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Salt Lake 2002 Retrospective

Episode 34 - Cyndi Sherman

Host Christian Napier is joined by Deer Valley results manager Cyndi Sherman from her cabin in upstate New York to remember (recorded 20 May 2020).

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Christian Napier 0:11
Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the Salt Lake 2002 Retrospective podcast a back of house look at the planning and delivery of the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter and Paralympic Winter Games, as told by the very people who organize them. I'm Christian Napier. And today our guest is Cyndi Sherman, who is another one of our distinguished Deer Valley alumni to join the podcast. So Cyndi, it's so nice to have you. How are you?

Cyndi Sherman 0:34
I'm doing great. How are you? Christian?

Christian Napier 0:36
I am doing awesome. And our listeners cannot see you. But I can see you and it looks like you're joining me from a very beautiful, rustic location. Where are you at?

Cyndi Sherman 0:47
I um, I live in a log cabin. And I live in the woods in the Bristol hills, which is the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

Christian Napier 0:58
Wow, that's amazing living in a log cabin. I love it. My wife and I've always talked, I have -- Yeah, well, you know, when things settle down, and you know, the finances are good and everything I want to, I want to invest in a cabin. So you are living my dream living up in a cabin. But you've got internet up there. So hey, it's not like you're in a totally remote area right now? No,

Cyndi Sherman 1:22
Um, well, it's pretty slow. I don't have the fast speed DSL, high speed internet on. But it's enough that it allows me to work from home. I've worked from home for the last 13 years or so. Um, and I'm very fortunate for that.

Christian Napier 1:42
Well, let's talk about that work. What is it that you do?

Cyndi Sherman 1:44
I am a Cloud Service Delivery Manager for an ERP company. So my job is to sit between the customers and the technical teams in, you know, expedite tickets and in issues and things like that.

Christian Napier 2:02
Wow. And you can do all that from the comfort of the Finger Lakes region?

Cyndi Sherman 2:07
I manage teams around the world. Yeah, and they would have no idea where I sit.

Christian Napier 2:13
I think that's so cool. I have to ask, though, the state of New York has been particularly hard it with the virus and of course, it varies region by region. But there in the Finger Lakes region. How are you dealing with it? And then I would also ask your teams around the world? How are they adapting to this whole new way of doing things under some crazy pandemic that we're dealing with right now?

Cyndi Sherman 2:38
So um, as many of you know, our Governor Cuomo has divided the state up into regions, and each region is being managed by a region manager. And based on certain criteria, they're making the decision on whether or not we can open and there's different phases. And so I'm in the Finger Lakes region. We're one of the first regions that got green lights across the board. So we're in phase one of reopening right now. So um, yeah, we've got it well under control. But then again, we're in a sparsely populated area, compared to the city of New York and Long Island, those regions where the population is much more dense. So we're doing well in my region, my customers are North America based. I've got a number of customers in the automotive industry that have basically been shut down for a couple of months. And I also have customers in the food and beverage areas, and they're, they're going bonkers, trying to keep up with the demand of, you know, people eating from home, things like that.

Christian Napier 3:59
Wow. It's just amazing how this thing is just, it's just changed just about everything we're doing. And, you know, in a rather morbid kind of way, it's actually enabled this little podcast that we're doing here, because I've got time and like many, many other people, when I had this time, I started waxing nostalgic. And so, and so I started doing this little crazy podcast, and I appreciate you taking time to be one of our guests now.

Christian Napier 4:37
I want to, you know, look back in time, go back 20 years or so, to the late 90s or the early 2000s. So Cindy, what were you doing back then before you join the Salt Lake organizing committee and how did you end up in Salt Lake?

