In fact, it wasn’t cancer that got Jim in the end, it was pneumonia.  He contracted it following a fall and was hospitalized for treatment.  I guess after all he had been through, it was just too much for him to fight through.


Jim ended up staying with Avaya after the acquisition and, like Nortel, Avaya doesn’t have anything to do with me or my company, but Jim was never as narrow-minded and arrogant as his employers.  I always considered him to be one of the good guys.  The contact center industry was better when he was in his AR role.  To me, Jim will always be an A-lister.


Adios from the B list, amigo. Vaya con Dios.

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