October 20, 2001

I don’t generally discuss my personal life on ZedneWeb. Anything on the web is effectively distributed globally, even though most of my readers are friends and relatives, and I prefer to keep my life private. Also, I’ve never felt that it made very interesting reading. The events of my life are important to me, but why would they matter to some random visitor? I still feel that way, but I can’t imagine letting recent events in my life go by without noting them here. What follows is a tale of woe, and it’s not particularly illuminating or informative. If you’re here for the links, commentary, or wit, you won’t find much of them in this entry. These are just a narrative and my impressions, with no particular organization or theme.


On Wednesday, after the stock market closed, Sprint announced that it was cancelling the ION program, which provided voice-over-IP service to residential and small-business customers, and which was the primary application of Telcordia’s Service Manager, the project that I work on.

Thursday morning, our project manager called a team meeting and told us the bad news. Without our primary customer and partner, our funding was being scaled way back, and there were going to be “significant” layoffs. He wouldn’t commit to a number, saying only that it was less than 100. As there were 120–150 of us in the room, that wasn’t very reassuring. He promised that the people being let go would be informed by the end of the day.

Around 5:00 Thursday afternoon, my boss’s boss stopped by my office and asked to see me. He was very sorry, but they needed to make cuts in the performance testing group, and they couldn’t find a way to keep me on staff. He said it was in no way a reflection of my skills or performance. If the company were doing better, there would be plenty of other groups who would want someone with my skills. They tried very hard to find a place for me.

I want to believe him, because he’s a good person, but a part of me wonders whether the other people losing jobs are hearing similar stories. It’s not just our project, either; even before ION’s problems, Telcordia was planning to lose something like 1200 people. I hear that Human Resources didn’t want people informed until Monday, but our project manager insisted that everyone working on ION be told that day, and I thank him for that. Finding out is bad enough, but being in suspense is no picnic either. Having experienced both, though, I prefer the suspense to the reality.

I’m not just losing a job. I’m not just losing a job during a recession—a wartime recession—and a major slump in the technology industry. There’s more than that.

I’m late in the process of buying a wonderful condo. It was the first one I saw, and it ruined the others for me. It was far nicer than I thought I could afford, but my realtor and I did the math and the news was happy. It took some struggle to get, we had to outbid two other offers, but I got the contract and was all set to get final approval of the mortgage. I was going to be independent at last: my own job, my own car, my own place to live.

I don’t know if I’ll get the mortgage now. I don’t know if I should take it if I do. My severance package is, in some sense, generous (it must be, since the company has declared it too expensive and announced a less generous one for people laid off next year) but it won’t be much help with mortgage payments. I have savings, but most of them were earmarked for the down payment.

My realtor, along with my parents and co-workers, tell me that I’ll get a new job soon enough, but I don’t know when or, more importantly, where. Green Brook is, I’m sure, a very nice place to live, but it doesn’t make sense to buy a home there if I get a job three hours away.

It really kills me. I want that place. I’d already started moving in in my mind. It’s better than I dreamed possible. And now I think I’ve lost it. The opportunity has passed, and I don’t think I’ll see another one as nice again.

I suppose the timing is fortunate. Another month later, and I’d have already made the purchase. Another month earlier, and I’d only be credited for one year of service in my severance package, instead of two.

On Friday—today, as I’m writing this—I met with my boss’s boss again and he gave me part of the information packet the company will be mailing me later. It’s nicer than it needs to be, I suppose, but that’s cold comfort. I never really brought much personal stuff into the office, but I gathered up what I had and went home early. I’m still on salary for the next week, and I get the impression that I’m expected to work or at least transfer knowledge to the survivors, but I just wasn’t in the mood.

Last week, I started work on a new project at work. I’ve become the manager of a lot of our home-grown testing tools and scripts, and I took over writing the simulator we use for putting load on our test systems. Over the last few months, I started seeing some serious limitations in the simulator’s design that made it difficult to use for certain purposes, and I started thinking about how I could make it better.

Last week, I started putting the designs I had thought about for so long into practice. It was going to be a total rethinking of the simulator’s architecture, the synthesis of two years experience with the tools and their use. It would enable uses we hadn’t even considered in the past. It was going to be simple and elegant, flexible and powerful. It was art; I was Creating.

I don’t think I’ll finish it. The thrill is gone. A part of me wants to see it complete, to know that my efforts bore fruit. Another part wants to destroy it and purge the backups; then they’ll be sorry. But they’re already sorry. They’ve offered to write me letters of recommendation. The company’s going to pay for an out-placement service.

Intellectually, I know it will probably turn out all right. I will find another job, and I’ll eventually be able to have a place of my own. But all I can think about right now is how lucky I was to have a job that let me do what I loved, and how lucky I was to find so nice a place in my price range. I can’t imagine being that lucky again.

(News article via Hack the Planet)