Posted on | January 5, 2015 | 2 Comments
I’ll never forget when I first heard about her.
I was in my EE Times San Mateo office overlooking the bay when our semiconductor reporter, Anthony Cataldo, walked in.
“How was Altera?” I asked.
“They have a new PR woman,” he replied.
I thought “Yeah, so? How did your interview go?” but Cataldo didn’t break stride:
“She kissed me. European-style. On both cheeks. You know, kiss-kiss. And she’s gorgeous.”
WTF, I thought. That’s different. Especially in the electronics industry.
“Damn,” I said. “What’s her name?”
“Anna,” he said, “and she’s different. Really different. You gotta meet her. She’ll kiss you too. Don’t worry. I think she kisses everybody.”
And that was my introduction to Anna del Rosario, a St. Elmo’s Fire of a woman who sparkled onto the electronics publicity scene two decades ago. She passed away today, too young, too quickly and too sadly after a long illness.
She leaves a hole in our hearts and one in our industry big enough to sail a cargo ship through. There was no other and no one to confuse her with. It seemed to take no more than a couple of days for her to stake her claim in the semiconductor world as the new voice in PR. She was conversational, smart, savvy, forward and opinionated, luminous—and boy did she have style. Pretty soon all you had to say was “Anna,” and everybody knew whom you were talking about.
She called almost immediately after Cataldo’s visit and invited me to lunch at some swanky eatery in the Valley—“you’ll have wine with lunch of course, won’t you? Do you like Rioja?” After lunch, I felt as if I’d been pulled out to sea on some immense, warm rushing tide. I was swimming in unfamiliar waters. At our next meeting, I got my first kiss-kiss.
Fresh air, welcomed
When she started at Altera, the company already was a marketing juggernaut in the FPGA space, fighting a Homeric battle against rival Xilinx for market dominance. They went at each other the way dogs go after cats. But somehow, she turned up the volume to 11. As graceful as a prima ballerina, she insinuated herself and Altera into everyone’s heads in the electronics media, and the next few years were good copy in FPGA land.
She knew when Xilinx was holding a press conference or had pre-briefed the media and my phone would spark to life with her number on the readout. She would try to charm out of us any intelligence she could get so her team could mobilize and respond with some type of communications FUD. No matter how many times we rebuffed her, she kept coming back. Sometimes she got what she was looking for. (How could she not?)
She was a master at dropping the choice rumor. We chased them down and sometimes there was fire near that smoke. And she never hesitated to let me know she was in hot water with one boss or the other because we either buried a story involving Altera (and later Actel) or thought should be on page 1 or left one of her companies out of larger story. But she did it in a way that wasn’t confrontational and that almost made me feel bad about whatever it was we were supposed to have done!
Stuff like that
Pretty soon, we became friends. We’d have dinner and more than one glass of wine and share stories about our then-teenage kids, our frustrations, our joys and the peccadilloes of editors and engineers alike. She knew every editor in the industry and every editor’s foibles. And the stories she told about engineers on trade-show road trips would make a really funny book. There was never a boring dinner with Anna; there was never a subsequent morning that my temples didn’t throb.
I once told her that I needed to start writing longer form stories and for different audiences—somehow—amid my day job. She told me about a friend of hers, Bruce Henderson, whom she met while she was at Oracle. He was doing exactly what I wanted to do: become a full-time and prolific author. Soon came an invite to a dinner at her place for me, my writing wife Heidi, Jocelyn King (then at National Semiconductor), and for Bruce. Anna had it catered. It was a 19th century writing salon and contemporary gourmet restaurant all bundled into her beautifully designed home.
The extraordinary thing about it was the hostess stayed very much out of the conversation, never feeling the need to guide it or dominate. She let these people simply converse and get to know each other and build relationships. She refused to get in the way. It was one of the most remarkable evenings I can remember. She later took me to one of Bruce’s book signings in Menlo Park and we had dinner with him and his wife afterward.
She did stuff like that for people.
In the mid-2000s, I began to talk and blog about “vendor-as-publisher” strategies, since the rise of the Internet gave electronics companies the ability to talk directly to their audiences and bypass media like EE Times. We’d talk about it over lunch.
This conversation went on for years long before the term content marketing came into vogue. In December of 2012 we had lunch (and wine) in San Francisco and she said “you need to walk the talk, my friend. I want to hire you.” I declined then. But four or five months later, she badgered me to come down to Cadence for lunch and listen to her pitch again. “C’mon at least we’ll get a chance to catch up.”
Well, it was a warm spring day in San Jose; outside the Cadence cafeteria an employee basketball tournament was in full swing, the smell of blossoms was in the air, people thronged to patio seating, barbecues were cooking up ribs and other meats, and the energy was amazing. The only thing missing was a white-sand beach and mermaids.
She wore me down. A month or two later, I joined an amazing team in communications that she pretty much assembled herself. Amazing people I’d known for decades; amazing people I’ve come to love and admire. Our staff meetings were raucous (she called them “HR-free zones”) and often were highlighted by sidebars on women’s high heels, pop culture and the eating, grooming and drinking habits of various industry editors. To this day, I suspect she orchestrated that entire lunch spectacle (weather included!) to seal the deal.
She knew people. She managed up like no one I’ve ever seen. Countless Valley executives must have muttered the phrase “oh God, what did I do now” when she strode into their offices. She would call them out on everything from how they performed in a press briefing to how awful that day’s tie selection was. She was fearless in that way.
She joined our world after years in the fashion industry and years doing PR at Oracle with and for Larry Ellison. Ours is a deeply technical, not particularly flashy industry compared with those. Why she came over I’ll never know, but we’re so much better for it.
Today, we lost someone really special. She was that head-snapping flash of tailing light in the clear night sky that seems to linger for eternity until its searing brilliance slips back into the stars somewhere.
Rest in peace, you beautiful woman.