Longtime HP employees look back on decades of change

Three HP veterans reflect on the past, present, and future of work.

By Deborah Lynn Blumberg — July 13, 2023

In the 1980s, Glenda Brungardt’s most useful work tools were a fax machine, a corded phone, and an HP 150 — one of the first touch screen computers — which now looks like an ancient artifact with its boxy shape and neon-green interface. Today, she emails and chats with colleagues on a sleek, portable HP laptop, and collaborates over video calls with noise-canceling headphones.

Brungardt’s career at HP has spanned massive transformations in the way work happens, with rapid changes over the past few years, including the proliferation of hybrid work, high-powered mobile computing, virtual meetings and collaboration, and artificial intelligence (AI) everywhere. Employees have had to adapt quickly to new technology and ways of working, while always anticipating the next innovation and the changes it will bring. At a time when the median tenure for US employees is less than five years at the same company, perspectives from people like Brungardt who’ve spent over 40 years with one employer illuminate how our approach to work — and work itself — continues to evolve. 

“I didn’t last 46 years at HP without adapting and without embracing change,” says Brungardt, now HP’s global events manager, who heads up HP’s presence at events like CES (the Consumer Electronics Show), which draws tens of thousands of attendees annually. 


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The Garage recently talked with three longtime HP employees — all of whom worked under the leadership of one or both of HP’s founders Bill Hewlett, who was CEO until 1978, and Dave Packard, who was chairman of the board of directors until 1993. Stories from their combined 136 years at the company reveal their experience adapting to change and what they believe has remained consistent over their decades-long careers.

Glenda Brungardt standing next to a  commemorative plaque outside of HP founders Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett's house in Palo Alto.

Glenda Brungardt celebrates her 40th anniversary in 2017 at HP founders Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett's house in Palo Alto.

The events evolution

Brungardt started working at HP’s Colorado office in the 1970s — right after high school — building PC boards for HP’s test and measurement group. There was a palpable energy and buzz in the building, she says. She went on to work piecing together prototypes for HP Labs and helped introduce HP’s first scanners to the public. Eventually, she shifted to event management, where she still works today.

Brungardt recalls HP offices in the 1980s, when managers walked through the office chatting with employees. A bell sounded for lunch, and teams took breaks together. “The culture has changed with so many people remote or hybrid,” she says. Her team now spans Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

She’s spent the bulk of her time at HP on the road leading the company’s participation in global tradeshows and planning internal events and big company meetings. Today, her role requires the ability to seamlessly plan in-person, virtual, and hybrid meetings, and technology has affected every part of her job. For example, while she used to follow up on leads by collecting business cards, now she uses badge scanning technologies.

“I’m still challenged every day and learning every day. Enjoying what you do makes you want to continue doing it.”

— Dan Felman, HP product manager and employee for 45 years

Spending less time on the road has been an adjustment. Brungardt likes the immediacy of video meetings, but she misses the connected feeling of being in the same room with colleagues and other industry players. “Being on camera just isn’t the same,” she says.

Even though the pandemic spurred a shift to virtual event experiences, Brungardt doesn’t see in-person trade events going away. “It’s how we do them that will continue to change.”

She sees automation playing a bigger role, and sustainability efforts around large events becoming more important as companies prioritize decreasing their carbon footprint. To minimize transportation and energy use, for example, more planners may choose a hotel connected to a convention center.

Despite all the changes she’s seen, though, she says there is still value to holding on to certain parts of the past. Brungardt continues to use her original HP 12C calculator — launched in 1981 — daily, and she says she’s not giving it up.

Left: A collage of Wentzel's HP memorabilia,  such as nametags and a pin-back button. Right: Wentzel sitting in front of his desk holding technology from a '70s HP computer.

Left: Kevin Wentzel's HP memorabiliia collected over the years. Right: Wentzel holds a switch register from a '70s HP computer while unpacking after an office move.

