Saturday, May 15, 2010

Job, part 25

We had our departmental meeting a few days after the company meeting. Nothing new.

S talked briefly about the financial aspects of the company. Then we had a mind-numbing talk from head the of marketing where she said the same thing as she said at the company meeting, only took longer and spoke slower. It was all I could do to stay awake.

After that P took over.

So nothing has changed. As previously mentioned, and as expected, P has free rein and still runs the department. S is totally hands off these days.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Job, part 24

We had our company meeting finally. Looks like financially things are starting to look a little better. More sales. I knew things have been on the upswing because for the last month and a half, they have been spending money.

Announced at the meeting was some good news for employees. 401K matching will be coming back, although at half the previous rate; it was hinted that if things improve, it could get back to the previous level.

Bonuses were mentioned, and there may be some without waiting for the fiscal year end. Maybe on a quarterly or half-year basis. Not clear.

Also, stock options for employees. Sounds good. There have always been options for the upper management. So after some years of complaints, it was announced the employee options will be initiated. However (and this is the kick in the stomach), only for the top 25%, the "high performers."

On the one hand, why shouldn't only the high-performers get options? Makes sense, right?

Well, it doesn't to me. It tells the other 75% of the company that they aren't worth it, and shouldn't bother working there. I suppose in sales it might make sense. You can always gauge performance by the numbers. But for the rest of the company, it often does come down to politics.

What they should do, in my view, is give everyone something, after that go for performance. Otherwise, since 75% won't make the privileged level of the other 25%, it's not worth being there.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Job, part 23

In the last week, I have had a tremendous turn-about in my attitude. It came about because of a turn-about in my thinking.

I started to look at what people do, not at what they say. And... BOOM! It was like an eye-opening revelation to see the difference.

Usually, when a person's deeds and actions do not match, the difference creates an imbalance that becomes either tension, stress, anxiety or some other discomfort. That discomfort is taken on, in most cases, by those who are the recipient of the person's deeds and words.

And so it was with me. I had heard nice words from S and from T, but there was also the actions of P who basically sidelined me. P's actions did not correlate with the nice words from S and T. And since P has all the power in the department, and runs it as he sees fit, I was left with trying to normalize actions and deeds that did not fit with each other. All I was left with was the discomfort as a result of the disconnect.

Somehow I was expecting eventually things would work out. But I see now that all those nice words did for me was to postpone and divert me from seeing the reality.

Once I decided to look at what was being done, and not focus on what was said, everything became clear.

It was and is so liberating to see so clearly. Sometimes it is frighteningly liberating. I felt and feel strong, I felt and feel much more in charge of myself and my life. And I also feel no compunction to do what is best for me. It is slow going in this economy, but it is possible. I am starting to get some positive response to my search.

It will be painful to leave, there are some I really feel wonderful to work with. All told for both periods of time, it has been sixteen years. That is a long time. But, for me, I see nothing improving. I've waited a year and a half.

I can imagine being asked: "But, why?" and I can hear myself respond: "You are asking the wrong question. The right question is 'what took you so long'?" And then I can laugh.

If pressed, I can add: "Take away a man's ability to contribute, and make a difference, and his responsibility and authority, stick him in the corner sidelined, and what do you expect?"

Job, part 22

Company meeting scheduled for this week was postponed again. This is the fourth time it has been postponed. Wouldn't sound good to me if someone from another company told me this story.

So it is doubtful a department meeting will be held this week as well.

We need to wait until after the Board of Directors meeting for a company meeting; now it is scheduled for two weeks from now.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Job, part 21

More layoffs last week.

That was the third round. Previous one was about a year ago. Since the company fiscal year ended the week before, it rhymes. I am beginning to think they will continue on a regular basis, even if business improves; probably because (a) it improves the 'revenue per employee' number (which is a farce statistic), and (b) outsourcing continues unabated.

The reason I believe the revenue per employee number means nothing is that with use of 'consultants' and with increased use of outsourcing, the use of manpower has not decreased, in fact it probably increased if the headcount of all the consultants and personnel at the outsourcing vendor is taken into account.

This time the word is that five people were let go, none at the local office.

Earlier in the day, P, now a VP, stopped by my office and let me know since T would be out of the office for more than a week on a business trip, they asked me to do a certain task which would occur probably later the following week or the Monday following. Later when I heard about the layoffs I understood that the layoffs would not include me, because if I was to be included, he wouldn't have asked me to plan to do a certain task a week or more later.

Last year the company imposed a wage freeze, because of the worsening economic situation. Salaries were frozen except for promotions. Well you can image what happened: a slew of promotions were immediately announced. And there were more immediate promotions within a very short time than had been announced over several years. That included P being promoted to a VP.

During this past year, P imposed the Agile methodology for software development. Much has been said and written about Agile, and I won't barf all over you about it here. This transition has not been simple, has not been very successful, and still not complete. Needless to say, since the change from my being a manager to something else, I am still under-utilized. I still have few things to do, and am asked to do things that previously I managed and supervised others who did these tasks.

This week the company president will give a talk. I do not expect much from the overall company meeting. The CEO, who constantly speaks about EBITDA and whose first name is David, for most of us is now named "David Ebitda." A few euphemisms and buzzwords will be said and heard. Talk about financial conditions will be made. Will raises be reinstated? Will 401K matching be reinstated? Will equity ever be made available to employees? All questions of which there are questionable possibilities they will be addressed.

Word is that the senior VP, S, might also call a Development meeting after the company meeting. The only thing that intrigues me about this possible meeting is the amount of time and subject matter that S might address compared to the amount that P might address. In last year's meeting, S expanded somewhat on the company financial picture that the CEO had just give in the company meeting earlier that morning. But he did not speak at all about the department, and left all departmental management and operations to P and P's talk. Since S has almost completely removed himself from running the department, P is left to do as he pleases. So will this continue? It all remains to be seen how this department meeting is run. If it happens at all.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Death, part 2

It's been almost a year. I did not know what to expect about the effect of my father's passing away, and it has been a year. I functioned, and did what I would have normally done in the past year. But I retreated from writing here, and only now can I see the major reason was my reaction to the loss of my father.

When I groan I hear the sound of my father's voice, when I look in the mirror I see his face. I am who I am, and in many ways I am him.

We are where we come from. I can point to many things that are different; he and I were so different in so many easy to define ways. But yet we are the same in so many underlying and unobvious ways too. Is there a difference between us? Yes and No. Which means, of course, not much.

Nothing like the death of someone close to you to bring one's own mortality into close focus.... How many years do I have left. How will it go, how will it end. All sorts of unknowable questions. All unknowable answers.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Job, part 20

More layoffs this week.

This was the second round. The first having been about six or seven months ago. (That means that October could be the next phase.)

The usual reason was given, the state of the economy.

But it was large group. Based on my estimate, 15% of the staff were let go. Some of the people had been with the company 13 years or more.

And this was the second round. Back in the fall when the first wave hit, I did not think to try to find out how many were laid off then. Wish I had, just to compare, and to be conscious of the state of the company.

Do I feel surprised I am still there? In some ways, I am. Being 'demoted' from manager, not being in the direct line of command, being placed in a role more like that of an advisor... with all of this, I feel like a fifth wheel. But I guess I still am seen as useful. So far.