Cyndi Sherman 4:52
Um, it's a good story. I I just gotten married in July of 2018. And my husband is one of the carefree kinda guys he had been working out at Snowbasin as a ski patroller. And right after we got back from our honeymoon, he announced to me that he was going to go back out to Utah that winter. I'm like, well, what am I supposed to do because I'm here working. At the time, I was an IT manager for Eastman Kodak. And it was before you know, we had remote working and things like that. So I was tied to the area. And then I got thinking about it a little bit more on and in 2000 on, Kodak was starting to lose on their profitability or the market had had diminished because they had not adapted quickly to the digital market. And they were starting to lose consumers in their traditional print in filming markets. So we had started consolidating and downsizing on I had to let like eight people go the day I got married, it was pretty crazy. I was on the phone doing things on and so I said to myself, you know what? I'm married. And I you know, I don't have a bright future here, I can see the writing on the wall. So, um, I decided to look for work out in Salt Lake. And as many of the prior interviewees, I looked on monster.com. And there was a posting for results manager, which is like an IT manager. And I answered it, and within days, I got a response. And then, um, probably a week later, I was on the phone interviewing with Frederick Wojciechowski and probably talked to him for about two hours on the phone, and it ended up with a job offer. And then two weeks later, I was out in Salt Lake. Now it was about October of 2000.

Christian Napier 7:12
Wow, this is an incredible journey. Yeah. You worked at Kodak and Kodak had some involvement in the Games. And I remember, I come from a similar background before Salt Lake, I worked for IBM. And at the time, IBM was a sponsor. And when the opportunity came up for Salt Lake, IBM thought, Oh, well, maybe we can second you. So I wouldn't have to leave. But then IBM decided it didn't want to be a sponsor anymore. So you know, it is what it is right? But you made it out here. So you get here. And your husband had been here at Snowbasin in the winters. Had you been to Salt Lake before?

Cyndi Sherman 7:51
I had. So um, I've been out there a couple times, mostly though, to the Ogden area. And we had done some camping down in Moab in the Arches area. But I hadn't spent a whole lot of time in, you know, the city center of Salt Lake itself.

Christian Napier 8:12
Now you come here from a very, very established company who had been around for decades, right? You come here from Kodak. And then you get to this Organizing Committee, which had been around at that time, about four years or so. It wasn't a very old organization, it also was just going to exist for a small period of time. So what was that like going from this big huge, you know, Kodak firm, an old traditional, very well known name, to them coming out to, to join Salt Lake 2002?

Cyndi Sherman 8:46
Um, it was like driving on I 15 in the left lane. Um, you just got shot into this warp speed and I mean, things were moving so rapidly on. I was fortunate in October, I think it was still getting ready to ramp up but um, you know, within 60 days of that we were just moving so fast. The, um, there was so much going on in it is you've heard on some of the other interviews on Salt Lake was the the first Games that was post IBM, right. So we -- Sema had gotten the contract for the main systems, the the central systems, you know, like, ticketing and, you know, the biographies and stuff like that, um, but at the same time on all of the competition on the results systems, were also on being migrated to a new platform and rewritten. And so my job, and I know I'm getting ahead of myself here, but, um, was to help, you know, test and debug the systems because they were being used for the very first time. And, um, you know, we had to -- they were writing, you know, new requirements and and we just had to get all of this work done before we, you know, moved on site at the venue there. Tremendous amount of work.

Christian Napier 10:38
Yeah, huge amount of work and, and not a long amount of time, not a long amount of time, right? I mean, you come here in October of 2000, it gives you just a little over a year to get all that stuff done. And then you had test events going on too where people were trying to test things. And so that's a that's a huge amount. Well, why don't you just briefly describe for us what a results manager does, because you've, you've got several things up there, right, the timing and scoring and the results and info system and the Games management systems and everything. So what does the results area do?

Cyndi Sherman 11:09
So, um, there were a number of us, and each results manager was assigned to a sporting event, or sporting events at a venue. So in my case, I was at Deer Valley. And I was in charge of all of the results systems. And these are the, the programs that calculate this, the medal placements, this the placement of the athletes in the competition, we take that information, and we were pumping it out to the scoreboard real time, on to the television crews on both NBC and the remote on, you know, international broadcasting on systems, we are pumping it out to the internet. You know, all of this real time data is, you know, one of the first Olympics to you know, start breaking into this new area of technology.

Christian Napier 12:15
Well, it's a very, very complex dance, right? It has to -- I mean all of these various areas. And most of the spectators, most of us just take a completely for granted that it just happens.