Collaboration, communication, and automation

Kevin Wentzel put his computer science degree to work when he joined HP’s General Systems Division in Santa Clara, California, in 1978, helping develop software for the HP 3000, the company’s first machine designed for commercial data processing. In the 1980s, he worked on some of HP’s first personal computers and in the 1990s, he worked at HP Labs in software engineering research. His mission: to imagine products that might be possible in five to 10 years’ time. Now, as a product experience strategist, Wentzel manages press review programs for HP personal computers, talking to reporters and influencers — a foreign concept when he started work in the 1970s.

“I love showing off HP products,” says Wentzel, who remembers when computer terminals at work were shared and employees could smoke at their desks.

Wentzel, who spent more than 20 years working with Brungardt —“She is one of my most long-term and treasured colleagues at HP" — at industry events where HP products are on display, now works mostly from home in Houston with occasional office visits to see new products in person. He says he doesn’t miss his long commute, noting that the idea that it’s the quality of one’s work rather than the number of hours in-office has been core to HP for decades. He says that founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard “trusted that people wanted to do a good job.” 

The approachable attitude of HP’s leadership and commitment to fostering a collaborative work environment is part of the reason he’s stayed for decades. In Wentzel’s early days, for example, he wrote a letter to former HP CEO John Young expressing concerns over how the company was marketing its software. Wentzel was shocked when Young responded and invited him to his office for a one-on-one meeting.

“In another company, that could have gotten me fired,” Wentzel says. “But he listened and asked questions. There’s an attitude that we’re all colleagues working together in the same direction.”

Over the years, Wentzel has rotated through a variety of roles — a tactic he recommends to younger workers. Always make sure you’re in a role that supports your goals and helps you grow, he says. When Wentzel thinks about the future of jobs like his, he anticipates an increasing role for AI.

Currently, while he believes AI technology like ChatGPT does a good job writing basic communications, AI-generated content is still primarily useful as a good starting point for humans to build on. Even as that technology advances, “we’re not going to be The Matrix,” he says, referring to the 1990s science fiction movie. One-on-one human interactions and direct relationships with colleagues, influencers, and reporters will always matter.

“Personal is still going to be important,” he says.

Left: Dan Felman posing for a picture in front of his table at a 1999 HP event. Right: A collage of Felman's HP memorabilia,  such as nametags, an award, and a black and white picture, with fellow employees.

Left: Dan Felman at a 1999 HP event in Jacksonville. Right: Felman's HP memorabilia collected over the years.

Technological advancement with a human touch

One of Dan Felman’s most vivid memories from his 45 years at HP was visiting the US Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. — one of the world’s standard time keepers — to service the HP 1000 Minicomputer that helped calculate the country’s official time.

Felman joined HP in the 1970s as a computer engineer and spent his days servicing the company’s early computers. Customers included federal agencies and corporations. Personal computers didn’t exist and communications were phone-based.

He became a systems engineer for intelligent terminals, and in the Reagan years serviced a terminal at the White House. While at HP, he earned a master’s degree in computer science. Now, he works in Orlando as a product manager developing the software customers use to maintain, update, and secure their HP products and devices.

The way Felman works now is a far cry from his early days at HP, when he logged some 40,000 miles a year driving to and from customers. “I miss being on the road,” he says. “You have interaction and get immediate feedback, you talk through the tech, and understand the needs. You miss that synergy when you’re remote and even hybrid.”

He appreciates, however, that some things have stayed the same, including HP’s open-door policy welcoming employee feedback, and the company’s culture of giving back. Felman keeps an HP poster he received 15 years ago on his home office wall. “Believe you can change the world,” it reads. “Believe that together we can do anything.”

Felman believes that even as technology evolves to do more, it will continue to require people to understand human emotion and needs. AI will be useful in making decisions humans can’t make, for example, but at the same time, it could lead to new challenges that require human judgment to solve.

“Phishing and malware will be coming in fast and furious,” says Felman. “In the workplace, training is going to be an even bigger part of using technology.”

Although Felman has thought about retiring, he says he can’t bring himself to leave HP.

“I’m still challenged every day and learning every day,” he says. “Enjoying what you do makes you want to continue doing it.”


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