A simple email. Subject line: Sad news. The rest of the email – a blur. I don’t know how many times I read the words, but they didn’t want to register. A few hours later, the confirmation of what the earlier email had been preparing me for – Engelbert (Berti) Hörmannsdorfer had passed away. Shocked doesn’t even cover it.
The last time I saw Berti was at the opening of a demo centre in Erding, near Munich airport, on 19th July, shortly before he was due to go for a “routine operation”. In typical Berti fashion, he let me know when he was about to leave the house, called me from the road to tell me he was slightly delayed and then when he turned up charmed everyone with his friendliness, pertinent questions and jovial manner at the networking drinks. As he was leaving, I wished him a swift recovery from his operation and joked that if he was bored during his recuperation, A3 Communications could send him lots of press releases to work on for speicherguide.
Less than a month later, he’s gone. Leaving so many people asking ‘why?’
I’d known Berti for over 16 years, since I first started in IT (and storage) PR. Back then, I was 24 years old and probably one of the youngest people in our industry in Germany. Never once did Berti make me feel that I was inexperienced or unknowledgeable. He treated me (and everyone else) like an equal – even although of course his industry and technical know-how were much more advanced than mine. I feel like I “grew up” with Berti (and Karl, Rainer, Hartmut, Norbert, Ulrike... the “usual suspects” as I affectionately referred to them when I was asked to put together a “top storage journalists” list). I’ve lost count of the number of clients I pitched him – and he spoke to, always interested, always friendly, always asking relevant, well-prepared questions, always requesting more information to write an article that would stand out from the rest. Always sending coverage links at 2am – I remember one time many years ago finding out that these emails weren’t automated but actually sent in real time! Berti was a night owl, working on and publishing articles until silly o’clock in the morning. Many a time we would exchange emails and lock in interviews after 10pm as we both happened to be online. More often than not these email exchanges would go off on a million tangents as we chatted.
The wider A3 Communications team mainly knew Berti from our work as the PR agency for SNW Europe (later Powering the Cloud) but even from these fleeting encounters he left his mark on everyone – “so lovely”, “one of the nicest people in the storage industry”, “polite, courteous”, “one of the few German journalists I remember!”. The speicherguide team was always in its element at the annual industry event in Frankfurt – and I believe this is where the speicherguide video interviews were born – in the form of a simple table in the corner of the press room and a basic hand-held video camera. The team also knew him from a question in ‘Genius!’, our very own A3 Communications board game. I was so fed up with everyone else butchering Berti’s name whenever they mentioned him on client calls, I asked Fred to include the question “what is the name of the news editor at speicherguide” and if I wasn’t happy with the pronunciation, I didn’t award any points.
The comments we have received from clients since telling them the tragic news have been unanimously gracious. Berti was universally liked, admired and respected.
For me personally, I am still getting to grips with the news. I feel like I have lost a mentor and a good friend. Life goes on but it will not be the same. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family, friends and the rest of the wonderful speicherguide team. Rest in peace, Berti, I miss you.