Cyndi Sherman 12:27
Yeah. Well, and that that's that was our job, right? So is is one of my other colleagues put it on. You have to make it kind of seamless and effortless. And um, make sure that nobody's thinking twice about it. Um, in in, you know, not get caught not have a pause or not have a mistake that's noticeable. And so a good event would be that there's no issues with that technology, it would go smoothly and seamlessly. We wouldn't be in the news for anything negative.

Christian Napier 13:12
You mentioned that you worked at Deer Valley. Well, that's a very posh venue. It's a gorgeous place, right? How did you score that assignment? You know, you end up working in a beautiful place like Deer Valley.

Cyndi Sherman 13:22
It was just one of those luck of the draw. So I interviewed and Frederick made the assignment for me on my behalf on you know, it was just as they came in, he was putting people into certain sports in venues. So I just luck of the draw. I got Deer Valley and those events.

Christian Napier 13:45
Well, you're very lucky indeed. And we've had a couple of conversations I mentioned at the outset with some of your Deer Valley colleagues. And it sounds like it was amazing. The events there were amazing. Tell us a little bit about your time there at Deer Valley, some of the people that you worked with, and it just kind of your overall assessment of working there in Deer Valley.

Cyndi Sherman 14:04
Well of course I worked with Donna and she was mostly front of the house on activities, you know, the people movement and such. I worked with Jeff Tumis, who was managing the sporting event and on all the on field events. And then my job was kind of the back of the house the technology and supporting those activities out on the field to play and such. So those were my SLOC counterparts. But then I also managed a team of probably 50 volunteers that were running the computer systems inside of the results trailer there. I managed the the IT teams from the sports. And so in my case, I worked with a group called Split Second timing. They were the IT providers for the freestyle event, the moguls and the aerials. These are the guys that were traveling around with the freestyle you know, World Cup activities. And we brought them in to manage those events here at Deer Valley. They were, we had to put the Olympic look and feel over their program but it was essentially their program that they they ran on, you know, week in and week out there. We had scoring and timing people from Seiko that reported up, and that we needed to manage those folks. For alpine skiing, we had a whole different team because it was a whole different sport. So we had Swiss timing you know, managing those systems for for the slalom event and such. So lots of people there. And then we had the the volunteers from Salt Lake, you know, proper, and they were running reports off to the, you know, the media people, they were down doing whatever we needed to be done. They were, they were great. But there are just so many people, and just kind of makes my head spin thinking about those days there during, during the big events there.

Christian Napier 16:49
Yeah, many people don't realize just how big of a team are, you know, how many people it takes to actually pull off one of these events and the Games. It can't be easy trying to manage and coordinate with all of these people, and integrate all of these systems together. What were some of the challenges that you faced? And how did you end up resolving some of the challenges?

Christian Napier 17:10
Okay, so, um, some of the challenges were just to get the systems up and running. That was our first challenge. My service provider there for freestyle, you know, they started writing their programs on a Mac on an apple platform, and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee said no, no, this is all got to be Windows based. So they had to basically rewrite their program to fit the, to fit, you know, the Windows, or the platform that was the required from the organizing committee as an IT standard there. Um, some of it too is a sport, like freestyle, is a is kind of an organic sport, it's evolving and changing sometimes week to week. It's an exciting sport, and they like to tweak it to try to make for good television, make for a good event. And so the rules kept changing and everything where, you know, for the Olympics it has to be like in writing in black and white and predictable in a sport like that was evolving real time. And so it was kind of a challenge, trying to lock it down. So that, you know, we could, um, tell you know, the television folks what to expect and or what our, you know, our systems would, you know, what our systems would handle. You can't just change the data format, you can't, um, you can't change the format of of the the competition, I remember going back and forth with, you know, watching the IT provider and the sports people trying to make these changes. I'm like, no, no, you can't do that. And they're like, well, this is our sport, we know we can do it, but, um, which is true, but when you're here for the Olympics, you you've got another set of, you know, standards that you have to adhere to. And so that was kind of challenging, um, moving into the to the venue was challenging. Like you said, there's so many moving parts on so many people doing things that inevitably, somebody would break something right or we'd have wires cut by a mistake or you know, somebody would move a piece of equipment that needed to be in place and it's really hard. To kind of control all these well meaning individuals, but um, you know, trying to align everybody at times was was very challenging.

