During a recent trip to VMware headquarters in Palo Alto, California I caught up with Jeff Goodall, Global Meetings and Events Specialist at VMware. There is a turtle pond in the middle of the campus, and I’ve always wanted to know how the turtles got started. I’ve known Jeff for a number of years, as he manages onsite events and is the resident historian when it comes to the campus. As it turns out, he’s also the VMware Turtle Guru, too. Anyone who knows Jeff knows he is always on the move, but that doesn’t stop him from being amazing. He will always do his best to stop for a selfie, a high-five, or a quick chat in between his hustle. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.
Nigel: So, turtles and VMware… how did this happen?
Jeff: In the beginning, there was a pond but no turtles. The original idea was to put koi fish in the pond but it became overgrown with algae. Since you’d only be able to see their mouths, the koi fish idea never came to fruition. Unfortunately, the pond was pretty empty for a while.
Nigel: An empty pond doesn’t sound very exciting.
Jeff: No, not at all. Then one day, back in 2006 I think, I was off to lunch at Rosati’s in Portola Valley. They have a great burger and fries that I was dying for. When I got there to order my food there was a very odd conversation going on. The lady behind the counter ended up asking me if I knew anybody that wanted a turtle.
Nigel: At this point, I imagine you’re thinking, all I want is a burger & fries and this lady is trying to give me a turtle?
Jeff: Exactly! I said, “A turtle?” and she said “Yes. I have a turtle here and I don’t know what to do with it.” I said, “Hold on, I might be able to help.”
Nigel: So you just took the turtle?
Jeff: Well, I had to call my boss and see if the pond had any chemicals in it that’d kill them, but yeah. I hung up and told the restaurant owner, “I’ll take it!’ I was the new owner of a red-eared slider turtle.
Nigel: I am sure that was a fun conversation with your boss.
Jeff: Oh yes. His response was, “What are you up to, Goodall?”… “Nothing, nothing at all…” I replied… “No reason, thanks, *click*”
I went back to work with this small turtle in a cooler riding next to me in my jeep. I got back to campus just in time for a stack of help tickets to work on. What started out as a manageable morning turned into a chaotic afternoon. I took the turtle with me as I drove around campus in one of our golf carts, answering help tickets. For four hours straight, this terrapin and I cruised around our site installing keyboard trays, covering windows to block out sunlight, solving plumbing issues, delivering file cabinet keys, etc. From noon until 4:00 p.m. the turtle sat in a cooler, in a golf cart, riding from building to building with me; it was crazy.
At 4:05 p.m., I named the turtle Rosie after my fortuitous happening at Rosati’s and discovering that “it” was female! It was splashdown time. I grabbed the turtle, held her behind my back, and snuck her through [the building closest to the pond]. We walked through the building and out the adjacent door. The turtle was flailing uncontrollably. I walked up to the edge of the pond, looked around to see if anyone was looking, and set her into the water.
Jeff: She sunk like a rock! “Move, please move” was all I thought for what seemed like an eternity. First I saw a head poke out, then a leg and she was off. Over the next couple of days I fed her leftover lettuce, sliced carrots, whatever I had leftover from lunch in the [nearby] cafe.
Nigel: Wow! From the back of a burger joint to secret campus keyboard tray replacements to our beloved pond. Such a wonderful journey of love and caring Jeff. I have to ask, did anybody notice her?
Jeff: An email went out on [an internal email list] one-afternoon asking employees if they knew we had a turtle in the pond. I thought to myself, “This can go one of two ways.” An employee replied to the email; “Yes, I saw that, how very cool, but it needs a friend!”
Nigel: It seems like Rosie has more than one friend now. How many turtles do we have?
Jeff: We have 14 turtles in total: ROSIE, ROBBY, TRIXIE, PETEY, LARRY, HOUDINI, STEVE McQUEEN, SEA ROCK, SQUIRT, SUNNY, CARL, ZILLA, BUZZ, and PEBBLE.
Nigel: So are they there all year, or do you do something with them in the winter?
Jeff: Turtles need somewhere to dig (mud sand) so they can brumate (hibernate) during the winter season. The pond is a concrete bottom pond. Can you say “turtle ‘cicles?” They go to the Santa Clara Turtle and Tortoise Rescue and Adoption Society for winter. They have an amazing setup. It’s like “Wags” but for turtles.
Nigel: The last, burning question: do you run the VMware Turtles Twitter account?
Jeff: No, no, I cannot take credit for that. That account is managed by Rosie herself.
Thank you, Jeff, for sharing your story of our VMware Turtles! If you get the chance to visit the VMware Headquarters be sure to stop and say hello to Rosie and the gang… and Jeff too of course!
To learn more about Turtle Conservation, please visit these resources below.
- Leatherback Project: an organization dedicated to the conservation of leatherback turtles globally through research, community outreach and activism initiatives. Follow them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LeatherbackProj
- You can even donate through the VMware Foundation’s “Gift of Giving“ program (VMware Employees).
- Callie Veelenturf (@CAVeelenturf) a Marine Biologist who loves turtles and spoke at VMware’s Turtle Day in Spring of ’18
- VMware Turtles on Twitter: https://twitter.com/vmwareturtles
- VMware Turtles on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VMwareTurtles/
(Come back tomorrow for a look into the people that work on vSphere! For more posts in this series visit the “2019 Wrap Up” tag.)