This will be my last newsletter letter that I will ever write to our Secure Technology Alliance members and followers. The news of my planned retirement has been spreading slowly among industry colleagues for months and became official this month with the announcement of Jason Bohrer being named as the new Executive Director for the Secure Technology Alliance and the U.S. Payments Forum. I am happy for the Alliance organization that they were able to secure such a highly qualified person to fill my position. Saying goodbye is hard, saying hello (to the future) is easy.
Of the many conversations and messages that I have received about retiring from the people who have gotten to know me over the last 18 years, the conversations that have touched me the most are the ones with the people who were around at the very beginning of my career in the smart card industry. Robert Merkert, the person who hired me in 1988 for a small company named DANYL, introduced me to smart card technology, and taught me about microprocessor chips in a plastic card, is still selling chip readers today. That company was later acquired by Schlumberger, which became Gemalto, and is now a Thales Company. Working in marketing for a smart card company offered me the opportunity to be part of an industry association and to associate with the leaders in the Smart Card Forum and the Smart Card Industry Association in the early 90s – which later merged to become the Smart Card Alliance and now the Secure Technology Alliance. Many of these original contacts are still involved payments, government, ID security, and transit today. To be associated with these thought leaders and to attend industry conferences like CardTech SecureTech (thank you, Ben Miller) and Cartes (ahh, Novembers in Paris), sparked the fire inside of me that has stayed in my blood all of these years.
So, imagine the thrill, after a series of short-term career moves, that in 2002, I would be asked to run the Smart Card Alliance, the U.S. equivalent of Eurosmart in Europe. It wasn’t easy at the beginning. The commute into our New York City office – less than a mile from 9/11 Ground Zero and only a few months after the attack – was horrible but short lived. My first task was to shut down that office and move operations to our Princeton Junction, NJ, location, just 10 minutes from my home. I didn’t know anything about running a non-profit industry association and there was no one but myself to figure it out – and the rest is history.
After nearly two decades of shepherding in the issuance and adoption of hundreds of millions of government PIV ID cards, ePassports, smartphones, and finally EMV cards, I have run out of new peaks to climb. Looking back, I never thought this opportunity would last for the remainder of my professional career; yet with each new wave of smart card technology, my passions for the industry were renewed.
Until this year, I was too busy planning, writing, speaking, traveling, and tending to the needs of not only the Secure Technology Alliance, but also the U.S. Payments Forum, to think about what might lie ahead. There was too much to focus my attention on in the present for me to think about the future. COVID-19 caused enough disruption and pain that it allowed me to think about my future and what I still wanted to accomplish. I came to see the future more in personal terms than in professional ambitions. That is why today, saying hello to the future is easy even when saying goodbye is hard.
Thank you to my Alliance members and industry colleagues. Goodbye for now. Hello to the future.
Executive Director, Secure Technology Alliance