On the loss of Joe Pavlat, a friend and mentor

My first day of work in the embedded computing space came the day after the Super Bowl in 2011. I had about as much knowledge of the high-tech industry as your casual commuter who catches a news snippet on one of the big five tech companies while buying their morning coffee, and frankly didn’t think I’d need to know much more. I figured I’d have the job at a company called OpenSystems Media for six to 12 months – just long enough to get hired on as a high school educator somewhere. Anywhere. Embedded computing was Greek, I was an American twentysomething, and the guts of industrial controllers and network infrastructure were only relevant to me insofar as I never had to acknowledge their existence.

A couple months later I was assigned to a publication called and Systems (now PICMG Systems & Technology), a book that focused on standards-based compute platforms for the above-mentioned applications. With that assignment I was also introduced to Joe Pavlat, President of the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG) that governed the specifications covered in the magazine, as well as the publication’s Editorial Director. I had a new boss.

But a boss Joe wasn’t, at least not in the sense that typically carries a negative connotation. With almost 40 years of industry experience that consisted of business and technology development, Joe could have been too arrogant or too busy to deal with my naïveté as both a young technology editor and young professional. He never was.

Instead, Joe took his time with me. Where I was ignorant of history, Joe would walk me through “how we got to now” stories about the rise and fall of the Motorola Computer Group, where he had served as Director of Advanced Development; Where I was unsure during my early days covering embedded technology, Joe urged me to keep writing; Where I didn’t understand changes happening in the industry, at our company, or even in my personal life, Joe assured me it was all part of the plan.

These assurances would often take place on Thursday or Friday afternoons, starting as quick phone calls about the newly ratified PICMG spec or the latest analyst numbers and evolving into parables about growing up with his older brother in Wisconsin or the rock scene in the 60s and 70s. These conversations occurred once or twice a month until I moved on from PICMG Systems & Technology at the end of last year, at which point we still spoke regularly. Through it all, I don’t believe a disingenuous word ever passed between Joe’s lips or by Joe’s pen, and no matter my question or thought, he always responded with the utmost sincerity. For that I often found myself hearkening back later to little lessons and nuggets of wisdom from Joe. I still do today.

Last Friday afternoon I learned that Joe unexpectedly passed away at his home in Grass Valley, CA. He was 63 years old.

Like so many of our afternoon talks that transformed from work to life and back, after hearing the news I found myself in a stream of consciousness that jumped from our first in-person meeting at the 2011 AdvancedTCA Summit to when he met my now fiancé to one of his favorite sayings: “You’re like a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.” It was a hard day to say the least, the kind with grinning memories, watery-eyed retrospection, and even a beer or two.

I owe a large portion of the success I’ve had in my brief career to Joe, and am proud to have called him not only a mentor, but also a good friend.

Joe, you will be sorely missed.

Read John McHale’s remembrance of Joe Pavlat on .

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