Rick Myllenbeck has worked in tech. PR for the past 16 years. Now
at data company Sybase, he's making an unusual transfer - to the US
Navy. Julia Hood reports.
Rick Myllenbeck's life was turned upside down on October 24. The senior
director of PR and internal communications for Sybase, a database
technology company, was in San Francisco with CEO John Chen for an
interview with CNBC's Power Lunch, when he got a call on his cell
The former US Navy pilot and lieutenant commander in the US Naval
Reserves was officially tapped to serve in America's war against
terrorism in the office of Naval Intelligence.
Myllenbeck departed for an undisclosed location at the end of
He only had three days to get his life in order, including packing up
his apartment, and saying goodbye to his girlfriend and two children,
ages 14 and 10.
The day before Myllenbeck was called up, Sybase announced that it had
beaten analysts' estimates in Q3 by two cents per share. Even though
Sybase reported a loss of $7.1 million, the share price is now
$14.47, up from $11.51 on October 26, 2001.
Myllenbeck is pleased to be leaving the company at a positive moment,
but he was not happy to say good-bye to the six-person team that he has
so carefully built. "That was very hard," he says. "I didn't stay
dry-eyed on that one."
The team had a supreme test of that cohesiveness on the day of the
terrorist attacks. Myllenbeck was in Topeka, KS, racing the Sybase
sports car in the Sports Car Club of America national championships.
Myllenbeck, who owns a 1962 Ferrari, has a thing for racing and cars, a
trait inherited from his father.
The event was cancelled, and Myllenbeck drove back to Emeryville, CA,
leaving his team in charge of the hectic and painful internal
communications task related to tracking down employees and coping with
the terrible news that Sybase had lost two staff members in the World
"It's a tribute to the team for doing its best to put emotions aside,"
Myllen-beck says. "I've always been a team builder, and they really
stood up to the test."
Now, as he departs for an indefinite period of time, Myllenbeck plans to
stay in touch via email. Meanwhile, Paula Dunn, senior PR manager, will
be stepping in as acting director of the department. Ironically, at one
time Dunn was also in the Navy, where she worked as a public affairs
officer at the Pentagon. "He built a strong in-house team here and very
clearly established Paula Dunn as his second in command," explains
Pamela George, SVP of corporate marketing.
Myllenbeck's career path has always been entwined with technology. He
started his career at Amdahl Corp, a manufacturer of mainframe
He moved on to Apple in 1987, where he experienced one of the high
points of his career.
"It was during the glory years, when Apple was pushing into business
marketing," he remembers. Little was known about the networking ability
of the Mac, which had been considered by users and the media to be a
The whole area of networking was an exciting new market, but it was a
problem explaining the technology to unseasoned business and technology
reporters. "The editorial community was skeptical and not familiar with
networking technology, which was complicated," he says. "They weren't
sure what questions they should be asking, and they didn't understand
Myllenbeck's solution to the problem was to hold a seminar on networking
technology for 40 reporters in Cupertino, CA, bringing in technology
experts to lecture and write chapters on their particular subjects for a
take-home binder. Apple's PR team was then positioned as a resource on
the subject, providing clarification on specific tech questions. "The
benefit was huge," he says. "The reporters walked away with enough
knowledge that when they came back, we had some ground to work
After Apple, Myllenbeck worked at financial services newcomer Start,
then moved to Novell and Creative Labs, and had a brief stint at UpStart
Communications. Sybase hired him, in part, to help fulfill its long-term
objectives of building relationships in the business press. "The bulk of
the coverage we were getting was in the trade publications, but we
needed to move into a new market," George says. "We needed to talk about
Sybase's vision. Rick's personality fits in so well with the company,
with the brand personality, and dependability."
Myllenbeck is well known to many in the technology space, as he recently
completed a lengthy agency review after the company parted ways with
Weber Shandwick Worldwide. After considering several firms, such as
Ketchum, Edelman, The Horn Group, and Phase Two Strategies, Myllenbeck
finally chose Citigate Cunningham as agency of record because he wanted
a medium-size firm with global research and resources.
Myllenbeck is clearly distraught to be leaving his job just when things
are looking up, but he's committed to his Naval service. "I feel really
blessed to be in a position to do something about this," he says. He is
also determined to stay on top of the Sybase news while he's away.
"Technology moves very quickly. I don't want to get disconnected from
technology or my contacts, or from Sybase's forward motion."
1976-1980: Flight crew/antisubmarine warfare specialist, US Navy
1982-1985: Owner/Principal, Myllenbeck-Helms PR
1985-1987: Manager of PR, Amdahl
1987-1992: Manager of PR/marketing, Apple
1992-1993: Director of PR/marketing, Start
1993-1996: Senior manager of PR corporate and internet, Novell commerce
1996-1999: Director of PR and internet marketing, Creative Labs
1999: Group director, UpStart Communications
1999-present: Senior director of PR and internal communications, Sybase