Why Is Forrester So Cool? Because John McCarthy Works Here

I met a client a while back who told me “I’m just getting back into working with Forrester again. Years ago, like 15 years ago, I used to have these great, animated conversations with an analyst there. John McCarthy. Do you know him?” This man remembered 15-year-old conversations. And having been in my share of meetings with John over the years I know why. He is one of my best friends, a great mentor and amazing analyst. His mind works so quickly, and he is knowledgeable about so many topics it’s almost impossible to keep up with him intellectually.

Why am I blogging about this story? Because this year John McCarthy celebrated his 25th anniversary with Forrester. He is in fact the first employee that George Colony hired. In an environment where people like to talk about rock star analysts, John McCarthy is John, Paul, George, and Ringo rolled into one (with good measures of Elvis and Johnny Cash too). He’s been on TV many times and has been the key spokesperson in his share of press conferences (notice the above photo of the Indian media interviewing him during a recent trip to that country), been featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal with one of those rare sketched photos, and quoted on the West Wing. I’m not kidding – years ago John wrote a major piece of research titled “3.3 Million Jobs Go Offshore,” and a few months later it was referenced in the TV show. That’s influence.

John’s been an important part of the research and insight we’ve provided to Sourcing & Vendor Management clients over the years so I wanted to celebrate his anniversary with all of you in the community. There are a few ways we’re doing this and we encourage you to contribute too.

John McCarthy Quote Day

To celebrate some of John’s most memorable sayings (and there are many), we’ll be tweeting things John is known for saying. Some examples:

“There are more people in this room than there are IT service providers in Romania.”

“Do the math. You’re more likely to die by falling in the bathtub than by crashing in an airplane. Go spend 20 bucks and buy yourself a bathmat.”

You can play along at home by tweeting your favorite John McCarthy quote on twitter and use the hashtag #JMACquotes

The John McCarthy Games

Over the years, the research associates (RAs) on the SVM team have created several games, such as:

  • “Where in the world is John McCarthy?” This game involves the RAs proxying his calendar. And from entries like the following determine where he actually is: Banner across the week reads “In India,” Tuesday shows entry “Flight from Mumbai To Singapore,” and Wednesday shows entry “Client Workshop, in person, London.”
  • “Who is John McCarthy talking to?” If you have ever met John then you know he has a very loud voice that carries. And in Forrester, teams share an office. So we weren’t eavesdropping, we just couldn’t help overhearing. In this game, you try to figure out whether John is speaking to one of the following:  a personal relation (wife, friend, etc.), Forrester colleague, or a client/business associate. Why is this worthy of a game? Because in one conversation John can mention the contractor coming to his house, something that happened at Forrester, and his assessment of the Vietnamese IT services industry

Admittedly, those games can only be played if you happen to be in the office with him, but there are play-at-home games too:

  • Things John McCarthy knows that I don’t. Speaking personally, my list includes things like “John McCarthy knows the most significant piece of legislation in front of the Indian government right now, the number of casualties of the 1918 influenza pandemic, and exactly how the Titanic broke apart after it hit the iceberg (which piece fell where, whether the steel was warped, if the bolts were bad, etc.).”
  • John McCarthy has been at Forrester longer than… In my personal favorite example of this game, John himself was towering over an RA telling him, “I’ve been at Forrester longer than you’ve been alive!” Some items on my list: John McCarthy has been at Forrester longer than client/server has existed (George Colony credits John with actually creating that term) and longer than I’ve been married.
  • My most memorable John McCarthy moment. This one is tricky because there are a lot of memorable moments. One of my favorites is John keynoting at the first Sourcing and Vendor Management Forum (then called the Services and Sourcing Forum) in 2007. He came in to the keynote room 10 minutes before he was set to go on stage, handed the events producer a flash drive with his slides on it that he had just finished revising (again), and then delivered what turned out to be the forum’s top-rated session. After that keynote on vendor management, attendees followed him around like he was Elvis.  

Please help Forrester celebrate John’s 25th anniversary by posting your own story or entry into the John McCarthy games in the comment section.  Congratulations, John, on this impressive milestone!

Comments

Thank you, Christine, for

Thank you, Christine, for acknowledging John's many contributions. John edited one of my reports about 10 1/2 years ago. I follow his advice to this day. John may also be the only person in this company who flies more than me.

Congratulations and thank you, John!

JCM

Little known fact: I hired JCM twice. Once at Yankee, and of course, the second time at Forrester. So whenever I would give John grief or criticize his work, he'd always retort: "Hey, you're the chump that hired me twice, so I wouldn't be so vocal about my short-comings..."

JCM's first week at Forrester...

I hired John out of Wang Laboratories. He was a low-level marketing guy specializing in the financial services vertical at Wang -- way down in the bowels of the company.

