Signs of the Times

I went to visit some friends at my old company earlier this week. By the end of the week, most of them had been laid off. It’s both a sad testament to the times we’re going through and the short-sightedness (and stock-mindedness) of executive management.

The company in question (let’s call them BigCorp) had grown by leaps and bounds in the past couple of years, both due to a number of large acquisitions and massive hiring. One of the companies they bought was a 900 person contracting company in China. BigCorp was looking to grow their presence in China as the Chinese government will be more inclined to buy software from companies either based in China or at least with major operations there. As a result, they were moving a lot of their development work to China. Unfortunately, the developers there lack experience both in programming and in the programming domain. Like most new programmers, they tend to apply brute force to problem-solving and they tend to screw up frequently. The programmers in America spend a lot of their time fixing these problems, but since the software gets produced, upper management doesn’t think anything is wrong.

Well, now some more of those American programmers are gone. They won’t be there to watch after the software that’s produced overseas, but it’s not likely to be noticed. I decided a long time ago that the implications of top-level decisions is often missed and that one’s legacy at a company is forgotten in relatively short order. Will anyone remember that you were the one who used to catch all of the problems with the software before anyone else noticed? Probably not.

Legacy aside, BigCorp set up this particular group of developers for the axe a couple of years ago. When they first started on their last project it was to be an inexpensive product that would be part of the corporate strategy in making BigCorp’s software more ubiquitous. Eventually, BigCorp decided that this product should be free so it could be even more ubiquitous. Well, when push comes to shove, eventually someone comes along a couple of years later and they see a group that doesn’t make any money and a bunch of programmers that get paid a lot to produce it. If it comes to cutting that group versus another one that produces money, which one would do you think is more likely to get chopped?

In the end, it results in unemployed programmers one way or another. The most important thing is that as demoralizing as things get when you’re on the bloody end of the “axe”, you have to remember that you were valuable once and will be again. Take a few days to sulk and grumble, scream at your dog that it’s just not fair, then dust yourself off and get on with your next chapter. Polish up the resume, start calling all your employed friends and family, and get the names of people inside companies that can hire you (go around the human resources department). Sure it sucks that you have to go through this (I’ve done it several times due to lay-offs and corporate downturns), but each new job offers a chance to experience something different, make new friends, and learn something new.