Christian Napier 20:14
Wow, well, how about some fun things? You know, what were some of the fun experiences you had? Or really funny stories that you had up there in Deer Valley?

Cyndi Sherman 20:21
Um, well, I guess at the time, I was a little uptight. And my, my IT team for freestyle. They were Australian. And, you know, I know we've mentioned in other calls as well, the Australian folks are, this was a special Olympics for them, they had just come off of Sydney. And Australians are, you know, very good natured. And, and they, they, they got me a couple of times with jokes and such and for one of the dress rehearsals, I walked in, and I found all five of them sitting there in gorilla suits. And they had gone out and they had rented these gorilla suits. And I had walked in and I was all straight faced and all jacked up, down, stressed out, and I turned the corner and there they were, like, Oh my gosh, I've got 10 minutes to start a competition and you're sitting there in gorilla suits. And they're like, Oh, no, it Take it easy. This will be okay. Oh, okay.

Christian Napier 21:34
Well, it's easy for the Australians to say because they have experienced the Games and, and so they come in with a perspective that you know, what, things are going to be hard, but the Games will go on, and it will be fine. So it's okay to just relax a little bit. And that's hard. If it's your very first time going through the Games, because you just feel so mortified that something could potentially go wrong, right?

Cyndi Sherman 21:59
You do, um, you know, for for 18 months, everybody kept telling us, you know, two billion people are going to be watching every move you make, two billion people will know when, when you mess up, if you send the wrong name to the scoreboard or the wrong name to television, you know, you'll everybody will know. And you know, so we lived in that kind of fear. And then on top of it on 9/11 added a whole other element of fear right of, of hackers or on you know, being a target on during the, during the event knowing that there was a large television audience watching. So, there there was a lot of stress on from all angles, no doubt.

Christian Napier 23:06
But you know what, the Games ended up being spectacular. Yeah, the the competition's a Deer Valley where a lot of fun I went up and watch the aerials Deer Valley during the Games. I had a blast there. What was it like actually during Games time to operate the event?

Cyndi Sherman 23:22
Yeah. Well, it was nuts. I mean, there were -- so the the energy of those people standing in the stands there. You know, we were one of the first events on on the first day and so everyone was super excited. And and as I mentioned before, we had great weather so it was a real big party atmosphere. The crowd is really getting into it. Um, you know, freestyle skiing and and the snowboarding. All of these were really they're exciting and extreme sports, and they make for really great television. And so there were a lot of young people and and it was, it was great to hear the audience roaring anytime on you know, an athlete did something exciting and we did we had a lot of excitement. We had a lot of firsts for countries and firsts for you know, athletes pulling off of, you know, jumps in competitions and so on. It was really exciting. There was a woman who won the aerials competition, Alicia Kaplan. She was the first Australian, the first person from south of the equator there to win a gold medal in the Olympics, Winter Olympics. And so of course, my Australian team was going nuts because their fellow countryman had pulled off something that had never been done before. And so yeah, there was a lot of excitement during the events themselves.

Christian Napier 25:14
Well, they were a massive success. And then they end. It's like, Oh, it's over. What do I do next? So what did you do next? What was your journey after Salt Lake? And how did the experience of working in the Salt Lake 2002 Games impact your career?