On the other hand, I don't want to minimize what impact layoff may have to those directly affected, but having just been to my father's funeral puts things in a different perspective.

Death, part 1

My father passed away last week.

It was not unexpected. He was 89 and suffering from lung cancer and was declining rapidly in recent weeks, losing weight and losing the ability to move around. About ten days before he died, his doctor told him it was only a matter of a few days. Two or so days later, the visiting hospice person said he has a week left. And so he did die a week later.

He was conscious and alert almost to the end. About three days before he died he spoke with my sister by phone. He lived and died without fear. I never heard him say anything that indicated he had any fear about dying or death. I can say: he knew what was happening, and he was ready.

Once I got the call from my sister, I rushed home. It took an hour or so to make reservations for planes, hotel, and rental car, and another day to get across the country.

Despite all the frantic efforts I made the week before he died to verify the arrangements he said he had made, the funeral went off without hindrance.

I spoke a brief eulogy at the funeral. Of two things I am glad. One, I had thought about it for a few weeks prior to his death so I wasn't flummoxed, and Two, I wrote it down. I had been confident I could say it without putting it on paper, but an hour or two prior to the funeral, I wrote it down. I am glad I did as at the funeral I became upset, and if I had not written it down I am not sure I could have said everything I had planned to, or anything at all.

What can you say at a funeral? What can you say at your father's funeral? The only things one can say are to mention some things about his life, talk about some of the things he taught me, and then thank him for his teaching. And then to say goodbye.

It is a difficult moment to watch one's father's coffin being lowered into the ground.

We are born, we live, and then we die. That's the way it is. We focus so much on the first two and most of our lives ignore the third. I suppose I speak the truth when I say that the older one gets, the more the reality of the third comes into focus.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fear, part 1

Some years back, after I was living in California about a year, I was working in a very unstable company, and wanted to find a new job. Someone I had met at a temporary job a few months earlier set up a telephone introduction for me with a woman he knew who might have an opening at her company.

When I called her, she thought it would be a good idea if we met to talk. So she asked, "Would you like to get together for dinner, or tea?"

I was stunned at my reaction to that question. Before I could reply, I knew something about myself.

I said "Tea," and we made a time to meet a few days later.

But before I got the word "tea" out of my mouth, I realized why I would be answering "tea." I would be answering "tea" out of fear. I was unsure of myself, unsure who she was, and I was clearly (in my mind, at the time) not going to be able to handle a formal/official 'business dinner' (whatever that is).

In that reply, I instinctively knew I had been living my entire life in terms of fear. With many fears to choose, I made most efficient use of the ones I gravitated to, I was comfortable navigating the world with my fears, and held them close. I never went anywhere without them. It was the reason I did everything that I did, it was the reason I didn't do everything that I didn't do.

(As it was, I met with that person over tea. She turned out to be as plain and uninteresting as I. Needless to say, no job came of out that interaction. )

From that experience, I decided to investigate my fear[s]. What was it? How did it work? What could I do about it? I spent many hours and many days considering my fears, looking at how it manifested in my life, and its origins.

After some time, determined to not let fear run my life, or at least my entire life, I became determined to confront it.

I decided to understand what were my worst fears.

More thinking followed.

I came to understand that my two greatest fears were: one, getting married, and two, jumping out an airplane.

At the time there was no specific immediate possible spouse on the horizon, so confronting that item was put on hold.

Determined to do things I was fearful of, I pulled out the yellow pages and looked up skydiving. A few weeks later, off to skydiving class I went.

And that is how I happen to make eight skydiving jumps. (Skydiving is another story in and of itself.)

Among other things, to skydive, one must confront one's fear of death. Perhaps there are those that do decide to jump but do not look at the possibilities that can occur. But I was not one of them. Skydiving may or may not be dangerous from a statistical point of view or when compared to other activities, but for me, it was an ever-present possibility.

And so, the first time I boarded the airplane to take my first jump, and on all subsequent jumps, I thought to myself, 'well, one never knows, and although it is not likely, if something does happen, it will happen.' And I was willing to do what I had signed up for.

It was exhilarating. But that first jump was with an instructor. It was the subsequent ones, solo jumps from the plane, that were as significant or more so. These were the ones where I needed to jump from the plane on my own, getting myself to the ground all alone.

Skydiving had a long lasting effect upon me. Many times, when I found myself potentially cornered by a hesitancy, or a fear, or a reluctance to take something on, I would catch myself by saying, "wait a minute! I jumped out of airplanes. This is nothing compared to that." And I would be able to easily move forward.

I have no opinion about anyone else and skydiving. It was just something I used. It was effective for me in helping me see my fears more clearly, and confront them. And that I could do something about it.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Job, part 19

How to advance in your career by taking over your department and ruin the careers of others.

Assuming you don't mind being a Macchiavelli to get ahead.

Here are a set of guidelines to achieve your goal, including...

-- How to eliminate competition in the workplace.

How to marginalize all threats to your power.

-- How to neutralize employees in current positions of authority, responsibility or power.

-- How to sideline those who might be competitive or those who could pose a threat to you.

(Needless to say, I am not advocating the behavior described here. I am detailing how it was done. You can easily deduce whom this describes from the events in previous posts.

You may have in your organization someone as described here. Be aware and beware. People like this destroy the careers of others, and in so doing destroy companies.)

OK, here it is. Suppose you are hired into a position of some authority, such as a manager.

Your goal is to advance. This means undoubtedly increase your responsibilities and authority, but also it means increasing your power. You realize it also mean that you must eliminate threats to your power and your plans.

Your realize that normally people think that eliminating competition means removing or circumventing those above you who might stand in your way of advancing, but that is not the half of it. You know that before you can advance you must neutralize those below you who pre-date you and are in positions of authority or responsibility; these are the ones who present a more immediate danger to your goals and organizational plans. Without their compliance, your efforts will not be sustainable; you determine must remove them from their current roles.

You really don't care about the work or relationships that existed before your arrival; your goal is to make yourself the top of the heap.

How can you do it all?

- Remain sociable with everyone, even those you are seeking to eliminate. Do not act hostile or abrogate. This does not mean you must ingratiate yourself, but never behave in a manner that would reveal your intentions.

- Kiss up to those above you. Needless to say, shamelessly complement their plans and activities.

- Seek a sign of status. Get a bigger office. Can you get someone moved out of a corner office so you can move in? Relate to your boss that, in order to do your job, you need to be seen as someone in authority.

- Remind those who pre-date your arrival that you are in a position of power, but only do this in certain ways.
For example, never outright demean them, but in meetings periodically find something small about one of them to joke about in a ridiculing way that appears to be simple and innocent joking around; never more than one person per meeting. Rotate this attention among all who pre-date you, and randomize it so it never appears a constant.
Another example, when possible, in group meetings summarize conversations you have had with higher ups about corporate plans and strategy. Be careful not to sound like you are lording your relationships over your employees; just consistently remind them you have an 'in' with the powerful.

- Develop reorganization plans that include you and your projects in the center, of course couching everything in terms of corporate strategy.

- When resources are needed, hire people you have worked with before. When at all possible, circumvent the normal hiring process to be able to hire some as consultants who work at home. Of course, these are people you have worked with before; they would be loyal to you, have no prior ties to the organization, and have much less contact with the on-site staff.

