March 26, 2020

I lost my job today.

It’s not that I didn’t see this coming, mind you – I thought I might be able to squeeze another year or two out of the wheezing dinosaur that is the company (as the good soldier I’ll let remain nameless) I’ve been a part of for the past 16 1/2 years.

16 1/2 years is a damned long time. I think about it – I was forty-eight years old when then-Eclipsys (courtesy of two really great guys, Dan Tankersley and Phil Santucci) pulled my sorry ass out of insurance company hell (I was never much of a sales guy, never was, never will be) and offered me a project manager job. At the time I was lost in every sense of the word: I was living in Arizona (courtesy of some bad, knee-jerk decision-making), my once-soaring and solid IT career in shambles, completely unmarketable.

But there Tracey and I were, having coffee on the back patio that Saturday morning in December 2003, when we hear a FedEx truck grumbling outside the front door leaving a package containing an offer to join Eclipsys as a project manager. Man, that was a great occasion – we even broke out a bottle of champagne to celebrate. I was free of the insurance world and back in familiar digs, career wise.

They say in life you have to make your own luck. A month after joining Eclipsys they didn’t know what to do with me. A software fiasco that had occurred right around the time I was hired had forced the company to retrench, software wise, and the projects I was originally hired for all fell by the wayside. I found myself as a new hire in a company with nothing to do. One day, happening by one of the manager’s offices, I heard a conversation where they were bemoaning the fact they had no one to organize a custom report writing team – something that appeared to be an obvious need at the time. I waited a couple of hours (discretion being the better part of valor) then stopped in to ask if he had anything interesting I could work on. The rest was history.

Seventeen years later, our little custom reports team at the time (two employees who dabbled in reports) has become a ten-person team spread across both North America and India. It wasn’t just me who accomplished this – all I did was follow the lead of others to make sure that the team we built was founded on uniformity, competence, and passion – something I will readily take credit for. Others may have made the business unit possible, I was the one that made it a team.

Back in 2007 when our India operation was launched, things were hard – a lot of hours were spent cultivating good work practices and separating the wheat from the chaff. And there were growing pains, for sure (I remember a late-night – and admittedly alcohol-fueled – bombardment of the India guys for not having the same passion for excellence that I did. Industry standards indicate a 30% turnover of India IT resources every year. The fact that our team has at least three great report writers who have been there more than a decade is an indication of the care and respect my old boss Bill (sacked last November) and I had in treating our team, be it North America-based or India-based, the same.

Those who frequent this blog frequently will know the last three years have not been easy ones. Beginning in 2017 with “The Client Who Shall Remain Nameless”, everything just took a turn for the worse. My team was asked to go far beyond the role we had originally been charged with, developing solutions that our development organization couldn’t produce. It was hard. At one point, between December of 2017 and May of 2018, it was fourteen-hour days and the most relentless of pressure I have ever experienced. I couldn’t sleep. My hair started falling out. My marriage suffered. And even to this day, there’s still an incredible amount of work that is never gonna get done correctly because it takes a leader with special skills to keep things all together to make it all work out for my company’s client base (“Nameless” and otherwise).

I’ll say it straight: my company is going under because its senior leadership thinks it is more important that it be a “good citizen of the community” than a profit-generating, publicly-traded corporation. We have a largely female senior leadership who thinks it is more important to empower women and “give back to the community” than it is to generate revenue. When our CEO took over ~ eight years ago, our stock was in the $15 range; today it’s somewhere around $6.50. And this is in healthcare, mind you – something that everyone in this country and the world needs! How on God’s green earth can a company that sells software applicable to the entire population of the country not make money with its products? It takes a unique combination of arrogance, incompetence, and willful blindness to run such a company into the ground. But that’s what these buffoons have done.

I’m just glad I’m at 64 1/2 years old, seeing far more sunsets than I ever will see, than were I, say, ten years younger. I’ll admit it: I’m a dinosaur. While I believe that for-profit companies need to make a profit, I’ve always treated my team members in the U.S. and India as family. I’ve never asked anyone to commit to anything to a degree I wouldn’t do myself. I’ve pushed people very hard at times when needed, but always knew when to take the pedal off the metal. I think I always had my hand on the pulse of a team with wide-ranging cultural differences and technical experience. The senior management of my company suck and are a bunch of incompetent boobs, but I always protected my team from the bullshit, enabling them to do the kind of work they do best.

And I guess that what makes me a dinosaur. And today the dinosaur got his walking papers.

I’m more fortunate than most that Tracey and I have done a pretty good job preparing for this day. Not as good as we could have, I suppose, but we’re in far better shape, I think, than others who also got the axe today. It’s too early to start thinking what I might do next, but one of my co-workers who chose to leave on his own while the getting was good compares us to some kind of Stockholm Syndrome refugee colony, where all the 11-hour weekdays (or more) and sneaking a couple of hours in on Saturday and Sunday for the better part of 2 1/2 years have made us believe that the pressure we’ve been under all this time is somehow acceptable and worthwhile.

I think the hardest thing I’m going to encounter is to unplug myself from all the madness – the 6:30 AM calls, the necessary 2 PM nap to clear my head, the scrambling to complete my workday by 6:30 PM in order to start dinner – the downtime is all going to seem so foreign to me. I don’t know what I want to do next at this point. I won’t miss the work, for sure, but I’ll certainly miss the friendships I’ve cultivated on my team both in the U.S. and in India. We worked hard together, succeeded together, and (especially with “The Client Who Shall Remain Nameless”) went down in flames together. We may not have always succeeded, but we never stopped caring for each other and working together a tight unit.

The dick-heads have won. The kind of incompetence my company allows their senior management to exhibit on a day-in, day-out basis is disheartening. They say the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Given our track record over the past years – catastrophic implementations, a vastly reduced client base, and a plummeting stock price – the fact that my company’s senior leadership remains in place is an indication of something perhaps far deeper and more sinister than I was willing to admit. A company’s senior leadership can be a bunch of assholes or they can be incompetent, but you can’t succeed at being both. Clueless and stupid is no way to run a company.

We’ll see where I go from here. Right now the need is to decompress and start taking care of myself health-wise. The last 2 1/2 years have been rough on both my physical and psychological well-being, so maybe a nice break to recharge the batteries and start exploring new and different opportunities will be a good thing.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 23:51 | Comments (2)
  1. Sorry to hear Doug. But may be a blessing in the long run. Wish you all the best! Look forward to seeing you this summer. Be well! … Goose

    Comment by Goose — March 27, 2020 @ 9:29 am

  2. Thanks so much Goose. It’s a funny existence I’m feeling right now. Part exhilaration at being free of all the bullshit, part rage at being treated so shabbily by some bow-tied bean-counter who was only charged with dumping salary. I’ll get over it. Appreciate your kind thoughts. I’ll see you in the summer, but it won’t be in Canada!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — March 29, 2020 @ 10:23 pm

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