The date was January of 2001 and the location was Chicago. I was accompanying my boss Sherry to the corporate headquarters of my employer of a little more than a year. While in a meeting we heard a commotion in the lobby. A group of armed guards had walked in to the building lead by a man with a bullhorn. His direction was simple: the people in that area were being let go and that they would be provided with a box that would be used to gather their stuff and leave the premises in five minutes.
On the flight home that night Sherry did something that I’d never seen her do – she ordered a drink. She then advised me that it was probably best to check out some other options. The next day I reached out to a childhood friend that was a recruiter at Superior Group. He had actually placed me at Moore and I asked if he knew of any companies that had an opening. He did – ironically it was at Superior.
Fast forward a few weeks later and I am to interview for the job with Superior. Even though the company is located in Williamsville the interview took place in a satellite office in Corning, New York. I was ushered into a small conference room and the door closed behind me. The man that closed the door introduced himself as (name removed) and he was the VP of a company within Superior. His next words (I kid you not) were these:
“Don’t ever go to corporate”
I did get the job and it turns out that the people at corporate were lovely and that (name removed) was a complete wacko. He loved to tell stories, many of them were provably false upon a little bit of research. Anyway, he wasn’t long for the job as he didn’t really do much other than travel around the country. I still remember the secretary saying that after he was let go nobody ever called looking for him. That particular company was shut down not long after and the dev team was moved into the proper part of the company. It was there that my career spanned pretty much the entire duration of our software. During that time I saw several people come and go. I made a lot of good friends and we while there were more dark times than I care to remember there were also so many great times.
Long story short, the company doesn’t owe me anything. I’ve known for a while that something had to give – either the company was going to move to a different platform or that I was going to have to reassess what I doing. In the weeks and months before the pandemic hit it seemed as though there were hints about how certain things were going to go. We furiously started learning Angular (and later React) in the hopes that the redesign would be approved. It wasn’t, but that was the springboard for what was going to come after being furloughed. Don’t get me wrong – finding out that you can’t go to work the next day was a punch in the gut but at the same time I completely understood why it had happened. I paced the room for a half an hour putting together my plan. I then sat down and worked furiously over the next several weeks to make my next career happen. In my heart of hearts I knew that my time there was probably done as either they wouldn’t want me or I would be furloughed long enough where my training would get me to the platform of my future.
So many good people have come and gone – it feels weird to be associated with the latter. I think the thing that I am most proud of is that culture that we cultivated. Despite our different personalities we laughed a lot and we functioned well as a team. How many other teams could have a new director and manager come in and the team not skip a beat? I’ll also not forget the times that some of you would either come in early or pull me aside to have a chat about something (work related or otherwise). I am honored that you looked at me as a person that could be a non-judgemental ear when something was amiss. As someone who isn’t good at making friends I can tell you that I got more out of those interactions than you could have possibly gotten from me. I am always here if you want someone to listen or should need anything.
As for me, I will be fine. To be honest this was actually a perfect storm for me in a professional sense. I had nine weeks of PTO when the virus hit and I’ve essentially been paid to train. I am a few weeks away from where I want to be but the federal unemployment will make that easy to get through. I know that this sounds weird but this was actually a good thing for me. I don’t think I could have pulled it off while holding down a full-time gig. Also, I hope to spend extra time with my family this summer. After all, they won’t be these ages again. Today I cleaned out my desk and got to say goodbye to a few of you. On my way out I also was fortunately to be able to say a heart-felt thank you to one of the presidents of the organization. I owe a lot to the family. Maybe most importantly I was able to walk out of the building with dignity – that’s something very few people who are dismissed get to do.
To my friends, some advice. First, don’t ever get caught in a position where you can’t support your family. For all you know the armed guards could be coming tomorrow. As Christopher Hitchens famously said, it’s later than you think. Second, keep your head up and understand what is going on around you. Not just what is going on, but why. This will be true anywhere that you work. Finally, feel good about your own work but don’t necessarily expect your employer to know and understand all that you are doing. I remember so many times where I worked nights and weekends so that things worked right the next business day. I remember one time where I worked an entire fourth of july weekend because a server admin deleted several databases and I had to write code to pull selective data from backups. During our previous redesign I missed dinner and a concert with my wife on our anniversary. So many other examples…. Know that you are doing good work and that you are a good employee. Working in IT can be a thankless job sometimes. After all, nobody notices when the trains are running on time but everyone knows when they are not.
The weirdest part of being let go is that you begin to feel like some kind of leper. I know in the past when others were let go that I always meant to check in on them but didn’t do it as often as I should. I hope you aren’t afraid to stop in and say “hello” now and then. If nothing else I’d get the opportunity to say “you’re doing it wrong” and we could both smile. Or at least I would, which is enough ;-).
Be well my friends. See you at IHateBadMovies.com.