But back to the sale of the company. SRA wanted to show how our acquisition came with opportunities. To demonstrate, they pulled me out of our group and dropped me into their newly conceived ‘proposal tank’. I wasn’t too thrilled about it as it took me out of my comfort zone and put me in a marketing role. But the proposal was for a $350 million contract to support all USAID’s software and system’s needs. They brought me on knowing I had worked on USAID systems in the field. I had also followed AID’s IT operation with interest for several years. In fact, I had read five years earlier about CSC winning this very contract. I even remembered wondering at the time what kind of person ended up running such a significant systems job. I even thought it might be something I’d like to do, but I couldn’t image how it could ever come about.
While a job this size was definitely punching above our weight class, SRA seemed to have a good handle on the work. And they put an excellent senior guy in to run the bid. After grilling me for a while, he added me as his lead for software development and support. We slogged through a grueling round of proposal reviews and panel interviews. Then, to my surprise, USAID awarded us the contract.
So I ended up running the very contract I had been dreaming about. It was tough going from the start, but I was able to make it all work. I managed to assemble a terrific team and, in a short time, we learned to love the work.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Dave was putting the finishing touches on the merger. He worked tirelessly to ensure all our staff were comfortable and well placed. He also fought hard to get our Vice Presidents placed in SRA as Vice Presidents. This was difficult because the SRA title required a larger business base than any of us had. Even so, he got them to agree.
Most of us were fearful that the acquisition would cause us to lose the MNG ‘magic’. But it was still intact two years into the acquisition – and we even managed to keep every one of our staff. Dave deserves most of the credit for this. And he did it during the same six months he went through chemo and open heart surgery. On August the eleventh, almost on the day he collected the final payment on his millions, Dave died. His funeral was the largest any of the more than 500 attendees could remember. Amy flattered me by asking me to do the eulogy. Then she announced she’d endowed a charitable foundation in his name.
A year later, Nancy once again pulled her ‘career’ card. She let me know we would be moving to Tanzania. Just before we left, we had an out-of-town guest for dinner. He saw my African headdress of Mami-Wata and admired it. Then he told us about his own collection of occult objects. He said he was so serious about their power that he kept them on an altar he had built in-house.
I had always felt conflicted about that mask. On the one hand, I suspected it deserved some credit for delivering its long-promised riches. But that idea was blasphemous. Also, I was superstitious enough to wonder if giving the headdress away might result in me losing my payout. I decided the time had come to break this delusory bond. Our house guest left with the Mami Wata mask. And I am happy to report that at this juncture I still have the cash.
I arrived in Tanzania with the kids in tow a month after Nancy arrived there. It was the eighteenth of August, 2004, and my fiftieth birthday.