Messages from distinguished ex-Navigators
I joined the Navigators in 1987, after finishing my Engineering degree. I was lucky to be involved in a very exciting and challenging European research project named Delta4: the project aimed at building distributed fault-tolerant systems based on group communication. Although this appears an almost trivial task today, back then, many of the trade-offs involved in building such systems were still open research problems. I joined the project as an engineer with absolutely no research background and, when the project was over, I was an enthusiastic researcher, committed to do a PhD and to pursue an academic career. The Delta4 years were great in many aspects. I was eager to learn and I was given the opportunity to work with the best professor I could have wished for. Paulo Veríssimo is the kind of energetic leader, hard working, committed to excellence, that motivates his team members to do their best and to always aim at top notch results. At that time, there were very few groups in Portugal performing leading research in distributed systems. Therefore, we were on a mission to push the limits and publish in fora where no Portuguese had published before. This may sound a bit silly, but when digital libraries were just a dream, and even to get timely access to previous work was an obstacle (our physical libraries were poorly equipped), I almost felt like a real Navigator. It is thanks to Paulo Veríssimo that I become a researcher and a professor. It is thanks to groups like the Navigators that, today, any Portuguese PhD student working in the area of distributed systems aims at competing with the best in the world, from day one of his/her program. I am happy to see that today the Navigators are still among our best, raising the bar for all of us.
Full Professor, Instituto Superior Técnico, Lisbon TU, Portugal
I joined the Navigators team in early 1991 with not much to show for. Paulo Verissimo was taking a gamble with hiring an unknown Dutch loud mouth researcher who had no research track record what so ever. I had met Luis Rodrigues at the International Distributed Systems Summer Course in Bologna and convinced him to introduce me to INESC. I am forever grateful for the opportunities that Paulo gave me to mature into a real scientist. The Navigators team was excellent. Paulo with his superior analytical skills was the absolute master of the research game and Luis with his strong formal knowledge was quickly growing out of the sorcerer's apprentice role. Rufino tought me a lot about networking hardware, the protocols that run on them and the role they play in real-time systems. The train system was great fun. Henrique Fonseca was my office mate and friend for all those years and we had many discussions about the role of operating systems in distributed systems. It still pains me to think that he is no longer with us. Casimiro with his youthful enthusiasm kept us on all our toes. Later François joined and his French flamboyance gave us a person to blame for all the bad things in the world. Paula & Paula, our secretaries in those years, both helped me tremendously at work and outside of it. We did great work in those years and I went from a complete nit-wit to a solid researcher with well formed ideas and a number of good publications under my belt. Paulo and Luis can both be credited with making that transition happen. Paulo also allowed me to take a prominent role with managing some of the Esprit projects we were involved with and I was able to make connections and friends in many of European research hotbeds. It is fun to see that the infrastructure for the networks of excellence is still up and running, and it was exciting when the first wide area AFS nodes became active. The Radicals workshop we bootstrapped still happened during many years, giving young European researchers a forum to interact with the overshadowing of their elders. Looking back I had a wonderful time with much to be grateful for. It was definitely an coming of age period for me that defined my later career. The hospitality and friendliness will stay with me forever, as will the relentless search for the perfect solution for problem you are working on.
— Werner Vogels
Chief Technology Officer, Amazon
I joined the Navigators team early 1993. After a Master of Science at Manchester University and 3 years at the European Computer-industry Research Centre in Munich, I realized that doing a PhD was the right move for my career. In July 1992, I was fortunate to meet Paulo Verissimo at the International Distributed Systems Summer Course in Lisbon. This was a good opportunity to meet with the top talent from around the globe and establish contacts with the Academic community. After a few months of research and negotiation, I decided to join the Navigators team at INESC to study towards a PhD in Distributed Systems (This would be the last time Paulo got away with such a good deal...). With the massive cultural changes, the first months were difficult and thanks to Werner Vogels, meetings were still held in English (this would change after his departure!). The first big challenge was to integrate the existing team and looking back I am very grateful to all my colleagues at INESC. The talent on the 6th floor (andar) was plentiful and you could always find the answer to your questions until early hours of morning. I am still in touch with quite a few of them and have followed their successful careers with great attention. A special thought often goes to Henrique Fonseca who is no longer with us. Paulo had a plan to have me share an office with Luis Rodrigues which was intended to create a stimulating environment. The master plan worked extremely well as Luis took immense pleasure in challenging every single thought or idea I ever had (even the one I did not voice, I think !). With his very strong knowledge and understanding of distributed systems, Luis kept me on my toes and together with Paulo's supervision I believe this is what made those research years so successful. As members of key European Research projects, we had interactions and collaborations with most Academic Centres of Excellence across Europe as well as special links with Ken Birman's group at Cornell University. Not a coincidence, the decision to join the Navigators' team also allowed me to realize my dream on a personal level: buying a sailing boat and living on board. I also assembled the Morgane Sailing Team which included some of my colleagues willing to suffer the tense atmosphere of races at sea. Although it cannot be directly traced back to the Navigator's team (I hope!), Lisbon is the place where I met the person who later became my wife. After 3 years I was fully integrated and stayed another year as consultant for Portugal Telecom working on interactive and collaborative video applications. As often in life, you only realize how good things were when looking back. The working atmosphere and level of enthusiasm was truly unique. Lisbon is a beautiful city and Portuguese people very friendly. Try it!
—François J.N. Cosquer
Chief Security Architect, Alcatel North America
As a former-member of the Navigators, I can say that being part of this team was certainly a gratifying experience. In this team, I worked on some research areas (Fault Tolerance e Security) in which the Navigators have recognized experience and competence. I had the privilege to participate in one of the most prominent European projects ESPRIT (MAFTIA) and to meet other researchers in the area. During my faculty appointment in the Informatics Department of the FCUL, I got good friends in a enjoyable work environment. I'd like to thank Paulo Veríssimo for this great opportunity, and I wish he continues to lead this team with success.
—Lau Cheuk Lung
Associate Professor, Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná, Brazil
Quase 20 anos depois da minha passagem pelo Grupo, guardo na minha memória, imagens tão fantásticas quanta a nossa ambição em "dar novos mundos ao mundo". Lembro-me dos primeiros anos onde criámos a nossa dinâmica única de trabalho em equipa, construindo os primeiros sistemas e a nossa própria ideia do que é a computação, seja ela distribuída... Foram tempos de descoberta e de ambição. Depois, se por um lado tivemos a sorte de acompanhar a abertura de Portugal à Europa e ao Mundo, por outro, o desafio de podermos contribuir no contexto da comunidade científica alargada, funcionou como catalizador da criatividade, da partilha e do próprio espírito de equipa que se fortaleceu. Mais do que o resultado tangível, e incrível, do nosso trabalho nestes dois períodos, fica uma cultura, uma capacidade de realização individual aprendida e uma forte crença na aprendizagem partilhada, própria de quem navega e descobre.
Professor at Universidade Católica