Sunday, May 26, 2013

Free at Last, Free at Last ...

Next week I won’t have a job.

This is by design, I should clarify.  I’ve given myself two weeks between jobs to decompress a little.  You know how some people say you should regularly do saunas or colonics to flush all the toxins from your system?  Sort of like that.

So for the next 15 blissful days, I’ll be lazing around, mostly doing nothing.  I’ll spend part of the time at a technical conference (where I’ll actually be delivering a talk, which is pretty nifty), but mainly just doing nothing.  Relaxing.  Winding down.  Chillin’.

Then I’ll start a new position at a new company, which I’m pretty excited about.  Not much to say about that yet, since all I know is what one can gather from the interview process and the background research that accompanies it, but I’m heartened by that fact that folks there seem to have read this blog (including the extensive series on the Barefoot Philosophy) and wanted to hire me anyway.  I think our goals will be plenty sympatico.

What I’m leaving is approximately six years at a company that I really enjoyed being with ... at least for part of that time.  Having signed a piece of paper that strongly enjoins me from saying anything that might cast my former employer in a negative light (and tell me that shouldn’t have been a danger sign), I will restrict myself to enumerating a few facts.

  1. When I started work at this company, it was owned by eBay.
  2. eBay was a pretty great place to work.  It wasn’t perfect by any means, but what complaints I had were mostly surmountable, and there were many layers of management between me and those policies, most of which layers were dedicated to making sure said policies didn’t impact my productivity.
  3. This company was sold by eBay to a different company.
  4. One year later, I’ve resigned.

There.  Nothing “negative” about that, right?  Just the facts.

I have noticed a trend in smaller companies that are acquired by larger companies.  The last company I worked for being owned by two different companies, I got to experience it twice.  Also at the company I worked for before that.  Also at a few of the companies I consulted for when I owned my own business.  Also at companies which I know of because they’ve employed friends, or family members.  Large companies which are essentially conglomerations of smaller companies (or one core business surrounded by many “satellite” subsidiaries, as in the case of eBay) seem to be run very differently than the smaller companies they were once composed of.  I’m not sure why this is.  The smaller companies were successful when they were independent: if they had not been, they would not have been purchased.  However, they inevitably fail as part of the larger entity, when they’re being run differently.  This is a trivial pattern to pick out for anyone who has spent more than a few years in the corporate workplace.  And yet the mistake continues to be made, over and over again.  I’ve always had a high tolerance for ignorance, but a very low one for stupidity.  When you make a mistake once, that’s ignorance.  When you continue to make the same mistake over and over, that’s stupidity.

The mistakes are somewhat varied, but the core of them is pretty much the same.  The smaller organization was nimble and responsive, but the larger company imposes rules and process.  The smaller organization had some lean years, but they perservered and grew stronger because of them; the larger company seems to expect an infinitely-increasing growth curve, with the result that even when you make money, you’re chastised for not making enough money.  The smaller organization valued employees and built its team slowly and with great precision, until every warm body was integral to its success, and there was no waste—not a single speck of fat to be trimmed.  The larger company sees the employees as faceless, replaceable cogs in a machine, and can’t understand why people with vast amounts of business domain knowledge stored in their heads leaving should be a big deal.  Just get some more people.  Lots of people out there wanting jobs.  Hell, you can probably find someone even cheaper to do the same job.  That’ll help the bottom line, too.  Win-win.

I continue to believe that there are companies out there, even larger companies composed of disparate subdivisions, that don’t have this rather large blind spot.  But that’s mainly because I’m at heart a romantic, even though I’m also a cynic.  One day I’ll have to do a blog post on Cynical Romanticism.  I’m also considering a longer post exploring some of the concepts above in more depth.  But for today, I’m just happy to be free.  To do what I want.  Any old time.  (And you’ll have to take my word for it that that’s an obscure 90’s song reference and not an obscure 60’s song reference.  That’s just how I roll.)

I’d ramble on a bit longer, but this is starting to cut into my lazy time.  I’m sure you can all find something to amuse yourselves.  The Internet’s a big place, after all.  As for my little corner of it, it’s about hang up an “Under New Management” sign.  In a couple of weeks.  This week, the sign just says “Gone Fishin’.”

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