Cyndi Sherman 25:31
Um, well, for me personally, um, I stayed around the area. But we had moved up north to Ogden, and we lived in actually, we lived in Huntsville, which was a tiny little town on the backside of the mountains there to be closer to Snowbasin, and because my husband was working there, and it's not really conducive to doing it work down in Salt Lake, I struggled. I did not find it work on right away after the Games. And so I kind of took the road less traveled there for a while. And I felt that you know, at that point, you might as well listen to the universe and, and, and do something different. So I actually, um, I just went back to school, I went and became a massage therapist. And I did that for a while. So I worked for a couple of the ski resorts in their customer service areas. We eventually left Utah a couple years after the Games, and we migrated up to Montana. And we lived up in Big Sky there for a while. And I worked for a builder. So I got a lot of, you know, non traditional experience. And then we had our daughter, our daughter was born in Montana. And we just kind of said, You know what, it's time to move back to New York to be closer to family. And so we made that journey back to where we are now in the Finger Lakes area. And then eventually I just fell back into the IT world again, in working for other large companies, Xerox and then eventually coming over to where I am now.

Christian Napier 27:39
I have to ask you about Montana. Whereabouts in Montana. did you live?

Cyndi Sherman 27:42
We lived in Big Sky.

Christian Napier 27:44
So in Big Sky? Okay, awesome. Yeah, my my aunt for a while I lived in Hamilton, Montana, in the Bitterroot Valley. And it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, it was just absolutely wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.

Christian Napier 28:05
So this has been a huge amount of fun. What other fun or interesting stories do you have to share with us?

Cyndi Sherman 28:09
Well, um, you know, we talked about how this was a first for the IT teams, many new providers. Part of the normal process is to do a lot of testing. Now we spent more than six months, just testing for every kind of scenario you could even imagine for these competitions we, we tested for, um, you know, what happens if you have a three way tie and, you know, what will happen to the computer systems? In a scenario like that, you know, what happens if what happens? And, um, you know, one of the things that it does, is that they have very extensive dress rehearsal and disaster recovery scenarios, and we have to play those all out. And it was, you know, when you go through it, a lot of people kind of roll their eyes and say, Oh, you know, these things are, you know, crazy. Why are we doing this, but let me tell you, all of the scenarios that we tested, we actually kind of faced during those two weeks while at Deer Valley during the competitions and it was crazy. I mean, um, we had to go through scenarios, like, what if somebody cuts the wire to the scoreboard or what if, you know, your timing system goes down. And, you know, we experienced a lot of that, and I'm very thankful that we spent the time. One of the stranger kinds of scenarios that they gave us was around personnel. What if your, I mean, you know, operator is not able to perform their duties or what if the computer that they're operating on suddenly blows up and and, you know, is unable to perform? Now that's why we had to have two of every system in place. One of the stranger scenarios that I can remember was one of my timing teams had gone out for a big steak dinner before the dress rehearsal, and a number of them got food poisoning and didn't show up to the venue that day. But because we had all these scenarios mapped out, and everybody had a backup, including myself, we were we were able to get through the day that day. But that that is a memory that kind of stays with me. And, um, you know, guides me even with my job today to always be prepared, not just, you know, a plan B, but having a plan C and D as well.

Christian Napier 31:16
I did mentioned before we started recording our call that I had a few quote unquote, assignments. The first question is about music. So was there a particular song that you listen to, or maybe you just hear it today as you're going grocery shopping or something and you hear this song, and when you hear it, it right away takes you back to your time in Salt Lake?

Cyndi Sherman 31:40
It was quite interesting. I lived in Park City, and I drove down to the offices every day through Parleys. And you don't get a radio signal. And so I've been really kind of stressing over this. Why, why is nothing jumping out at me is because for a long time, I didn't -- I couldn't pick things up on the radio. So I'm, you know, like, everybody ahead of me Barenaked Ladies was definitely very popular during that time. But um, I think though, I'm gonna just go back to some of the music that we heard in the closing ceremonies, there were some awesome performances, their you know, Earth, Wind and Fire came out. And they did September. I mean, how, how can you not get excited when you hear something like that? And there were other songs, I think that were kind of popular at the time. Um, I don't know. Um, what else do I have? I have to write notes. This is so crazy, because I didn't want to forget there, there was, um, did you know Willie Nelson and the Bridge Over Troubled Water, I mean, that that was just so special. Just where we were on. We were fortunate enough to be at the closing ceremonies into to hear that and and, you know, let out a big sigh of relief that the Games were finished in and on, you know, coming in after you know, 9/11 in and kind of unifying the world and in healing and that that was also a very special moment there too.