The first week he was at Forrester, I got invited to a special analyst dinner with Dr. Wang, the founder, Chairman, and CEO and his son Fred, the president. I took John along with me to the dinner.

Drinks are served and I'm talking to some of the executives, when I looked around to see what John was up to. There he was in a corner, lecturing Dr. Wang and Fred on the strategy of the business -- what new products it should develop, how to beat IBM, how to globablize, you name it. From pauper to prince, John never missed a beat -- had no fear of the muckety mucks, had no fear to speak his mind, had no fear to engage at the top of the pyramid, even though he had been hauling stones the week before. I knew I had the makings of a great analyst on my hands...

My favorite JCM retorts...

READ THE REPORT! DO THE MATH! CHECK THE DATA!

#JMACquotes

what makes a great analyst? you have to be "equal parts tech optimist and tech skeptic" John McCarthy told me once. #JMACquotes

#JMCACquotes

my 1st day at Forrester 11 years ago, McCarthy drops a stack of reports on my desk and announces "READ THESE! I WROTE THEM!" And it took everything in my power not to respond, "And you would be who...?"

Bluster aside, is there a more generous, thoughtful, and passionate colleague at Forrester? I think not...

Congrats to John.

Do the work!

I didn't get nearly enough opportunities to work with John when I was at Forrester; we were on different coasts and he was rarely in anyway. But one thing I always came away with from any substantive conversation: John believes in the work, in the data and in listening to it. Verbal facility to match anyone - but always founded in a rich understanding of what's really happening. Not a whit more skeptical than he needs to be (and thus more so than most.)

Congrats, John! Long may you run (or fly, as the case may be.)

JCM ....it was a good year for

About 6 years ago I took over an account and on meeting my client I asked him how long he’d worked with Forrester, he wasn’t sure of the exact year but he said, “Well we started with Forrester the same day as John McCarthy”.…..I didn’t let on I didn’t know when that was, I had to come back and ask John.

Interesting but not as memorable that he could have easily said, the same year as, Live Aid, Reagan became President or Gorbachev took over Russia

#JMACquotes

"What do Britney Spears and vendor management have in common?"

"What do vendor management, Bobby Knight, and wrestling have in common?"

And the quote fest continues outside of work!

“Nerful terful” (it’s the stuff you spread on bagels. We think he means neuchatel, aka, cream cheese.)

“A little crunch with your lunch” (potato chips, of course)

Fruit-i-toot-toot (fruit salad, a must-have with breakfast)

"Move'n it out" (said when serving meals by clearing out the fridge or cupboard at the end of the vacation week)

“Week in review” (eating leftovers)

Like father, like son

My favorite recent McCarthyism actually comes from his son Jack, who a few months ago christened the new technology gadget arrival in the house as "the Dad Pad." The apple didn't fall very from the tree..

I want to be John McCarthy!!

I'm still convinced that the reason I was recently hired as a Principal Analyst was due to one of my comments during the interview process . I was asked why I wanted to join Forrester and I said: "because I always wanted to be John McCarthy when I grew up". Sadly for John, I'm actually older than he is !

Congrats John.

John's Employment Interview

In my first visit to Forrester (apparently 25 years ago!) to figure-out who "these guys" were and if Air Products should engage their services, Mr. Colony met with us just after completing an interview for their first employee... yes, THE John McCarthy. John, congratulations on your 25 years at Forrester. You and George continue to be the fabric that binds that wonderful organziation together. All the best my friend.

Memorable

John was my boss for a short time back in the late cretaceous period.

I learned a lot about making projections from him.

He inspired a certain iconoclasm in me, along with the late Bill Bluestein.

However, his syntax . . . even back then I was particular. He was more about meaning than beautiful sentences. So the editorial process on my report text wasn't particularly harmonious . . .

Quote I remember most is him always complaining about people "tripping over dollars to pick up pennies."

John graded one of my first reports

When I started at Forrester, we used a pretty intense peer grading process. I spent 12 weeks researching and writing a report, my editor and I did four revisions of the first draft, and I was decently proud of myself.

After the report went live, John graded that report and this is what he wrote (I still have the hard copy of his feedback in my desk drawer):

"Need more info and insight into client needs"
"Not a very insightful word choice" (with the offending word circled)
"Could have more strongly addressed clients' 3 issues"
"This graphic does not add value"
"Meaningless platitude" (offending phrase circled)
"Advice too vague to be helpful"

I still live in fear of these phrases being applied to my research!

More McCarthyisms

“gasping at straws” (a mangled aphorism)

“wee feet” = feet too small for our tall frames

“business masturbation” = strategy changes made for the sake of change

notes from the homefront

It may not surprise John's colleagues to know that he does not leave his prognosticating self at the office. In fact, shortly after John steps over the back door's threshold, but before he takes his arm completely out of his jacket, he has made more than a few pronouncements and offered several nuggets of unsolicited advice!