- Particularly helpful when hiring loyalists is to include project managers. To avoid appearance of duplication of the work of current employees in that role, these project managers are hired to assist in implementing according to your reorganization plans.

- Take under your wing all new hires hired after your arrival. Take them out to lunch, invite them to 'think' sessions; do not include employees who were there before you. These newer employees, knowing you as a leader, will grow loyal to you. It also distances them from the employees who predate you.

- Include in your reorganization plans and strategies to "reduce personnel costs" and "get economies of scale" by outsourcing work off shore. Of course and not surprisingly, the outsource company is one you have worked with before. (One of the larger benefits, to you, of this aspect is to instill a sense of instability and an uncertain future to the staff at large. Feelings of uncertainty in the staff is a good thing from your point of view, it allows your power to be more critical; pleasing you could be seen as a way to survive.)

- To avoid suspicion, you initially determine that your pet project should be outsourced. Later in reviewing strategy, you subsequently determine that it would be more efficient that other projects should be outsourced, your project is "too complex" and "too central to our corporate future" to be outsourced.

- How to make an organization in your image:
(a) In your reorganization plans for the department, you determine all the skills needed for each position, and you also look at each person in the department and assess their skills.

(b) Reviewing the personnel available and the skills needed to implement your plans, you especially focus on employees in current positions of authority, responsibility or power who are in your department but pre-date your arrival, including those below you in the hierarchy you wish to marginalize. (Let's call these employees you wish to sideline as "Victims".)

(c) Find ways to determine that these Victims are the ones who are the cause of whatever problems you are determine need to be fixed, and be sure your upper management knows of your 'findings'.

(d) Find strong skills that each Victim has that will complement your reorganization plans but removes them from their current power center, and avoids them creating a new power center. This is usually most easily accomplished by finding a technical skill for them to concentrate on, as apposed to a managerial skill.

(e) To an extent possible, those technical skills you wish to assign to Victims will be those that potentially could be outsourced in the future (which would place those Victims in more of an uncertain state).

(f) Based on market conditions, these technical skills that you wish Victims to concentrate on would cause them to be overpaid. You wish to make them feel comfortable for the time being, and even make the new situation inviting; but of course it is unsettling since they too know they would be overpaid. This is a good situation for you: having Victims feel comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. Your initial goal is not cost savings, but getting them away from their power center[s]. Later, once they have settled into their new roles and your organization plans are more firmly in place, you have the opportunity to quietly bring up to your boss that, well, these Victims are overpaid, and in view of the many outsourced roles, expenses could be saved by a more judicious use of resources, etc.

(g) Be sure to get ambiguous and coded phrases into people's performance reviews. Phrases like "cautious about change" is one sure to warm the heart of a CEO looking where to cut staff.

(h) When the next planning session occurs, conveniently leave these Victims out of the main set of your plans, always include them only in peripheral areas.

- Determine how you wish the entire development process to be done. Do this without input from anyone below you. At the next all-hands meeting in which either major strategy changes and/or budget constraints are announced by your boss, include a segment in which you present your development process plan without requesting or accepting discussion or feedback; it becomes a fait accompli because everyone is focused on the previously announced strategy/budget news.


So there you have it. A detailed description of what one person has done and continues to do and the havoc he continues to wreck on those around him.



Friday, March 13, 2009

Job, part 18

Employment, self.

With all the unsettledness and turmoil around, with all the ambiguity of my new role, with the unclarity and lack of clear direction on what I am expected to do, it has become difficult at times to focus on daily tasks. With no clear responsibility for product release, many times I am just puzzled what to do next, and I end up sometimes doing very little.

This situation is extremely draining and demoralizing. (Sometimes I wonder if that's the plan; namely to whittle some of us down.)

I have come to listing daily what I do work on in a notebook. While normally I keep a notebook at work as a place-keeper for facts I would need to remember: decisions we are told about, telephone numbers, part numbers, dates for expected events, etc., in recent months it has become more about listing the tasks I do everyday, as a reminder in the potential situation I am asked what I did recently. Sad, isn't it.

So, in all, there have been times at the end of the day, when I wonder what I did accomplish that day. I knew I was being and doing, but what was accomplished?

Thinking this thorough, since I find myself in this situation, also known as 'circling the drain', I realize I must change something if I want different results.

So I came to realize I need to find things I want to accomplish, and list them, and then start accomplishing them. What better way to feel like I am accomplishing something useful every day than if I accomplish something everyday I determined was useful. And list those things in a notebook as I work on them and as I complete them.

Since I am still employed, what better way items to include on that list but skills that I would want to have should I need to look for work.

So I have begun to rescue myself.


Job, part 17

So now it has come much clearer that P, the main department director, has slowly taken over the world and made it his. In his about three years since he has arrived, he has managed to do the following:
- get put in charge of all product development
- get the corner office, displacing his boss S, the departmental VP
- marginalize all other managers and directors who preceded him in the department
- get former associates hired, and reporting to him
- push the accomplishments of those hired under his auspices, solidifying his power
- initiate outsourcing of much company operations
- initiate outsourcing of these company operations to an outsourcing company he had dealt with in a previous position (does this sound a little too cozy, and suspicious to you, too?)
- get most major products on the track of being entirely outsourced, all except the one product that is his pet project.
- determined how and what the development process will be for the next new product

What made it possible is the slowness in which it happened, slow enough that no one stood up and noticed. Now, things have moved so far, that it is not clear what could happen to pull back from the precipice. Assuming, however, that anyone actually sees these things clearly enough.

When P was interviewing, S held a meeting with a number of us to discuss P. At the time, S said that what he was adamant about was to avoid hiring someone (I'm paraphrasing as I don't recall his exact words) who 'would demand a large office and have people come in to kiss his ring.' Now I can't speak about ring kissing, but what P did eventually accomplish was to complain about his needing a larger office, get renovations to occur, and move S so he (P) could take the corner location.

I cannot say whether S recalls that meeting, nor if most others who were there do. I do know one person who does, but like myself, has been marginalized as well.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Belief, part 4. Death and life

Life, death.

I recently left a comment at Random Thoughts asking Stuart his view on knowing death when I'm dead. The reason I asked him was because I recently watched some You Tube video of him describing a movie he had seen (Zen Noir) in which a man had an exchange with a zen master:

Man: What happens when we die?
Zen master: Don't know.
Man: Why not?
Zen master: Not dead yet.

So, I asked Stuart, if, when I die, would I know what being dead was?

His reply certainly raises other questions. "If it happened once it can happen again," but that doesn't mean it will.

On the other hand, some things are only meant to happen once. Imagine someone saying: "I don't know what is wrong with this match, it worked just fine a minute ago."

Not that I mind one way or the other. I was just wondering what the zen master might perceive once he did die. Would he perceive death?

I suppose he could, given one's interpretation of 'perceive.'

But my meaning is more along the lines of, would I know I was dead (like sometimes someone can perceive that they are dreaming). I guess maybe I would have to find out when I get there.

From the viewpoint of being alive, we usually think death is like when a computer gets powered off. Nothing happens, no awareness, unable to respond. But since we haven't been there with the same awareness with which we have had when we are alive, and probably won't when the time comes, we cannot know it in the same way we know we are alive.

There are infinite possibilities, too. There are plenty of stories, hypotheses, belief systems, etc., about that state. Since all purport to be the truth but all contradict each other, should we even pay attention to them?

