Director EMEA Marketing Communications, Symantec Germany
Work at Symantec
Prior to working for Symantec, what was your first experience with its products?
Franz Steufkens has been at Symantec since February 1, 1991, making him one of the company’s very first employees in Germany. He was previously employed by a consulting firm as product manager for Norton products and was eventually head-hunted by Norton itself when Peter Norton Computing decided to establish its own sales and marketing operation in Germany. Office premises were found in Dinslaken, a small town in Northern Germany, PCs were ordered, and just as the official go-ahead was about to be given, Peter Norton’s company was purchased by Symantec.
How long have you been working for Symantec and how did you join?
Hardly anyone in Germany had heard of Symantec. Nobody knew how to pronounce the company name, nor did they have the faintest idea of how things would work out. Franz Steufkens initially remained at his consulting firm and bided his time. Then Symantec decided to establish its own German organisation, and Franz was hired by the company’s European boss just a few weeks later. Symantec’s leading product at the time was its ‘Q&A – Questions and Answers’; the company also distributed products for Macintosh computers, project management software, programming languages and other things besides. At the start, the software was only distributed by a single vendor, Prisma.
Symantec’s first German offices were opened in Hamburg. Its main European office was situated in Leiden, Netherlands, while the current central organisation in Dublin was still in its infancy. The Hamburg offices comprised two Prisma storerooms in which Symantec Germany set up shop amidst bags and boxes. Franz was the company’s fourth employee, and since his family lived a few hours drive away, he and his managing director decided to share a flat together.
What is your most memorable experience with Symantec?
Before his first day at work, he was advised that there was no computer for him in the office, and that he should therefore bring in his private PC from home. There was no desk either, but the storeroom assistant had managed to get hold of a desk top from a DIY store, and this was laid across boxes with a wicker chair placed in front. Franz spent his first week working on an automated Norton Utilities 4.5 demo for DOS to be presented to prospective customers, and by the end of the week was suffering from lumbago – thanks to the wicker chair not the demo...
Sending e-mails: bit by bit
In the early days of IT, network printers were not standard pieces of equipment, and in the case of Symantec Germany, letters were composed on the assistant’s PC with the help of Pagemaker and sent from there to the only office printer. In order to be able to distribute moderate quantities of faxes, fax machines were borrowed overnight from neighbouring offices, colleagues were bribed with pizza and cola to burn the midnight oil, and the machines were fed with fax after fax as the hours crept by. There was only one PC for e-mails too, situated in the furthest corner of the room. If you wanted to use it, you had to enter your name in the list in good time and make sure that you stuck rigidly to your prearranged slot. The e-mail was then sent bit by bit via the serial transmission rate – time did not play such an important role in communications as it does now.
How do you and your team help to deliver on Symantec’s promise of Confidence in a connected world?
But something which has always played a crucial role at Symantec is the end of the quarter and the volume of business to be transacted shortly beforehand. In the case of a new version of Norton Backup, for instance, the software failed to arrive at the production facilities in Dublin from the USA in time to be shipped to the European customers before the end of the quarter. The floppy disks were still making their way over the Atlantic when it was decided without further ado to transmit the data via modem. A bold decision indeed, especially as it also involved the bit by bit transmission principle… It was a Friday evening when data transmission was started in the USA; Franz had taken on the rewarding task of following its progress hour by hour on the PC screen. Towards midnight, soon after his boss had looked in with some pizza, the PC crashed. On the Saturday another attempt was made and the colleague who was appointed to initiate data transmission in the USA was ordered back from his sailing holiday – a large portion of the EMEA transaction volume depended on him. On the Monday it was congratulations all round after successful beta testing, the software made it to the Dublin production facilities in time and the planned quarterly business was completed on schedule.
After some six months spent in the Prisma storerooms in Hamburg, Symantec Germany relocated to Düsseldorf, where part of the German team is still based. This also marked the end of the period during which Franz Steufkens assembled the first marketing materials using scissors and a glue stick.