L to R Ignacio Torres Ferrari, John Brown, Joel Hurt, Jr., Joshua Hurt, Marty Dunn, Steve Jacobi, and Terry Bennett

This photo was taken 15 years ago today, October 5, 2007, on Rapa Nui aka Easter Island. It is a happy reminder of the moment when life for me changed from black & white to color.

This was my first “special project.” I was the freshly minted Worldwide Technical Evangelist for Civil Products at Autodesk, charged with evangelizing the brand-new Civil 3D to the planet. During a business trip visiting South American partners I took a few days off and went out to Rapa Nui, a place I had always wanted to see. While there I met Sonia Haoa.

I knew we could help Sonia to map every archaeological artifact on the island and, in so doing, model the island itself. I came back to Autodesk headquarters and told management, “I have an idea.”

The Easter Island model in Autodesk Civil 3D

Thank you, Kelly Rupp and Ken Bado, for greenlighting this project. I’m sure many didn’t get it but Ken and Kelly did and made it happen. It turned out to be magical for Autodesk. An article in Fortune Magazine, a documentary film, a spot in National Geographic Magazine, and on and on. Sonia would wind up doing a presentation at Autodesk’s One Team Conference where, with tears in her eyes, she thanked everyone for their help in “saving her home.” Carrie Bustillos who was sitting next to me said, “Turn around. Look.” Many in the audience had been moved to tears as well. Sonia made ALL of us feel part of something special. It mattered. It was very different than the typical smarter, better, faster content. Those are relevant but this was magic. The WHY, as Simon Sinek would speak about in 2009 at TED, is infinitely more important than the WHAT and the HOW

Sonia Haoa at the Autodesk One Team Conference

We had inspired people. I was forever changed. Thank you, Sonia.

Within months I quit my band, cut my hair, got a divorce, beat cancer, changed positions at Autodesk, and have spent every moment since, in search of the next “Easter Island.”

I’ve been fortunate to have been involved in many lifechanging projects since – but Easter Island was the first. On this fifteenth anniversary there are a few people I must thank: Colleen RubartBrock BallardCraig AbodPeter TerwilligerMike KotanianTodd HeckmanBrian Mathews, and Doug Eberhard who may no longer be with us but always feels close by.

To the few who tried to “reel me in” over the years I wish you a similar, technicolor epiphany.  

To the many who have shared my great enthusiasms, you’re the best! Thank you.

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