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; lived in Kansas (recently moved to Colorado). 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 Jim that “fateful” Monday; I guess it was pretty chaotic in Chelmsford (glad I missed it). As for Market Development, Astral’s international market never really got “developed”. They lacked the resources, or the motivation – or both. They were paying me an unreasonable amount of money but giving me next to nothing to do.
Sometime that morning, Bill calls me: “I hear you got whacked, too“.
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 was only my second employer in over 20 years.
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.
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.