In Memoriam: Jackie Grubb of Plum Suite Solutions

While Jackie Grubb was not a laboratory informatics consultant, she was one of the many consultants out there who gladly become mentors and friends to the other consultants. Since many of us do know consultants from other walks of life, there will be some people in our industry who will know her. However, the real purpose of the posts I will make as a tribute to her will be to share with readers, especially the other consultants of the world.

Depending where you live, consultants get many opportunities to meet other consultants or few opportunities. In the Boston area, there are many opportunities. Jackie and I both belonged to ICCA (Independent Computer Consultants Association) and SPC (Society of Professional Consultants), for a start. We would also occasionally attend IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and IMC (Institute of Management Consultants) meetings other related events. There were a variety of groups each belonged to which the other person did not, and we would occasionally learn about the other groups around and what they offered. When you want to find out what’s going on in an area, it pays to meet with others in the area. Some groups to whose meetings she invited me, such as SMUDGE (Simply Mad Users of Digital Group Equipment) I would probably not have stumbled across on my own.

At the point, some readers are wondering what the point is of meeting all these people – it’s called “networking.” It’s the way we find out about the exact effect of the economy on our industry, a way we learn about new technologies and tools, and a way to continue our education without going back to school and signing up for classes.

Some years ago, I was starting to hear words such as “Agile” and “Scrum’ being thrown around quite a lot and couldn’t find anyone in laboratory informatics who knew what it all meant. I mentioned this to Jackie who, of course, conveniently knew of an event that would explain it all to me. As such, we ended up going together to a day-long event entitled “Give Thanks for Scrum” which was held the day before Thanksgiving, had a number of presentations to both explain it to new people such as myself and discuss advanced topics for the rest of the crowd. It included music, food and fun, as well, so it was truly an “event.”

Recently, I was reading a post by a competitor whose business is larger than mine and I seem to remember the person pointing-out that small businesses like mine aren’t really much of a business as there’s no-one else for us to get ideas from or get help from. That’s entirely untrue. If anything, many small businesses such as mine go out of our way to help each other out. Jackie Grubb was a true believer in doing this. If she learned her consulting practice via the school of hard knocks, she wasn’t one to make the rest of us do the same. She was one of the great proponents of networking and sharing. When Jackie was around, none of us were alone.

When she passed away on the 4th of July, the world got a whole lot less purple (her signature color and the major reason her company was called Plum Suite Solutions and she gave “Plum Jam sessions” instead of “presentations”). Consultants like Jackie inspire me and remind me that, no matter what the economy is like, no matter how your business is going, if you take a moment to help a colleague in need, you’re a bigger person for it and that’s the lasting legacy we can give each other as consultants.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

One response on “In Memoriam: Jackie Grubb of Plum Suite Solutions

  1. I wish I had known her. She sounds like a really neat person.

    With respect to the individual consultant, I agree that individual consultants have a wealth of resources and backups and support to call on. As an example, my wife used to do pet sitting as an individual pet sitter but she had backup and support from other individual pet sitters. The pet owners, like me and my wife, only use individual pet sitters and she acts as a pet sitter to our pet sitters. Our cat gets the absolute best care and love and we show the same to the other pet sitters pets.

    If it holds true for pet sitting, I can see it holding true for consulting in any area. In my own company, we make constant use on a nearly full time basis, a number of individual consultants. We find they have great value and great service and we try our best to steer as many professionals towards that career path as we can. It is obviously not for everyone but I can honestly say that our company would be much poorer without their help and expertise.

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