If we consider death similar to what we are before we are alive, as in Stuart's post, then we must first question who or what we are before we were born.

In some systems, people are said to be reborn. For me, if I cannot remember a previous life, what good is it to be reborn? If I cannot remember a previous life, what difference does it make if I was alive in a previous lifetime or not?

(Continued, maybe.)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Job, part 16

We had our departmental meeting today.

No major surprises regarding personnel shifting. We heard a general outline of plans. It was much less concrete than what I had seen in the planning document last week. But generally follows the same plan. What was said was a vague description of the essence, with some hedging. Makes me think that the plan I saw might have been a recommendation rather than the decision.

One item of interest was that S, the department VP, who ran the meeting, gave the floor to P, a department director, for part of the meeting. P outlined his plan on how product design and implementation will happen. Lots of boxes and arrows.

It was a familiar rehash of so many planning exercises, that I almost had no reaction, like looking at a white wall. It registers as a wall, and as a white one, but aside from that, not much. All the planning is wonderful, there is no substitute for determining how real things work in the real world.

P's part of the presentation, design and implementation procedures, was nothing new, but since it is his, he was enthusiastic about it. I always get the impression he thinks his job is to make everything right in his way, and ignores all the travails everyone has gone though, and the paths we have tried and come back from. Since his consideration is what counts in his mind, there is no other way, and what went before has no meaning or value.

Additionally, it always seems P focuses on and presses forward with those he has hired or has played a part in hiring, and looks way from those who preceded him. P manages up well, but.

It sometimes is harder to get a read S, the department VP. It almost seemed that he spent the entire meeting looking at and addressing the phone, for those dialed into the meeting from the remote offices. So I got the impression he was not necessarily happy with the decisions he must carry out, but has not choice. Perhaps I am giving him more credit than he deserves. [I think I have done so in the past; sometimes I ascribe a more benign motivation to him than reality would normally demand.] But I think he realizes, as some others will soon begin to realize, that this is where people will start to consider leaving.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Belief, part 3. The purpose and use of Anger

At one time or another, I have heard that the purpose of anger is to let you know what is important to you.

Not a bad explanation. It is not always obvious the real reason someone gets angry, in our world it is often something other than the loudest words being shouted. In fact, it is usual that people respond to anger by attempting to perceive a different reason for the anger than that which is stated. And perhaps it often is.

First, let's consider where some anger comes from. In the situation I am considering at present, anger comes from the my realization of my lack of progress. You know: procrastination, passivity, lack of movement, ennui.

My best understanding why a state like that is initially tolerable and is accepted, is this quote:

"... all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

Once the suffering-by-doing-nothing reaches intolerable levels, then anger arises. Hence, a purpose or use can then be seen with the anger: it provides energy and motivation for change.

(Continued, hopefully.)

Belief, part 2. Belief about myself

I was reading through some blogs recently, and on one particular one I was struck by someone who talked all about the risk he and his wife went through to start their own business, and how difficult it was for him, for prior to that he was very resistant to making waves to take risks.

So while I was reading through this, I came to some understanding about myself. To succeed, one needs to step outside one's comfort zone, because if one didn't take any risk, one would have the same result as yesterday's effort, which was not much.

So why was I not moving forward? Why was I resistant to change?

In recent years, I had come to a place where I was comfortable, and my main hope was that things remained stable. I had not done poorly, and I had thought that if things maintained their status quo, I would be ok. I didn't need a breakout on the upside if the slow trajectory of current improvement continued.

Responsibility for maintaining complex code that depends on a changing environment placed me in a position to always play 'catch-up', and hoping for more stability.

And I had put a lot of energy and effort in seeing the world that way. It wasn't always that way; when I was younger I was a willing risk-taker, but as I got older, things started to slow down. Was it because I had a few things, and thus in a meager attempt to keep them I would hope things wouldn't be at risk? Probably.

So I behaved in my work world as well. For example, in my role I had occasion to collect many items no longer usable to others, and often when someone was looking for an older piece of hardware, they would come to ask me. When I found that I had what they were looking for, I would say with glee, "Never throw anything out."

I could easily justify my attitude. Major sweeping changes usually overlooked some important aspect of what got done, and I would often be the lucky recipient of needing to adjust many things when that happened. I had my hands in much code that would need to be revamped, procedures that needed to be revised, methodology that would need to be replaced. Such major changes were to be avoided if possible, as I tried to hold back the tide.

I became a repository of the past. Including of how things got done. In my job evaluation, my manager included that I was 'cautious about change.' I certainly was, and was initially pleased with that description, but later came to be uncomfortable as I realized it was code words for 'resistant to change.'

My attitude revealed itself in may ways: keeping old hardware, trying to keep too much change from swamping my group's operations, not keeping up with some of the more recent technologies. Maybe not so critical individually if I contributed in other major areas. But I can see how I resisted so much.

In my position, I am paid to look for problems and report them. So it is natural to find problems, it was what was expected of me. Yet, without hesitation, I could find them in almost any and all situations. Not always a smart career move.

But it is not with the job only that I see conflict now, it is in the wider world as well. Moving slower in a faster world, expecting less change in a world of increasing complexity, holding on to the present with little vision of change for the future... all are a limiting perspective.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Job, part 15

From time to time, I stumble across information that may not have been intended for my eyes. It was not something I went out of my way to uncover. Someone left some planning documents in a public place; my perception is that they should not have done that. I don't know who did it, all I know is I saw it.

This kind of thing is probably not uncommon in many offices. I would guess it depends partially on the size of the company and how things are organized for that to happen.

The document was a chart of planned headcount, per quarter, for the current quarter and the next fiscal year, for the various projects in our extended department. Needless to say, it was interesting.

Of course, there is no guarantee that what is planned will actually happen, and of course there is the remote possibility that this document is purposely false. I doubt the latter, and totally familiar with the former.

It showed no changes in total headcount for the group I am in. That tells me that, according to this document, no layoffs are planned.

Needless to day, things could always deteriorate unexpectedly, and--poof!, it could all be gone. But it is nice to see that they aren't planning to let people go.

What it did show were three interesting facts. Firstly, it showed the how personnel will be shifted from some projects to others. Secondly, it showed no increase in department headcount. Thirdly, it showed a large increase in outsource company headcount.

It only showed numbers of personnel on projects, not the names of who would be moved where. That will be interesting when it happens.

This confirms what I had heard: putting some products in maintenance mode and then transferring the maintenance of these products to the outsource company, and it also confirms the decision to put most internal company resources into the as-yet-unreleased product currently under development.

There are precious few in the office with whom I can share this information. Discretion of course is utmost. I do know whom I can trust.


Needless to say, there are some problems immediately obvious with such a strategy. The transition necessary to take large complex products and place them on an outsource company to maintain and issue bug fixes takes quite a bit of doing and significant resources within our company. From what I see in that document, that is not accounted for.

Secondly, doubling the headcount at an outsource company to handle more products without commensurate support back in our company will only place a larger burden on those who are tasked with supporting the outsource company. From the looks of the document, a too-rosy an expectation has been painted of what it would take to do all of this.

