Posts Tagged ‘ contribution ’


So, how do I react to the news that I have been surplused? It’s not like it’s a surprise: the rumors have been fast and furious for about six months now, all that the news in the local on-line newspapers did was confirm the rumors. Not, of course, that management had the moral courage (aka “balls”) to tell the employees before they read about it online (or, in my case, before my mother sent me the URL).

True, the loss of the paycheck, and therefore the lifestyle I had come to enjoy is a big deal. No doubt putting the house on the market and trying to find another paycheck came earlier than my plans; but, what are my plans when compared to those of the corporate club? Clearly, nothing. Nothing at all.

But, this is the endgame. 29 years ago, the company recruited me out of a university in the Midwest and paid all relocation expenses to move my family and me to the Pacific Northwest. Now, my job here in Puget Sound no longer exists, and if I choose, I can apply for the same job in Southern California – at far less pay, in a state with a much, much higher cost of living. Granted, at the company’s discretion, I am paid far more now than then (my federal income taxes now are greater than my gross salary then), but I am conceited enough to think that I have learned a thing or two along the way and have more value – bring more to the table – than I did. Silly me.

If you think about that fable of the ant and the grasshopper, I am the ant; but I didn’t expect to be put out to pasture this soon. At age 60, I was planning on another ten-to-fifteen years of useful contribution (I like my job, sorry). All these years of building relationships with customers that shell out millions of dollars to buy a product that lasts for twenty or more years? Down the drain. How important are those customers now? Hell, I have a family to feed and a mortgage to pay; the customers can go pound sand.

All that practical stuff aside, it is the subterfuge, the lying, the equivocation that gets my knickers in a knot. I have never subscribed to the philosophy that those in the club were my betters, despite their constant reminders. I know I did not need to sign an “ethics challenge” year after year because some corporate vice-president made promises to a Pentagon buyer (and by email no less – what a maroon!). Fast forward to “geographical diversification” and I know of a second level manager that took a “company business trip” to look for housing in Southern California – and this was weeks ago. If customer service is the “crown jewel” of the company, why move it? Evidently, whatever my co-workers and I have cobbled together despite corporate greed, it’s working by their admission. Hey, if it ain’t broken…you know the rest.

It is the stringing us along, so we don’t bolt – i.e., look after Number One as our supposed betters are doing – that sticks in my craw. “You’re valuable,” “you’re essential”, “you’re the crown jewel” – so let’s move! Wow! Whadda concept. Take the recent Superbowl Seattle Seahawks or whoever won the Stanley Cup or the World Series, and change everything! Release all the players, dismiss the coaches. Who would ever expect a strategy like that? Certainly not Airbus. No doubt they have been caught completely off-guard and will never recover.

History will not be kind.

A lesson in success from “2001: A Space Odyssey”

What is success?  HAL actually stated what success meant to him, and it didn’t include meddling humans.  Given that computers can’t have an original thot, then HAL was programmed to define success in those terms.  Even if HAL had that as an original thot, ‘success’ to him was still somewhat different from what Frank and Dave, and the three scientists who were hibernating, might have held as ‘success’.  Human success usually, if not always, includes being able to tell the tale; i.e., living.  Either HAL never considered his own mortality, or he thot that his memory would always exist and therefore he was immortal, even if specific dots of silicon might cease to exist as chips and transistors.  Or, frankly Scarlet, he didn’t give a damn.

We are led to believe that HAL deliberately, and purposely killed Dave, although, cleverly, we did not actually see the apparent collision between the pod and Dave (and why was the pod parked so far away from the antenna Dave was out there to fix, anyway?)  HAL almost killed Frank.  To HAL’s way of computing (or “way of thinking”), since he observed them talking (by reading lips?) and discussing disconnecting HAL, HAL was merely acting in self-defense.  But, HAL could terminate the lives of humans because he did not need them for his success.  The equation for HAL’s success might have included an unknown into which ‘human survival’ could be plugged; apparently, that term could easily have been left null.

Clearly, HAL terminated the lives of the three scientists who were hibernating; so HAL got to the point where any and all humans were a threat to his success.  HAL did suspect the three sleeping scientists because they had been trained off site and put into hibernation before being ‘installed’ (‘loaded’?).  Ironically, the video near the end, as Frank is unplugging HAL, states that the three scientists were essential to the success of the mission.  So, it’s unlikely that HAL was originally programmed to kill all five humans.

So, HAL went nuts.  Behavior so human that it’s frightening.  And, frankly, behavior I see every day in the computer systems I have to use.  As I have learned to think of computer behavior, there is a lot of space between zeros and ones in machine language.

But, what is our success?  To what do we strive?  When we achieve success, what do we have?  In business, the goal posts are constantly being moved.  Often the bar is raised before we even get to it, or so shortly after gaining it that we can’t savor the moment.  We can’t feel good about an accomplishment that no longer exists.  Every day, it is “what have you done for me, lately?”

It is like beating our heads against a brick wall, expecting a different result w each impact.  It’s our own head we are smashing.  And, it is a brick wall of our choosing.  Why this self-destructive activity for a meaningless objective?

Of constant – yes, daily – discussion in my job is our future as a workgroup.  There seems little doubt that the need will exist far after all of us are gone, so it’s not a matter of no one needing buggy whips anymore.  But, where will the job be physically done?  The current buzzword is ‘geographical diversity.’  Which is espoused to mean that engineering talent is just sitting on its hands, all over the world, waiting for the privilege and joy of working for The Company.  What it means in reality is that there is a core group of  hundred’s of years of ‘tribal knowledge’ that no longer has any value to the corporate bean counters.

Fortunately, I am old enough to make retirement an option; but many of my co-workers are in their 40s and they can’t afford to retire.  And, by “retire,” I don’t mean sitting in a rocking chair on the porch for a couple of years, which is what previous generations did.  I work w ‘high achievers’ – doing nothing is not an option for them.  But, neither will they be able to find another job, let alone continue in the career they have worked so hard for.

Unsurprisingly, ‘success’ varies by the individual.  One co-worker stated that this workgroup was like a second family for him.  Others, clearly, get their social fulfillment by coming to work.  Others exchange their time for a paycheck so that they can indulge their hobbies, whether it be the accumulation of more toys, or time on the ski slopes or vacations to exotic lands.  No one talks of ‘geographical diversity’ as a good thing.  If the powers that be move the lock, stock, and barrel of our work, they will be moving computer workstations w/o operators.

In the meantime, for the company thrives on secrets, so rumors are rampant, little work gets done as the workers discuss the uncertainty of their futures.  Hard to build a future on shifting sands.  More to the point, why bother?

I am grateful that only my paycheck depends on The Company; I divorced my own success from the company years ago.  In fact, I am looking forward to the day when I can thumb my nose at the politics, the lies, the subterfuge, the games, the innuendo, the lack of respect.  In the meantime, I am just building up my retirement fund.  All the company wants from me is my time, and that is all the company is getting from me.  I am investing in my retirement fund, and someday, I will start withdrawing from it.  If I am a rat leaving a sinking ship, I am a rat that can swim.  And will never look back.