"Not always right, but never in doubt," as his mother likes to comment. Whenever John is within earshot of this remark, he retorts, "Well, what l lack in accuracy, I make up in volume."

...Always a sense of humor about himself. But the truth is -- and I would never tell John this (Gee, I hope he's not reading.) -- he really is right most of the time!

JCM

I have had the pleasure of being good friends with John for just under 40 years. I believe what makes him so fabulously successful is not only his ability to express himself with his signature phrasing, word smithing and certitude but that if you take a look at what powers this, you find one of the most loyal, caring, thoughtful and devoted guys I have ever come across. No matter what, you just instinctively trust him and can be certain he has your best interests at heart.

Jabba the Hut

For some reason, John's memory of Star Wars is powerful.
He mentions Jabba the Hut all the time.

Jabba...

Usually in reference to Rex Ryan, coach of the New York Jets...

Jabba...

Did Jabba like to smell ladies' feet?

They can't spell.....

I sit next to John. Today, he's doing a research interview, so I'm being reminded of John's favorite phrases. For example, commenting on an incompetent software vendor: "They can't spell software!"

Eat your heart out....

In reference to a market leading vendor that should be envious of a new upstart vendor's success.

The 1995 Version of the top JCM sayings

Thanks to everyone for posting your thoughts, comments and favorite sayings.

I am speechless for once in my life.

Yesterday, Frank goaded me to take a picture of the top 10 JCM sayings t-shirt that Julie Meringer did for my 10th anniversery in 1995.

1) F-- You System
2) Lets get down to brass tacks
3) Do the Math!
4) George keps tripping over the dollars to pick up the pennies
5) Wake up and smell the Mongrel Hoards at the gates
6) Read the report!
7) Knee deep in Midgets
8) PR babe
9) No, No, No this is how you travel
10) Welcome to Forrester the services sweat shop of the 1990's

John

Classic

John, you are not fooling us, no way you are speechless. No way, no how.

My favorite quote in the article, classic John McCarthy: “Do the math. You’re more likely to die by falling in the bathtub than by crashing in an airplane. Go spend 20 bucks and buy yourself a bathmat.” Only John could make this up!

It's a pleasure to have known you for most of these 25 years.

Congratulations John!

Things My dad will never not

Things My dad will never not like:

Ice Cream,
Football,
Jay Peak,
and SNOW!

Notice bill gates and PCs are NOT on that list.

He really means it

I've only met John a couple of times, but I know I can safely assume he's doubling the bets when there's a slight pause and then the words "I mean" (brace for impact!). Sometime it's a false alarm, but you can tell those apart because the strange grin is always missing :-)

Renaissance man

: a person who has wide interests and is expert in several areas

The "wide interests" is extremely wide. The usual IT, services, sports, Martha’s Vineyard, history to name a few - but his real strength is marital advice.

"Here's what you do" (my favorite John opening) can be applied not only a research challenge - but also to discussions with my wife.

My divorce will be finalized Jan 1 (that's a joke). Congrats John - and thanks for every conversation.

Congratulations John

The pose in that picture is absolutely perfect John.

As I read through these comments I see family, friends and colleagues. Are any of these made by vendor clients? Probably not for fear of retribution! Vendor comments would be far more ingratiating! Hence, I will, with great trepidation, add my comments as well.

From the vendor side John is the quintessential analyst. At times positive and supportive, recalcitrant, curmudgeon but always intellectual, John keeps us all honest. In the vendor community, John is acknowledged as an "acquired taste". Once you figure him out and get to know him, he's actually ok.

Seriously John, this is a tremendous milestone and achievement. Many happy returns and don't forget us when you write your next paper. :)

Favorite Analyst

Congratulations John! And I thought he was about the 7th person hired by George...and of course he didn't correct me when I introduced him as such..he is amazing, definitely a renaissance man, always something interesting to learn from John..best travel advice..knows the IT industry ..understands the trends and the challenges. He also earns the award for the walking wounded road warrior! I have known him fly back from India with pneumonia and work with a broken rib. Nothings seems to keep him down. He is inspirational in his energy and his positive attiitude. It is a real pleasure to work with you John and you are a great ambassador for Forrester.
John you must have started at Forrester when I was a mere child!
Here's to the next 25!!

Torturing the vendors...

When a vendor would make some exaggerated claim about its new product or new features, John would start to sing the classic rock song Smoke On The Water -- his shorthand for "vaporware." Always made me smile.

Good One George

Your choice of words (torture) is very appropriate.

he keeps going and going ..

Loved reading this ... I always picture John waving his hands above his head like a crazy man as he shared an opinion or random proclamation. Clients loved his energy even when they didn't like what he had to say. He is the energizer bunny of ideas and opinions... here's to the next 25 years.