Lastly, the two major products planned for transferring maintenance to the outsource company are at this moment undergoing their final months of development prior to release. While transfer to the outsource company is planned subsequent to their release, that is normally the time when almost as much activity occurs compare to prior to release. Post-release add on features, features that did not make it into the released version, customer crises, important bug fixes, etc., all happen just after the product is released. To expect transfer to the outsource company at that time significantly increases risk of not being able to provide support and bug fixes that customers expect when they first install and get the system up and running.

So, we'll see.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Job, part 14

Buzzwording. (Did I make up a new word?)

On a call today with my manager, G, he said, "The closeout I had with so-and-so today on this was..."

One that has become much more common in recent years is, "The take away I got from that was..." referring not to food (take away/take out) but more along the lines of 'What I learned from that was...'

New buzzwording (there it is again!) always jars the ears the first time I hear it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Job, part 13

The CEO talk this morning did not have any major announcements. Mostly about how we're holding up despite the general economy.

The requisite number of corporate buzzwords were heard. Periodically, new ones enter the atmosphere, and today was no exception. Imagine using "ramp" as a verb to mean getting people up to speed. Or using "on board" as a verb to mean, well, getting people on board, as in the hiring process. Would all make an English major cringe, no doubt.

[Let's try this out.
"We've been on-boarding successfully now in that department..."
"We have put a lot of effort into on ramping new hires..."

I'm expecting any major news for our department to come Monday with the departmental meeting. Actually, I think we'll hear some of it then, and either immediately prior or shortly thereafter, G, my manager will say something. It would be then that a fuller extent of what they are doing will become known.

During the CEO's talk, he did show some financial information. Not being a specialist in financial spreadsheets, I do not grasp all significances of what I saw. But I did see that while things have declined somewhat given the economy, they do not appear to be severely impacted. And the pipeline of deals in the making seemed healthy. So it would appear that things are fairly stable.

He did allude to various organizational changes, but nothing specific; many had been previously announced in the prior weeks. I assume more will be revealed.

So while I had expected some real news, there were no fireworks.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Job, part 12

Tomorrow morning at 9am the CEO will hold an all-company conference call.

So I assume this will be the major announcement of the changes. In the past, there were actually three calls, allowing many people in many time zones to hear it for themselves. And it seemed from the announcement about three weeks ago that this time there would be at least two. But when the official word came out today with the call-in numbers, there was only one time. And the tone of the email, from one of the underlings at the corporate headquarters, seemed to be a little more strident than usual.

In the last week, there have been a spate of announcements, mostly from Marketing about people and positions. These persons have left, those persons have new responsibilities, etc. I take this as the puffs of smoke signalling an imminent volcanic eruption from the main lava flow.

The CEO talk tomorrow morning will be followed by the departmental meeting on Monday morning at 9am. The announcement of that talk is to be accompanied by a set of slides, probably displaying corporate words, and possibly even a new org chart. It all remains to be seen.

But with two of the rainmakers (my manager G being one of them, and the other being P, the major director of development) going to be at the same time at another of one of the development offices tomorrow, assumedly there will be some fallout there that affects that location specifically.

I doubt layoffs will occur this week, at least at my location. You never know, and as always, one needs to have one's resume up to date.

The Monday departmental meeting will be of much more significance to me and those around me than tomorrow's CEO meeting. It will directly affect everyone in our location.

An extremely telling event is that it appears that the outsource company's employees will be listening in on the CEO's conference call. This is astounding and beyond belief. In the normal world, this would never happen. It feels as if the company is giving itself away. What makes anyone want to trust the lifeblood of the company to outside interests. It feels like being in this company is like living in the last days of Pompeii. And that someone or a group wishes to open company wounds to permanent leeches.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Job, part 11

Maybe there's a plan, but it gets really weirdly annoying when G sends requests for information to either MK or I but not both. If MK is now supposed to be the lead in the group for the particular product G is asking about, why does G go to me sometimes, even without copying MK?

G's organization plan, which has been in effect for some months now, has finally become a partially visible. The latest org chart as posted by HR has everyone who reported to me in the past now reporting to him, except one person is still reporting to me. This is also weird, and bordering on embarrassing.

Part of me wants to let him know that the way it is depicted probably is not what he intends, and if no one is to report to me, then my name should be listed just like everyone else's is. On the other hard, I feel I should not bother, it is his place to make or change how it looks, it is his responsibility to make things look the way he wants. Thus, I want to believe that the way it looks now (i.e., weird) reflects more on him than anyone else.

It falls into the same kind of area I have been wondering about previously; about just doing what is the work in front of me and going home at the end of the day, and letting all other things just fall where they may. And that org chart would fall into the 'all other things' category.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Job, part 10


Got out of having to attend a meeting today. Last week when my manager was in town (G is in our office about one week a month), he asked me to attend a meeting with him. (He also asked MK to come with us.) Turns out there is a director's level meeting about a product release plan. It is something I would have been invited to regularly attend had it been meeting say, a year or more ago. But that was then. Since much reorganization has occurred since then, albeit slowly, and I have been sidelined from such things, that was the first time I had heard of or attended this particular meeting.

So today was the next scheduled meeting, and when MK told me he was scheduled to attend, I ran to my computer to check, and lo and behold, I had nothing scheduled. That was a relief.

I was not sure why G had asked me to attend that meeting with him last week. I was beginning to suspect he was angling to change my focus again and try to shift me back into a managerial role. But no, that is not to be.

On the one hand, I should not have been moved away from managerial work, but on the other hand I am now happier I am away from it, if only only because I feel freer to move on the further I am from what I had done in the past. The less I am involved with product production, the less attached I feel, and the less attached I feel, the easier it will be to make the break when the time comes.

So, perverse at it sounds, I am beginning to enjoy caring less. Infuriating and depressing as it is at times, at other times I feel a hundred pounds lighter. Like I could float through the day. I delude myself by saying that I am just not taking my daily work personally. I just do what's in front of me and then I go home, festering.

Later this week the CEO will give a quarterly conference call talk about the state of the company. That is pretty normal, but there have been a spate of reorganizational announcements in other departments lately, and following the CEO's talk by about a day there will be a meeting for all of Development. I can only assume that some changes will be announced.

Since I am below (or perhaps better said: I am off) the radar nowadays, I don't feel there is much for me to be concerned about in the short run.

At times, I sometimes do hear of plans or directions before they are announced, owing to my prior position. I cannot be sure what will be announced at the meeting, but I suspect it will be about plans to move some products to maintenance mode, and put the emphasis on a new product currently in development. For better or worse (mostly worse, in my view), this new product that is under development is quite a ways off in terms of release. It has been going through design for some time, and parts and pieces are being developed, but as an overall product is nowhere near ready.

But my guess as to what will be announced is simply that, a guess. It could be some things completely different. I'll know by the end of the week.

I'm expecting that the plan will be too aggressive. The fallout will be as follows:
(a) the expectation of some current products to go into outsourced maintenance mode will not go well. We're just about to release a new version of one of these products, and with all the after-release new features desired, and post-release fixes needed, will be such that getting the outsource company up and able to maintain the product(s) will be way too complex and costly than expected.
(b) The currently new product under development will not be able to be released in its scheduled time with the desired features, as it is too ambitious.
(c) so, when revenue falls, the plan to move some existing products to maintenance mode will need to be backtracked upon.

