Early Retirement – Scott’s Story

Early Retirement – Scott’s Story

Laid off, Paid off, Let Go, or Liberated?

“I heard you got whacked, too”

Unencumbered By Employment (UBE), I called it.

First, how I found that I was about to be pushed squarely into what I been planning for years — to get off the High Tech (High Stress) track, and enjoy the life I worked toward for more than two decades:

Bill Clark told me.

Bill’s an ex-colleague and fellow geek; lives in Kansas, hometown of SPRINT and a great place to meet meat. We were working together at a Chelmsford, MA -based company called Astralpoint Communications. It was ultimately sold to Alcatel for a pittance (about US$130M), by the CEO who proclaimed “We’ll never sell this company for less than $5 billion”. Yeah Raj. Alcatel has pretty much divested in all of Astral’s original products. Easy come, easy go. Anyway…
How’d this unfold?

I’d gotten a couple of phone messages from Jim Lang (then-US-Sales Manager) that morning. It seemed strange, because I wasn’t in his management chain at all — I been reporting to Bryan Hall (then-VP/Market Development Manager) for about six months. I never actually connected with him that “fateful” Monday; I guess it was pretty chaotic in Chelmsford (glad I missed it). As for Market Development, Astral’s market never really got “developed”, but to give him some credit, I must say Bryan’s hair was always perfectly coiffed. We must strive to excel at something.
Sometime that morning, Bill calls me: “I hear you got whacked, too”.

“What you been smokin’, W’im?”, I thought. He explained what’d happened. Ultimately I called and reached Bryan. I didn’t ask why it was he hadn’t told me himself. Too busy Developing Markets, I guess. Wimp.
What most folks at the office (certainly including Bryan) didn’t know, is that I’d just (a few days before) crafted a resignation letter. I wasn’t being permitted to do the work I’d been hired to do; it was time to go. I was waiting for a timely moment to spring the letter and put my career back in my own hands. “It’s all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more.”

I’d spent the previous month arranging a trip to Asia to line up potential Resellers in North Asia, where US telecom standards are used. I’d called in a lot of favors, spent Astral’s money; made time commitments. On a Thursday afternoon one day prior to the trip, Bryan called me, and offered the lame excuse that “with just the two of us” (me and him) – “we couldn’t possibly support all the business that might be drummed up”.
Of course at that time I couldn’t know that this lame excuse was, um, a lame excuse, because I was about to be laid off. How silly of me (in retrospect) to think that, me being a direct report to an Officer of a company, my boss might have enough respect for a subordinate, to let him know what was going down. Silly me.

Since my trip had been cancelled on near-zero notice, my calendar had been effectively cleared for two weeks. Quite a luxury in those crazy days, I decided to take advantage of it. I dropped Bryan a note that I’d be taking that fateful Monday off.

Late on Monday (after the s*&t had hit the fan), (after they turned the email system back on), I got a note from Bryan, cc: to HR. I still remember the wording:

“I did not authorize this vacation, report to the office immediately”.

You could have said “Please”. I remember laughing out loud. I might have saluted the PC.

I think it’s natural to be bitter about a layoff, but under the circumstances (we had neither the product nor the strategy for my work to be successful), I’d have laid me off too. So not only am I not bitter, in retrospect I am thankful for having been guided, albeit bluntly, to a new life. I didn’t make a killing on the stock — few of us will. I imagine Bryan will do OK.

But I’ve got a life now.

Oh and Bryan? He got laid off. He’s been through a couple of startups since… nobody I’ve ever heard of.