Friday, September 28, 2007

Happy Anniversary. Really.

Six years ago today the Burgh Correspondent and I were released from employment by The Software Company That Shall Remain Nameless or We Get No Severance. (They can't enforce that now, but even though I'm not holding a grudge, I'll be damned if I'm giving those rat bastard asshole pedophiles any free pub.) Time has shown me they actually did me a favor, which I guess I knew early on, as shown by this essay written in my pre-blog days, right after they dropped the hammer on me. (Note: I had moved out, but the divorce from Lady Voldemort had not yet gone final.)

I am not the most industrious person in the world. I hide it pretty well, having learned that most people are lazy enough that any effort at all makes you look conscientious. Beneath it all I have always had a desire to be a Man of Leisure, and I have finally achieved that goal.

My last job change brought me to a pre-IPO software company. Everything looked rosy, it was a new and open market space and we had an experienced and respected team at the top. We were shown slides of how much money people who got in early made at Microsoft, Oracle, and PeopleSoft. The sales people in the training class were secreting enough greed hormones to smother an elephant.

I am made of sterner stuff. None of this “all shake, no bake” business for me. I took what they told me with a large block of salt and put my shoulder to the grindstone and my nose to the wheel, metaphorically speaking. I hoped that I might be able to retire by the time I was fifty-five, with some conscientious saving and a little luck. Little did I know that within a mere five hundred ninety-seven days, my employer would make me a Man of Leisure.

They fired me.

I was in good company. About twenty-five per cent of the workforce got whacked. Some of them were high profile types, although I don’t think any were vice presidents. This was significant, as the ratio of employees to vice presidents before the recent blood letting was fourteen to one. Rumor has it some veeps became directors, to keep Manuel Noriega from moving in on the company like another banana republic.

I have studiously refrained from mentioning my company. I would like to say it is because I am a highly evolved human who derives no joy from denigrating others . Anyone who knows me has understands that this is not true. If I want to collect my severance, I have to refrain from making any disparaging remarks about the company, and to not divulge any company secrets or techniques.

At first I was mad about the gag order, but it’s not as strict as it sounds. We are talking about a company whose stock went from twenty-nine dollars a year ago to a low of a buck fifty-two the week I was riffed. (Note: The company has since had to engineer a reverse stock split to keep from being de-listed.) I realize the market has had a tough year, but the Titanic didn't sink that low. What insults could I possibly add to, “and Software X has lost ninety-five per cent of its value from its fifty-two week high?” They’re ugly and their mothers dress them funny? Their performance isn't insulting enough to insulate them from further damage to their reputation?

I like the company secrets bit, too. I’m sure their competitors are slavering over the chance to find out what they might be able to do to lower their value by ninety-five per cent in less than a year. Soviet Union stock did better than that. Even if the secrets were worth anything, it’s not like I ever had any training on the stuff.

Training for the pre-sales technical staff consisted on semi-annual meetings where we would all sit in a room for a day and marketing people would show us what the new product did. We could then play with it, hands-on, for an hour and a half if we were lucky, although at least half of that time was spent installing it and working around issues the marketing folks hadn't discovered.

It has occurred to me that some of you might not know what a pre-sales technical person does. It’s simple. Our role is to tell the prospective customer that what he thinks he heard the salesman say isn't exactly what the salesman meant without calling the salesman a liar to his face. It’s a job calling for enormous tact and diplomatic aplomb. Guess how good I was at it?

Those of you who have been paying close attention may detect a note of bitterness in this essay. Not really. They may have done me a favor. Several people have been telling me that I should look for something else for months now. I have been reluctant to look for reasons of my own.

First, I've had too much going on. Doing battle with Lady Voldemort has been a full time job, not unlike doing your own dental work while wearing mittens. There’s only so much energy to go around for anyone. The stress of looking for and starting a new job could wait.

It could wait indefinitely, as far as I was concerned. I was tired of changing jobs. The years of being a freelance musician have taken their toll. I want to be some place where I will know how things work, who to call for what, and how to get things done. Not the stuff they teach you in Orientation, but how things really get done. That only comes with time.

In fairness, it should also be pointed out that I was paid very well for what I did. My immediate working environment, as far as my boss and most of my peers were concerned, was excellent. I was allowed to do my thing in my own particular idiom. There was no urgency to leave, whether staying was a good idea or not.

Now I have to get busy. I have been granted an opportunity with very little downside. The Desert Flower Correspondent told me that I should view myself as uniquely free right now. I am all but rid of Lady Voldemort. I have some money in the bank, and my total indebtedness is about $800 on a credit card. I own my car, and I am not tied to a house. My health is good, and my age is not a major concern. I can do whatever I want.

What I want is to be a Man of Leisure. The problem is that I can’t afford it for too long right now. I’ve done a budget and I’m good for at least three months without having to dip into savings, unless I want some training or to relieve my stress with daily “therapeutic” massages. There are lots of daytime baseball playoff games over the next couple of weeks. I can spend some of the time between innings using some of my free brain cycles to pick winning lottery numbers.

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