The same thing happened some ten or more year ago in a previous incarnation of this company;
the desired sunsetting of an older product was put on hold (and everyone involved was whipsawed by the alternating decisions) because the new under-development product could not be completed easily--it was during that time that the incident of me questioning the then-company president occurred (see Job, part 3)


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Job, part 9

The economic news continues to get worse. Multi-thousands have already been laid off, the financial disasters of banks, companies, and in personal lives just seemingly continues to expand.

What is the individual to do? To this date, I am still employed. You never know, however. I could be let go Monday morning, or I could still be there years from now.

Certainly, for someone who still has work, the one main focus is to save money. Fortunately, aside from my mortgage, I have no debt. That is a relief. And I do have some savings.

Should the corporate meat-axe cut me off someday, use of my savings will be necessary until I might find a new position. I should really say, "... if I find a new position."

So, are my savings enough? The answer obviously is: if it doesn't run out before the next job happens, then yes it was enough. If it doesn't last until the next job, then, no, it wasn't enough.

When the company makes decisions on direction, employees follow. I am fully aware that a corporation is not a democracy. So when the word is "... this is a company direction" or "... the company has decided that the new policy is...", then we go along, for the most part.

While I may disagree, I have little power. I can complain and raise my concerns to a certain degree, but after a point, diminishing returns set in. One can easily be seen as a hindrance, and thereby land in the 'high-maintenance' category, or a labelled troublemaker, readying oneself for the next lay-off action. And not being independently wealthy, I am beholden to my employer whomever that might be.

I have the choice to seek another employer if I disagree with some policy or decision. Of course, there is zero guarantee that the next situation will be any better then the previous one.

So prudence dictates that, should I become irreconcilable with company policy, I keep a low enough profile to avoid being kicked out to the wolves before I am ready to leave on my own accord.

All the while, however, should I disagree majorly with some corporate policies but decide to stay put, am I living a life of a lie?

Some years ago, there was an article in a publication that berated some who worked in the tobacco industry (if I recall correctly) with the title 'The Mortgage Made Me Do It." Meaning, the desire to pay the mortgage trumped reason and doing the right thing. Do I want to keep my head down, get paid, not make waves, all along disagreeing with what the company I work for is doing and as well wishing I could be somewhere else?

The battles over outsourcing have been fought for a long time, but they continue to reverberate. What to do when the corporate goal is to have 50% of staff outsourced from overseas? Ostensibly the goal is being met by hiring at the outsourcing company as opposed to laying off 50% of current employees, but that is not totally true as layoffs occurred late last year as this policy was being into place, and I have a hard time believing that more layoffs are not coming. (OK, that last part, about my opinion, is just my opinion.)

And when I say "What to do..." I really mean, what should I be doing?


Friday, February 27, 2009

Job, part 8

I know I am not the first to face what I am facing in my job. Far worse has happened to others so why should I run my mouth? And possibly far worse is yet to happen to me too. One never knows.

From being a manager with all the responsibilities and authority, to now being primarily a proofreader of the outsource company's coders' output... it is a comedown and a letdown.

What affect does this have on me and those around me?

Aside from the loss of the items mentioned about (responsibilities and authority), it is a motivation killer and a morale damper.

[Now, where is that Exit sign?]


Thursday, February 26, 2009

What's the story with Belief?, part 1

While I am not surprised that humans have the urge to believe in a religion or related system, what does send me up the wall with astonishment is the need humans have to feel threatened by others' beliefs.

Why are so many threatened by what others believe?
Why should you care what I believe?
Why should I care what you or anyone believes?

Why is it so threatening that someone believes something else... that people seek ways to exterminate others and perpetuate the most heinous atrocities simply because someone has a different belief? It is so bizarre.

Try this one on for size... deep down people know that their own belief systems are invented, illogical by definition, and simply absurd. With the support of similar-minded others they can block out their own doubts. But when they encounter others who do not share in the same self-delusion, the entire construct is threatened. Hence the violent reaction towards the other; it's a mechanism to protect ones' own phantasmagorical deception.

And people have been willing to kill for it for thousands of years, and continue to do so. And will continue to do so. Makes you just weep.

I am reminded of that bumper sticker: "Dear God, protect me from your followers."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Job, part 7

Opportunities and promotions.

I see in the current company a similar condition that I have seen before elsewhere, and it is something that does not bode well.

When a company decides to grow or expand, upper management is faced with some of the decisions on how to do it, such as how to staff for it, etc. When newer managers decide that their best bet is to hire their former associates from previous jobs, it has a discouraging affect on long-term employees.

What happens is those that have been maintaining the company, those that have been producing the products, those with with the experience and the associations within the company, are now in a position to be superceded by these newer arrivals. These newer arrivals are placed over the current set of persons who are and have been doing the same jobs in the pre-expanded company.

While I can easily understand how it happens; a director says 'I'll hire so-and-so, he can do this job, he did it when he and I worked at the previous company, and I need someone who understands how to do such a thing in a company that wants to grow to the size we want to grow to...'

I don't begrudge any company or manager who wants to hire whomever. What I do understand, and want to point out, is that doing so, without giving the current employees a chance to grow into the larger role, only spreads discouragement and withdrawal.

Well, fine, you might say, let them be discouraged and withdrawn if they want, let them leave; we'll just get new people and fill the needed roles with them. I reply: if you have a company that depends on the technical experience and knowledge of long-term staff and by your actions you do bypass them and stuff the ranks above with your associates, you will lose them and their experience and your company will suffer.

When the VP called me and asked me to stay (see Job, part 2), he said he needed people he could count on. Well, I do, too. If we cannot count on the management to count on us, then why bother? 'Punch a clock and go home' might be an attitude some could live by, and many have, but it destroys job satisfaction and degrades the purpose of work.

The result of such policies has also been to top-heavy the organization with upper management, senior managers of this partnership or that initiative, while at the same time laying off workers and outsourcing many of the bread-and-butter positions overseas. As a result, conditions are good for a few, prospects are poor for most. Morale suffers, and politics takes more of the front seats in the organization; rewarding one's friends and stymying those whose histories predate one's ascent to power.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Job, part 6

It took about a year, but this week my manager, G, who has been my manager for about a year, and I had a conversation which took a turn where I think he began to admit he saw things now differently than he had thought.

He said he was reviewing some of the specifications and documents put in place for the production of the product currently in development, and he was talking about how, despite the advances the company had made in recent years towards standardization of these documents, there were still many things unclear and inconsistent even as requirements and expectations continually change (and schedules as well).

Then it hit him, and he said: How did you do this in the past when we didn't even have these documents?

I replied, I kept my ears to the ground.

Then he replied (here is the Aha moment): I have a new appreciation now for all you accomplished.

That was a big turnaround, as it always appeared that he considered all the issues surrounding my work to be minor, and any problems to be failings on my part. Now that he has his skin in the game, it looks like he has begun to see things differently. I hope.

For the past several months, since his reoganization that took me out of the role of direct manager, I have a indirect role in many of those things, and lately I have begun to (secretly) relish not being involved as much. Can I say I have taken a delight in not being in it? After all, I have told myself, that's what he wants (and I believed it to be true), so why not let him have a good time.

In the recent week, coincident with the conversation relayed above, I have begun to see him attempt to bring me back more into that line of work, if only at least by his speaking more to me about issues he is dealing with. Today, he requested I accompany him to a director-level meeting where the product status was discussed. (I had not been at this meeting previously.)