Unknown Speaker 33:37
Wow, what a range, from Earth Wind and Fire to Willie Nelson. I love it. I absolutely love it.

Cyndi Sherman 33:43
Wasn't that really the whole thing of the the closing ceremonies? I mean, you go from Donny and Marie to Kiss. I mean, it really swung the gambit there.

Christian Napier 33:55
No, you're just so right. You're so totally right. And I'm so happy to add these to our Spotify playlist. Listeners you can just look up do a search on Spotify, you can see all of the songs that our guests have nominated. So I will very, very happily add those to the list. Okay, Cindy, let's talk about restaurants. Could be something down in Salt Lake or it could be something up in Park City or wherever. Was there a particular restaurant that you liked to frequent while you were working there for the Salt Lake 2002 Games?

Cyndi Sherman 34:23
Oh my gosh, the results managers, like lunch was the the moment of the day, right. So like, so many of my co workers were European and it was a big thing to stop and go out and have an hour and a half lunch or maybe even longer on and just spend time with each other and hearing the stories going on from you know, different parts of the lab that we worked in. On You know, we we walked to a lot of places, um, you know, a number of the breweries around there. What, um, what are they, um, Red Rocks, I think was down there. Right. And it was, um, Wasatch Brewing. Um, I think they had a place down there, we enjoyed going to the Macaroni Grill. Um, there were, there were a number of places that were close by, and very good that could accommodate. I mean, there were at least always a dozen of us would walk in together. So we had to go to some of the bigger places just because there were so so many results, managers, and we take two three tables and sat together it was, it was really nice times.

Christian Napier 35:47
well, I'm totally with you, our European friends totally converted me to the long lunch. And I love having a nice long relaxing break during the day. And I'm grateful for that, you know, the, that's one of the lessons that I learned from Salt Lake is to, to enjoy. Because before that, I would often just eat at my desk, you know, it's just grab something really quick and, or just, you know, have something very quickly in the break room. So to just be able to go outside, enjoy the day, have a nice, leisurely break. That's great. So definitely, we're going to add those. Red Rock, Wasatch, Macaroni Grill, we'll throw those things up on the map. Okay, so the final question for you today. Cindy, do you have a moment, and I know that everybody has so many memories, but is there a particular memory that you have that whenever you think about it, it just gives you that really warm feeling those goosebumps, that goosebump memory of the Games?

Cyndi Sherman 36:40
Well, um, two moments Come out, come to mind. One, when you're working at Deer Valley, we had to get there very, very early in the morning. Um, and I remember, you know, rolling up, and, um, we had to walk up the hills to the results, trailers. So we'd be strapping on to three laptops, and kind of walking up underneath the chairlift there, and I'm thinking, Oh, my gosh, I'm walking up Deer Valley, you know, before anybody's out on the chairlift, you could see the groomers and going by and in such and it was just a quiet moment of the day, you know, when you're staring at those big where the scans were, where the audience was, and looking at the finish, line area on those are very special moments, kind of, you know, pinching yourself that you're really part of the Games indefinitely, you know, for me, the closing ceremonies at the very end, those the fireworks display, was just out of this world, um, and watching the whole city kind of light up after that, and those, those two things stand out from you right now.

Christian Napier 38:04
All those are fantastic memories, and I really appreciate you sharing them with us. I too, really enjoyed the closing ceremony. I've mentioned that on several podcasts, but it was definitely a highlight for me of the Games. So I really appreciate you sharing those memories and many more today with us. If people want to learn more about what you're doing Cyndi with ERP systems or they want to reconnect with you and share memories of the Games on social media or otherwise, what's the best way for them to do that?

Cyndi Sherman 38:29
I'm on Facebook. I'm Cyndi Sommers Sherman, and on Instagram and LinkedIn under those names you should be able to find me there.

Christian Napier 38:40
All right, fantastic. Again, Cyndi, thank you so much for the time I very much appreciate it and listeners, please like and subscribe to our podcast again. Cyndi, thank you.

Cyndi Sherman 38:50
Thank you, Christian. Good talking to you.

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