Before I say anything else, yes, I'll be at Lotusphere 2010. Yes, I'll be doing that insane show again. No, I don't entirely know what will happen. I'm not sure anyone does. Just figure on being there... I won't delay you from free beer any longer than I can help it.
Now, about other things.
Those of you who follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter probably already know that I've moved on from my old, dysfunctional day job. After all these years I can confirm that yes, I was with the US Social Security Administration, more than fifteen years as a federal employee and more than two years as a contractor before that. Kind of a long time, relative to a lot of this industry, but finally it just had to come to an end. After many years of working with terrific, insightful and technically-astute management, I ended up with fairly shortsighted, nontechnical and pedantic management. I'll caution you now: never let yourself get into such a situation, for the sheer idiocy of it will eat your brain.
Sure, for a lot of people, particularly in a recession, they wouldn't mind just taking up space and breathing air in a "good federal job." Well, ultimately, the fact that when and where I did my job grew to be far more important in the minds of this set of management than what I actually did all day came to be the end of things. The "fuck this" light came on in my head about eighteen months ago, and when the pressure was applied to force me out of the place, in spite of the years of terrific success we'd had, I said, "bye, y'all." They paid me through the end of the month, and now it's done.
There's a part of me that feels like I should be outraged. Anger comes from frustration, and when you go from having a set of managers who know and understand what you do and support and encourage it, to having a set of management that treats dozens of experienced professionals as if we're working the drive-thru at Wendy's, it gets pretty frustrating.
There were other factors: about eighteen months ago, there were some troubles Nora and I had in our private lives that probably caused some now-departed executive to basically say, "find a way to get rid of this guy." My health hasn't been great these last couple of years, what with high blood pressure, declining eyesight, and most recently, a bout of pneumonia that led later to my being diagnosed with pretty severe allergic asthma. Most of those things are under control now, but all I could picture was ending up like my father, who had a stroke at 54 and never got to enjoy the retirement he'd worked for since he was 28 -- also in a government job. I'm 47, and yes, parts of me had thought, well, I could put up with this place for another seven years and then retire early. But not if the next seven years would contain more strife and organizational shit-headedness than the previous seventeen combined.
The place wasn't worth my health, my sanity, my marriage, or ultimately, my life. I can always get another job, but I don't think I can get another heart or another working brain. At least not easily.
As for the people I leave behind at SSA? Some of them, the ones in the trenches, are the nicest, most dedicated people I've ever worked with. I never had a serious personal conflict with anyone, ever, and I respect most of them to a degree that sounds corny. They have a bitch of a job to do, for a clueless American public and under unsupportive managers, and they do it anyway. The executives and "managers" I have considerably less respect for, because they have a fine and durable truck of an agency that they treat like a shopping cart. They don't change the oil, they don't wash it, they change drivers all the time and never clean out the gum wrappers and cigarette butts from the previous drivers before taking their turn at driving the truck off into the weeds. Worst of all, the management at SSA has largely forgotten for whom they work. They think "their" employees work "for them," and they long ago forgot the real truth: we were ALL there to work for three hundred million Americans.
I should point out here that this outlook didn't exactly win me friends among most of the said nontechnical managers. Too many of them have the attitudes of an abused child, who grow up glowing with glee about the day when they'll have "their" staff and can abuse them in kind, as they were abused by long-dead management who now could care less. I had no scores to settle at SSA, I didn't seek money (for there really isn't much), power (there is none) or recognition (which is meaningless when "management" grabs it for themselves). And I had little patience for the butt-sniffing, namby-pamby approaches to Getting Things Done that I endured all those years. I made that clear.
From here, I do some planning for Lotusphere, and I start poking around for something new to do. Money will be a little tight for a while, I'lll go through the usual cycles jobless people go through. But I'd like to think that I won't get fooled again, as The Who said.
So, that's where I've been.
So, what do I do from here?
1. Turtle12/29/2009 01:34:01 AM
Roy, I didn't hate the job. To the last day I was there, and to this day now, I think I still had a few more miles left in me. I ended up working with "managers" who decided, in that weird, American Federal Government way, that because they drifted into being my "manager," they automatically must be better at everything than their underlings. That included my job.
In short, I loved what I did, or I wouldn't have stayed there all those years. What I hated was the idea that what we (me and my team) did needed to be "managed" by somebody who used to take claims from little old ladies in Pittsburgh.
What sucks is that I really, really tried to open this particular "manager's" eyes. He actually attended Lotusphere. They all did. Some of them understood; some didn't. This particular person was one of those old-skool Taylor-time-study types who valued the process more than the results the process produced. And he distrusted any process he could not understand. As you all well know, software development can't be boiled down to a process, it's part inspiration, big part skill and experience, and part black arts.
In an odd way, I feel sorry for them and a little disappointed that piss-ants were put in the position to decide whether I was fit to work for the people of the United States of America.
"...a grocery clerk... sent to collect a bill..."
-- Col. William Kurtz, "Apocalypse Now," 1979
Yeah, it meant that much to me. Don't mean shit now.
2. Todd Carpenter12/28/2009 01:52:43 PM
I firmly believe what Palmi says "when a door closes another opens", best of luck with the job search. I heard that our friend Tina has changed careers recently.
I don't know what my status is for Lotusphere this go around, hopefully I will see you there, if not have a beer at Kimono's for me.
3. Jim Casale12/28/2009 07:07:53 AM
It's never easy leaving a job but when the job starts to affect your health it's time to leave. I swore I would never stay in a job that caused me to pop Malox like candy. The only drawback is the position you move to may not be any better as I have found out the hard way.
It's good to hear you are doing better though. Hang in there and good luck on your new job search. Hope you find one that works out good for you.
4. Palmi12/28/2009 06:00:26 AM
I did the same thing - i spend olmost 17 years doing stuff i gone to school for but hated it all the time - then i asked myself " what do you really want to do " and i followed it - i WILL NEVER do any work that i donīt like. NEVER.
One door closes another one opens
5. Roy Rumaner12/27/2009 08:23:55 PM
Sorry to hear you spent the last 17 years at a job you really hated. I am glad to hear your health is better. The job can be replaced, your life cannot. You made the right decision and regardless of how long it takes to get a new one, which in your case shouldn't be to long, no job is worth your life, marriage or sanity.
Sorry I won't be at Lotusphere to see your crazy session so have a drink for me and keep your chin up.