I saw this request of his to accompany him a slight hint that maybe he realizes he needs more support from people in his group than he previously thought he would need, that he is running into the kinds of problems I have over the years and, to whatever degree I handed it, I handled it successfully, and that he realizes perhaps he is not as well-equipped to solve all problems on his own as he might have thought.

So, we'll see.


Job, part 5

I was speaking to TK recently. He has a young child about three years old, and has been on a new job a year and a half.

Of course the conversation turned to the current economy and all the job loses.

He said, "I don't know what I would do if I lost my job."

I repeated a saying I had heard, "Nothing focuses the mind like the prospect of being hung in the morning."* With that, we had a good laugh.

My meaning is that the circumstances will force every one of us to face the reality of the whatever present is thrust upon us. Until we are faced with it, we often have the luxury of ignoring impending reality.

[*I finally looked up the origin of that quote, and the original is nothing like what I understood:
"Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." --James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson]

On the subject of employment, it often amazes me how different immigrants react to needing to survive and earn a living compared to many Americans born here. I count myself in the latter.

It sometimes appears that the vista of opportunities seem vaster, at least by what they accomplish, by immigrants. This is not to discount great things that have been done by non-immigrants, including many startups that have been launched and succeeded in recent years. But as a group, immigrants seem to perceive what opportunities there are and wrest accomplishments from them.

Maybe some advice would be to 'look at the world as if you're an immigrant'; it does sound a little familiar an idea.

So how does one go about looking at the world through new eyes?

So how does one go about looking at the world through new eyes without thinking (or needing to think) that one will be hung in the morning?

Or perhaps it might be a good idea to follow that thought... about being hung in the morning, at least to some degree. Namely, with a drive and a focus and a clarity that only heightened attention can bring, we might gain a perspective not otherwise in our grasp.

Now, I don't want to have to consider some possibilities, unemployment or being hung as examples. But being hungry (let's say, metaphorically 'hungry') can provide some benefit.

More than two decades ago when I lived in another city, I had a job with what was to me quite a large corporation, over 100,00 employees. (I won't get into a debate as to whether there is anything more soul-depleting and mind-numbing an experience as working for such a large company, but I am quite tempted.)

I was there for some seven years. After a time, I decided it was time to leave, and made arrangements for another line of work. Part of my decision was based on my perception that not only would I not be able to advance in that current company, but that there were no real opportunities for me within my grasp. When it was time to leave, I gave the standard two weeks notice.

Once I gave notice, I was able to come the office for those two weeks without the usual feelings regarding the the burden of working there, and it was then as if an iron visor had lifted from my vision, and I could finally see (I could use the word 'envision', I guess) many possibilities and opportunities there. It was an amazing experience to realize that it was my vision, my ability to see, that was the most limiting factor in my last period of time there.


Job, part 4

With all the poor economic new these days, part of me says 'don't even bother standing up for yourself, just hunker down and keep on earning money as long as you can.'

I'm not optimistic about how the economy will shake out in the short term. As much as I hope Obama can do wonders, I think things are way beyond any one's ability to move them in any direction in the short term; we just need to wait things out, and try not to damage ourselves in the short run.

In my situation, I feel torn in multiple directions. In terms of economic self-preservation, the aforementioned policy of don't make waves, just do your job, get paid, and just hope the economic meat-axe wont reach too deep when they need to cut next.

There's the side of wanting to stand up for myself, of taking care of my self-respect, that I find myself oddly expecting more of myself and willing to take more of a risk than I would have had all of this change of management organization hadn't taken place. Strange, huh?

This whole change or moving me from a managerial role into what I see as a single focused contributor had oddly left me with, among other things, a sense of freedom. Whereas previously I felt responsible for what felt like a long list of all sorts of things (I used to liken it to a circus acrobat with dozens of plates in the air), that has all changed, at least for now. Sometimes I want to laugh because of the weight that was lifted from me.

As a manager, I felt I had to keep tabs on those in my group, keep my ears to the group about news affecting people at my level and at my manager's level, be aware more or less what went on in various other groups in the office as much of what happened there affected my group, also I maintained the computer lab so there was all lab-related networking, software and hardware maintenance, keeping up with corporate news both internal political and IT-network events and plans, be aware of all sorts of upcoming changes in products, release dates, rumors, and also maintain older systems as they were always needed (I was frequently asked: "Do you have such-and-such a system? I need one because..."), and so on.

Now, it seems like I focus on one-tenth as much. While I did mention a while back that I probably am the person with the most experience doing the current work that I do, it is so far so relatively narrow compared with previously, that I feel I am daily missing something, like I accidentally forgot to take my left arm with me when I left home this morning.

One thing I can say, it does take me out of the direct line of fire. Sometimes I feel that might have been the plan in the first place. But I cannot say for sure, and I won't be asking anyway.

But being out of the line of fire also potentially means more expendable. As a result of all of this and my reaction to it, I have climbed a little higher on the 'high maintenance' scale. Does that make me more vulnerable in terms of potential layoffs? Probably, but it is too early to say how much. At the moment they have much more pressing matters to deal with.


Job, part 3

I'm not one to sugar coat my expectations of corporate behavior. I don't expect the best of people who run companies. They're in it to make money, for themselves and their owners. Everything else is a variable to be reckoned with.

Namely, employees are necessary, except when they're not (viz., outsourcing). Customers are a requirement, but often a pain in the ass and are to be so treated (read The Consumerist if you don't agree).

So, I feel the 'You Never Know' is a key to survival. That translates to: you never know what will happen next, so you'd best be always prepared. And what does it mean to 'be always prepared'?

To me, the first step is to always be emotionally prepared. In one job I had some years ago, someone I knew had a habit of saying, 'don't fall in love with a job, because it will never love you back.' (This person, who worked in marketing, once remarked after a product was completed, said: 'I got what I asked for, not what I wanted.')

Now, I'd be the first to admit that being emotionally prepared for everything and anything in the job world is pretty close to impossible. What I aim for is not to be too surprised, as there is no limit to what people or organizations will do.

Maybe always being prepared might mean keeping one's resume up to date, one's contacts recent, and desktop links to job sites. It might be necessary, but not always.

It does mean, however, to always keep in mind who and what I am. While I endeavor to do a good job, and be an asset and worth my salary, when it comes to the inconsistencies and contradictions of corporate life, one needs to know where one stands.

More than ten years back, I was in a situation where the president of the company came to our location, with a large retinue of corporate officers, and called a meeting of all managers of which I was one. This president then proceeded to speak in enough corporatese that I could not make sense of what was being conveyed to us.

So when he asked if there were any questions, I asked about his message. More cluttered corporate-speak. So I asked again. He then began: 'Let me try again...'

I must admit that at this date years later I do not recall what he said, not what I asked. Fortunately, I did have the presence of mind to not say, 'I can't understand what you are saying, can you repeat in regular English'. And later my then-manager told me to avoid CLQs*, and that to any answer I ever get from upper management I should say 'Thank you very much.' I assume he (my manager at the time) meant his comments to me as all tongue-in-cheek.

* CLQ= career limiting questions. Questions you ask that kill your career.

I wonder sometimes if my coming from New York, where cynicism and sarcasm are the lingua franca of survival, have colored my view of the world. Probably. And that's OK. But it cuts both ways.

