Marcus Dee, CEO of looksoftware: 1960-2011
April 11, 2011 Alex Woodie
Marcus Dee, the CEO of IBM i software vendor looksoftware, passed away on Wednesday after a year-long battle with cancer. Dee, who was 50 when he died, leaves behind a wife and four children under the age of 10. Dee’s friends are mourning the loss of the charismatic Australian, who was a driving force for IBM i application modernization.
The death of Dee was a shock to friends, despite knowing that his prognosis wasn’t good. “We did know his cancer had progressed, and it was going to be only a matter of time. However, it really was quicker than expected,” said Trevor Perry, a COMMON director whom Dee taught RPG in 1983.
The first symptoms of Dee’s illness appeared at last year’s COMMON conference in Orlando, Florida, held in late April 2010. The Melbourne resident brought his family to the show, including wife Helen, two daughters, Elizabeth and Lucy, and two sons, Jacob and Joseph. Despite smoking for years (he reportedly quit several years ago), Dee was a victim of skin cancer that spread to his lungs and brain.
Dee’s career on the IBM midrange system spanned three decades. He began as an RPG programmer in the early 1980s. He taught himself RPG, and then taught the language to others, including Perry, who worked with Dee at an Australian company called Strategic Information Systems, and later at looksoftware.
Dee’s interest shifted while working at Strategic Information Systems, which was acquired by Synon and became part of Synon’s Australian business. “In the early 1990s Marcus became passionate about CASE [Computer Aided Software Engineering] tools, in particular Synon,” says Eamon Musallem, a looksoftware product manager. “He moved over into sales and did extremely well helping grow Synon’s business in Australia. His father was an accomplished salesman and so I would assume Marcus was somewhat influenced and motivated by his dad’s success.”
In 1995, Dee signed on with looksoftware, which had been founded that same year by two developers, Brendan Kay and Gavin Rogers. While Dee came on as the director of sales, he has always been considered a founding partner of the company, and would eventually run it as its chief executive.
Dee took a risk by joining looksoftware at a very early stage, but it was a risk worth taking as Dee foresaw an emerging market for modernization solutions that gave AS/400 applications Windows interfaces, Musallem says. That foresight would serve him well later in his professional career, as he navigated looksoftware to be well-positioned for emerging IT trends, like mobile computing or service oriented architecture (SOAs). “One thing that Marcus did extremely well was to look to the future and predict the next big thing,” Musallem says.
Dee’s first task at looksoftware was to establish a worldwide sales channel through strategic partners. This led to the creation of looksoftware’s partnership with LANSA, which was also based in Australia and had an established sales channel in the midrange marketplace, according to Musallem.
“This was a very fruitful partnership,” says Musallem, who worked for LANSA before joining looksoftware about three years ago. “As the company grew, Marcus grew with it too, working in a number of areas such as marketing and growing the internal looksoftware team. His combination of passion, strong background in technology and sales, and his belief in looksoftware really made him a pivotal character in look’s success.”
Over the last year, Dee stepped back from an active role in managing the company to undergo chemotherapy and spend time with his family. Kay has taken over the leadership position for the company, which has several engagements lined up for next month, including the COMMON show in Minneapolis and a customer event in Las Vegas.
Dee’s presence will be sorely missed by all who knew him, both on the clock and off. As the CEO of a software company, Dee spoke with blunt directedness and confidence that 25-plus years in the industry will bring, and displayed a zest for doing things right. While he displayed perfectionist tendencies, he was not above making a joke or sharing a beer.
Dee’s love for his family, his warmth toward employees, and his fondness of dancing are displayed on the memorial site marcusbdee.com, where friends and acquaintances have shared memories and pictures of Dee.
“For me he was a friend and a mentor, and has influenced many parts of my life and my career,” Perry says. “His commitment to customer success, excellence and service in business, were only overshadowed by his commitment to his family and his friends. He was a frequent contributor to the industry and the community, and his influence will be felt for a long time. His vision and passion will be missed, but we will hear his voice always.”
Dee is survived by his wife, four children, and parents. In lieu of gifts, the Dee family requests donations be made to the Australian child advocacy ministry Compassion.