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R.I.P. Simon Gwatkin

Simon gwatkinI was greatly saddened to learn today of the death of Simon Gwatkin this past weekend. For those of us in the VoIP / telecom space, the world is a little bit darker now.

I came to know Simon when I worked at Mitel Networks in Ottawa from 2001-2007, although it wasn't really until the later years when I wound up working in Mitel's Office of the CTO and looking more strategically at what the future might hold for companies like Mitel. A lot of my research and time wound up being spent looking at social media and the changing communication landscape. With Simon's role as head of strategic marketing at Mitel we wound up having any number of quite lengthy conversations about where things were going. We didn't always agree, which led to very useful and valuable discussions. Simon also got me engaged with industry analysts and helped set me down a path that was quite useful in many later years.

I also spent a good bit of time interacting with some of the startups that were being nurtured under the umbrella of Wesley Clover, the investment vehicle of Sir Terry Matthews. Simon was involved with Terry's investments there and had this intense passion for helping new entrepeneurs. (And starting in 2008 had a more permanent role with Wesley Clover.) He was fascinated by the communications business (both the telecom kind of "communications" as well as the marketing/PR kind) and by all the different ways we communicate.

When I was part of the large layoff that happened when Mitel purchased Inter-Tel in 2007, Simon helped with his vast network of contacts to try to find a place for me to land. While I ultimately wound up at Voxeo by virtue of some of the blogging I was doing, a couple of his leads were ones that I explored.

After that we stayed in touch over the years and increasingly found ourselves interacting more with each other through Facebook and social networks. One of his sons was doing something with security work at one point, and I'd shared some VoIP security resources I knew of. A few years back when my wife was dealing with breast cancer, a good friend of Simon's was battling it, too, and so we shared information - and shared with each other that intense frustration of being unable to do a whole lot to help someone we care about.

Along the way we had fun teasing each other about language and many other topics. Being a Brit with his very dry wit, he could always rise to the bait of commentary about the English language (versus "American") or other similar topics.

Simon was a gentleman and just a great guy in so many ways. I never knew his children but knew from his comments and posts that he was quite proud of them. He will be missed - and my thoughts and condolences are certainly with his family right now.

For those in the Ottawa region, or able to get there (and I am not able to do so), the obituary says a memorial service will be held tomorrow, April 17, 2014, at 2:30pm. An online guestbook is available for those who wish to leave messages for his family.

R.I.P., Simon. Thank you for all that you did.

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