My radar is always up. And the reasons for that go beyond the city that I grew up in. It arises from the cultural environment and the family dynamics of my upbringing as well.

Which brings me back to the job.


Job, part 2

For about seven years, I had a manager who was and still is a Director. Let's call her T. She and I got along quite well.

About a year ago, my group and I, and two other groups in the company (all three are in different locations in the country) were moved to be under a different Director, let's call him G. I was apprehensive of dealing with him, but I decided to see how it went.

G and I have a history. Both of us go back quite a while in the company, both of us left at one time or another, and later came back. There's other history, some not so pleasant. (More on this later.)

In any event, after some months, G decides that instead of the local staff in my group reporting to me, and I report to him, he will change the structure and have everyone in the group report directly to him.

This, as you may imagine, raised a serious red flag to me about his intentions. Among other changes was to be a reorganization about who in the group did what, including my role. Needless to say, as you could guess, I was being moved to a less in-the-line-of-fire position. Namely, I would not be directly handling the day to day aspects of some of the product production I had been.

And what was my role to be? I asked. He went one a bit about giving him advice on one major area that I had a lot of expertise in.

I asked for further clarification, but I did not get simple responses.

So I asked the following question: 'If I wasn't at the company at the moment, and you determined you needed to hire someone to do the role you are envisioning for me, given that most job titles are one to five words, what job title would you put on a job posting?'

Unfortunately, there was no solid answer. All I got was some 'I'm not sure yet' kind of reply.

That told me clearly that the handwriting was on the wall. And that if I wanted to continue to be employed, I should do something about it.

So I updated my resume. Sent out a few. Made some inquiries.

While I found that coincident with the economy doing poorly, there are much fewer jobs available than would be normally, but there are a few. Not hopeless, was my conclusion.

I did speak to T, letting her know my feelings. I felt I owed it to her, given how we worked closely together, how she helped me when I returned to the company. And my leaving would impact the product under her responsibility.

She told the VP who called me to ask me not to leave, and he also called G who also called me. G said 'no, it wasn't my intention to push you out', etc.

So after thinking it over, I decided I would stay for some time and see what happens. At least until the next version of the product under T's responsibility is released, due mid-year sometime.

Also, I know from experience what can happen with a job change. It can be extremely difficult to accommodate a new job. The loss of familiar casual contacts and friends, new personalities and related issues, can make the changes to a new situation devastating. I've been through it. So it not something to do lightly.

So while my ego was bruised by the organizational changes, I was still employed.

'You never know' is something to keep in mind at all times. Jobs are often ephemeral, companies come and go, places we might think will last indefinitely can go up in a puff of smoke. We've all seen it.

And I have no illusions that my current situation will last indefinitely. But while I am there, I am there.

At least that was my decision.

But being in this new role has felt as if a demotion. Maybe it surely is. And I can convince myself that my annoyance and anger is justified.

I know intellectually that the person hurt most by any anger would be me. I can see how ambiguous the situation is for many around me in the office. I've been in that manager role for more than ten years, and now... now, what? I become (in the world of corporate buzz words) an 'individual contributor'.

Many around me still treat me as if I am still in the role of manager. I am still approached by many for assistance and advice. As there was no wide-spread announcement of these changes, so, awkward as it may be, it is up to me to tell people who do not know, and I must say to some: 'you may not know this, but I am no longer in the role of manager...' I find it so distasteful that it is up to me to say such a thing.

In my new role, in what feels like a diminution, my focus has narrowed. I can see that, yes, I do have a lot of experience in the role G has asked me to focus on. Definitely more than any one else in the local office, possibly as much or more than one one else in the company. So there is some good I see in that.

But overall, I do feel in a diminished role. Does it mean I should care less about what goes on in things outside that role? Sometimes I feel I should.

And that's probably where the anger really comes in. Angry at myself for caring about things and thinking I shouldn't care about them. Seeing things that could be better and not feeling like I should bother saying anything to any about them.

There are many layers to this story. There is the major outsourcing overseas that is going on at the company at the same time. So now much of my role is dealing with them (i.e., trying to remotely correct problems that occur at the outsourcing company related to the area that I concentrate on). And the inevitable thinking that all this outsourcing leads to fewer jobs here, and the layoffs that occurred here in the company as a result might eventually continue.

And possibly include me someday.

In addition, family issues (deserving its own posts for sure). My father, 89, is dying of lung cancer. So the impending loss weighs heavily in its own right, sometimes complicating my emotional state.


Job, part 1

A long story, but worth it in my opinion.

Been on this particular job 15 years. Actually, I was hired 16 years ago, but I spent a year away back some 9 years ago, and came back. So there's history. Many of the people at this company have been around a long time, many longer than I.

And what makes it even odder is that it is a high tech company. High tech companies have had the reputation as revolving doors, for not only the company but for as many people to last that long is a feat. That being said, although it is essentially the same task we accomplish, the company's products have evolved in some ways. More importantly I suppose, is the fact that the company has been through more than a handful of ownership changes. Start up, merger, acquisition, spin off, purchase, sale, etc.

And of course name changes up the wazoo. Any time an ownership change occurred, there of course would be a new sign on the door (and new envelopes, which obsoleted the old envelopes, which meant free envelopes for everyone).

Needless to say, with every major change there would be an upper management change. New names would populate the little boxes on the charts, the boxes that had lines connecting to other little boxes. Etc.

I started as an engineer. Later on became a manager.

"Front line manager", meaning no one who reported to me was a manager.

I got to like it. Over the years, my group ranged from two to thirteen people, not in that order. It was a wide range, definitely.

One of the interesting parts was handling all the corporate changes and the co-workers in my group at the same time. You could image all sorts of reactions whenever major changes came down.

Finally, I found what I thought was a helpful metaphor. I got to say, "Look, we're here in the engine room. Our job is to keep the engine running. We really don't care what color the captain paints on the outside of the ship, as long as he keeps it off the rocks." (Was that a metaphor or an analogy?) I thought that was a good description in my attempt to deflect focus from the seemingly endless distractions of corporate changes. (Hey, admit it, some people get more weirded out than others by the upper management whirlwind.)

Coming more to the present date... Sooner or later things changed ever more dramatically, at least for me.


And other absurdities, part 1

One day this week I received eight envelopes from a stock transfer agent. I own a few shares of a number of companies, and some use the same transfer agent. Each envelope from the transfer agent contained a letter regarding one of the eight companies.

The letters were essentially the same thing:

"We have updated our records with a new address for the account held in the above-referenced company. The change was generated either from a request by you or from information we have received from our search of the latest post office forwarding address database."

That was followed by my name and address and then "Our records indicate your previous address was:", and it again was followed by my name and address.

The before and after name and address was exactly the same, except the street type was changed from "DR" to "DRIVE".

How much money went into this waste of time and resources? Geez.

Introduction: A fan of 30 Rock, but this is not about Liz Lemon nor Tina Fey

While it's a nice coincidence that Tina Fey's character on 30 Rick is named Liz Lemon, this blog is not about her or that show. Although I like both her and the show, it has nice humor; better than most of the tube.

But 'Seeking Lemonade' is what you might think. It's about trying to get the lemonade out of those lemons that life has handed us.

So, it's about life and the events therein. Work and other things.

More later.