Sunday, November 6, 2011

T'is the season to be...

It's Fall in San Francisco and the new season approaches.  The season of bell ringers, pumpkins, costumes,  Santa's, year end CEO bonuses in the millions, layoffs for the middle class, new opportunity for offshore firms to take American jobs and for American corporations to use those offshore firms to speed short term profits and line their golden parachutes with more gold.  Oh, did I mention that I am getting laid off? Yup, I am,  for the first time in my life and I guess, well I kind of feel lucky - lucky cause I have had 30 + years of uninterrupted employment in the various IT cottage industries where us cube dwellers reside and gripe.

This news came to me right on the heals of finding out that our CEO is the most highly compensated CEO in the nation.  To be fair, this, of course, includes his total compensation - not just salary, you know those add-on's, stock options exercised, 401K match, call girls on gratis, and various complimentary E.D. medications to keep that little energizer bunny going and going and going, of course - I jest, but that being said 135 million is still a nice looking stocking stuffer.

I've known about this pending layoff for the last few months, but the management team, the so-called "Managed Services Partner Select Committee", constantly assured us that they were looking at all the details, risks, benefits and nothing had been signed, and that nothing may ever actually be signed - that is -  they may not move forward with this option after all, they also assured us that even though Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny may not be physically real, it wasn't completely out of the question that they could somehow, one day,  conjur themselves up from the ether and surprise us in some spiritual manifestation - really, they did - okay, I lied, no they didn't but I can hope right?

I was summoned to one of those high floors, sat down, HR representative and my manager present.  I was quickly notified by my manager of my impending dissmissal, he had a script to read, but was nervous, I felt bad for him, it was like speed laying off sessions - a mass of 80 of us going into various offices, getting a script read, or poorly memorized by managers with little emotion.  I eventually just said "Come on guys, am I staying or going?" - and was told "no, no, no we need to go through this" - really "WE" need to?  It was kind of like watching a car wreck in slow motion, where you're in the car, but outside the car watching you inside the car get wrecked, you know, that kind of thing?

When it was, finally, over and I went downstairs, but chose not to go back to my desk - didn't want to have everyone asking me "so what happened, you staying or going, huh..tell us, tell us?".  See I was the first one notified... so I, instead, went outside to walk around the area where the bike messengers hang out and smoke pot and have a generally good time. For some reason this always raises my spirits - people kind of living off the grid, smoking pot, riding their bikes, whistling at girls, girls whistling at boys and all other possible combinations.  Seems like freedom to me, hold on..let me take note of that "Possible career change, bike messenger..." kay, got it.

So I recharged, walked back into my building, ready to face all the questions when I caught my CIO walking out with one of the leaders of our largest service provider firm - they were headed, at 4pm, across the street to the bar.  I just got laid off and my CIO is celebrating with a vendor over a few cocktails and a cigar or two I imagine.  So I made a quick u-turn, sat down next the the bike messengers, whistled at the best looking people that passed by, and inhaled deeply, and soon, it suddenly seemed all okay.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Inside Advice

Years ago I was pulled into my managers office when he noticed I was struggling with a large, all important and massively high impact technical decision. I don't remember what the massively high impact technical decision was that had me struggling, but believe me, it was of massively high impact. My manager at the time, one that I didn't really like because of his kind of arrogant Simon Cowell smugness, gave me a bit of advice, and I've always remembered it. He said - "Just make something up, nobody really knows anything". I was floored, and especially because it came from this guy, who despite his smugness, was pretty smart and got quite a bit done. Was he making stuff up all the time, did he just flip a coin when he hired me, was that the level of scrutiny he used? But that was his advice - nobody knows anything. Now I think this originally came from William Goldman, screenwriter for that little film called Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - and the quote was directed at Hollywood directors/producers/executives. But apparently it applied to what I was doing, which again was going to be massively impacting whatever that was.

Now I hope this isn't true everywhere, you know pilots, heart surgeons, my dentist , and the good people at Trojan. But in this Information Technology arena, something tells me nobody really knows anything and the ones you know really don't know anything are the ones that tell you that they know everything - I think they, are completely lost. Now a little caveat, see I don't think this applies to every area in IT, but I would say most. There are those small pockets of true genius, you know that 80/20 rule, 20% do all the work and have all the smarts that thing. Well I think the truth is, that 20 is probably more like 2, 2 as in 2 percent.

But play it out, think about it..kind of true isn't? We manage in a world of ambiguity, things are never really clear, and we have to estimate, there is no certainty and I think that is what he was saying - now I can hear all you Germans saying Dumkopff - that's my other exclusion, Germans, they know what they're doing, I don't know how they do it, but they know, must be from all the chocolate cake they eat.

I found this advice to be kind of freeing until I found out this other little truth. Nobody knows anything except how to ridicule you when you make a decision, then they know, they know you didn't check with accounting on the general ledger accounts, and they know you didn't completely analyze the distribution network for upcoming outages, or that it was Oktoberfest and half the reliable staff would be out or drunk all weekend.

Unfortunately my manager was relieved of his duties about three weeks later and I was promoted to his position, but now I had his little advice stored away in my arsenal available to use at any time. Just make it up, and I have found if you add a little cockiness to it you can go far and get a lot done. One word of caution though, you have to have some thick armor cause you're going to have arrows shot at you all day long. It's much easier to aim for the one that puts his hand up in class and says "Hey I have an idea" than the folks fingering their Blackberry's for the latest Facebook update. Taking that risk will separate you from the pack and make you the target, and trust me one of those arrows will get you someday - but if you're going to do this for a living, why not make it a little more interesting, but hey, what do I know anyway?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The New Year

I am always a little down and a little hopeful at the beginning of the New Year. Down because I love Christmas and it's over or almost over, but I am also hopeful because the New Year brings a feeling of rebirth, or at least the idea of a rebirth being possible, somehow. I am not sure why the arbitrary changing of the year from one number to another number really means anything but it feels like it for God's sake, wipe the slate clean, it's a new day!

So this January, and it is January now, it's all about getting things done. The "
Do It Now" mentality, that is my New Years mantra - "Do It Now, Do It Now, Do It Now". I'll work out at 10 this morning - NO! Do It Now fatass, I'll call that person in the afternoon - NOW would be better Mr. Procrastinator man. As I am writing this I have also decided to add an additional little resolution - call people. Forget email, call. Personal contact. Make that community, turn work into a community how's that? Okay so it's do it now, and call don't write. Call. And call my mother more often, that too.

The building I work in is 36 stories high and it is completely possible and actually very normal to not see one of your co-workers for the entire year, even people sitting on your floor can be sight unseen for weeks at a time and that can be good or bad (George I'm talking about you here). I have spent days where I don't see my boss for the entire day, even though he sits just down the hall from me. This is part of the reason to call, not write, or maybe even show up and say hello - get to know these folks, these co-worker people.
Do It Now.

So I have it all mapped out. It's in my notebook which means it's noted, I guess, not that I ever really follow through with those notes, I don't even know why I take notes, because I never ever look at them, mostly because I can't read my own handwriting half the time. I can read the doodles though, I'm quite good at doodling and have become a master at creating my own secret little acronyms in my notebook - my favorite is
wtfayta which is What The Fuck Are You Talking About - as I am often lost at what people are trying to communicate in this high tech land, using high tech lingo that is mostly incomprehensible high tech gobbledygook. But, back to the point, I'll stop this year, because, as I said, this is the year of do it now and call don't write and I'm adding no doodling and pay attention. So do it now, call don't write, no doodling and pay attention. DINCDWNDAPA my new acronym. I am committed, I'm ready. Bring it on.