Indeed, this is how my HP world ended. Certainly not a bang, but with a whimper. I got home from what was my last “day” with HP and started this post. Actually, this day was exactly 38 minutes long. My exit interview was scheduled for 9:30am Friday morning. I arrived a little before 9 to finish cleaning up some things on my PC and to get my last load of crap out to the car.
I find it amusing that they still call it an “exit interview”. Quite frankly, it was more of an “escort out of the building” than an interview. According to the HP Portal, the exit interview consists of sitting down with one’s manager who asks about why you’re leaving, your overall HP experience, how they could improve things, etc. In actuality, here’s how it went.
The guy performing the “interview” was someone I’d never met since my latest manager (as of 3 weeks ago, I think the 10th I’ve had in 8 years) was remote. In fact, I spoke to my actual manager exactly once. So, this process was sub-contracted out to a local manager. Now, he was a nice enough guy. I think he was more happy that my leaving was on good terms. I really got the impression that he’s done more than one of these where the person leaving is none too pleased about it. Welcome to the wonderful world of corporate layoff culture. Anyway, I soon realized that there was going to be no “interview”. I gathered up my remaining shit and headed to the door.
Opened the card controlled double doors, handed him my badge, and poof… Gone. That’s it. The ultimate whimper.
The accompanying picture you see above is, in fact, the final door closing on my HP career. I was able to whip out my camera and snatch one shot before the door finished closing. Not often that you get an image of both and actual and metaphorical event in one shot.
Let’s just say that I was a tad disappointed that I would not get to give them a piece of my mind. Of course, at the same time, this poor guy, who doesn’t know me from Adam, doesn’t want to hear it, nor can he actually do anything about it. And, I guess when you have a company that big, that is laying off… whoops… performing Work Force Reductions at the rate they are, you really don’t care what those leaving the company think.
Luckily, I have another outlet that I can use to vent some of my frustration. You’re looking at it. Forgive me if I rant a bit here.
Mainly what I have a problem about my leaving is really an extension of my entire work environment. For the past month, since Erik, the other remaining Web Team member was laid off, I would go to work, sit in my cube and not speak to anyone. No one. See, most of the people that I performed web dev for were elsewhere, either in a different building on the HP campus or spread around the country at various HP sites. I would say, that I have never met 90% of the people I knew at HP face to face. They were all email and phone contacts. That’s it. In fact, of the 3000 employees or so at the Boise Site, I probably knew 3 or 4 people well enough to approach ‘offline’ and have a conversation. The more I think about that, the sadder it sounds.
Basically, it came down to this. The Web Team that I was on, was always marginalized. See, we were a technical team that was always placed within a non-technical group. So, no team we were on ever performed the same jobs as we did, so other than the original 4 web developers, there was very little we had in common with business process analysts or tech writers. When that happens, the need to actually converse with your other teammates goes away. You isolate. Thus, it was easy to go weeks without actually speaking with anyone but your small web team. In fact, in the past year and a half since it was just Erik and I, once we got moved into our own cubes even that conversation stopped. When you gotta stand up and walk around the wall just to talk, it happens a lot less often.
When this web job was first created we were smoking hot. We had a boss, my favorite boss of all time, Ray Kent who actually led us. He had us tight and focused. He was championing us thought the division. We were developing some killer apps and pleasing everyone. That lasted less than a year before Ray got reassigned. And thus started the endless parade of managers who either didn’t care, didn’t understand what we did or were simply too busy to worry about us. None of them really took the time to employ us to the fullest, or really even pay attention at all. So, we started withering. Mark was first let go maybe 3 years ago. Diana followed a year and a half ago, and Erik was gone a month ago.
Once the manager parade began, so did our isolation. Being that we weren’t part of IT, we were this little team in the middle of nowhere. We had no budget for books or software, let alone technical training. If we got stuck on a problem, there were no other resources other than ourselves. Which is great for teaching you self reliance, but sucks hard for the social aspects of working. We had no networking at all. When it came time to start to look for other roles in the company, we were pretty much screwed. We didn’t have enough knowledge of the business to move up though those routes, nor did we have enough technical training to get into IT (not that IT ever hired people from outside of IT anyway). It was a no win situation.
The final straw, or nail in our coffin if you will came about a year ago. From the higher ups, and I mean WAY higher ups came down a new initiative. It was called ShadowIT. Basically, the goal of this deal was to identify and eliminate all IT activities that were occurring out side of IT. Now, in and of itself, that makes sense. I totally understand to know all those hidden costs that might be going on. Unfortunately, the way they went about it was completely insane.
See, the thing is, what our team did was supply websites and tools (database driven full applications) to the call center support teams. Right in ShadowIT’s crosshairs. We were asked to identify all of the ‘tools’ we had created for the ShadowIT folks. This seemed innocent enough, we though. Well, that was until word came down that every one of these tools would have to be “business critical” in order to be kept, and then, if they are kept, the support for those tools would be transferred to IT. I personally had about a dozen different tools on this list, and you know how many ShadowIT decided were critical? Zero. How many did my users consider critical? Probably every single one. That’s the thing… It really didn’t matter what the users said, and many of them were screaming bloody murder that they needed these tools to do their jobs. Didn’t matter. The tools had to be shut down. Plus, development of any new “tools” would be a firing offense.
There are innumerable problems with this, but I’ll just touch on a few. First off, they tried to stop the activity without actually addressing why all this ShadowIT activity was going on in the first place. See, to get IT to do ANYTHING is a near impossibility. You could request a simple web based form to track information… the kind of thing I have up and running in less than a day. Well, to get IT to do something like this would entail countless meetings, justifications, red tape and other headaches while IT all along the way is pushing back, trying to discourage you from continuing to ask. Rather quickly, the businesses learn to just not ask. Trust me, I just loved when some team would come to me with a great idea that would save their team thousands of hours… the kind of thing that could take me less than a week, and I have to tell them that I can’t do it or I’ll be fired. It just made no sense at all.
The worst example of ShadowIT’s major flaw was one that made me fume. When I was in the call center, each team maintained all their scheduled FTO (flexible time off) via Excel spreadsheets. These spreadsheets had to be maintained by someone and there were lots of problems about who and when people were scheduled.
Well, I sat down and created a complete schedule application which allowed users to log in, schedule their vacation time, and the tool maintained how many were allowed off, priority requests, and more. The managers could go and view their entire team’s calendar in one place. It took me about 3 months or so of development. But, once it was up and running, the tool had complete administration tools built in for the managers… they could add and delete team calendars, manage users, everything. I was told that this tool definitely save thousands of man hours a year.
Well, some 5 years later along comes ShadowIT. As you can probably guess, this tool was not business critical and was scheduled for deletion. Despite the fact that the tool was not costing HP a dime. The users maintained it, so there was no overhead involved. I spent maybe 1 or 2 hours a year making slight tweaks. Maybe. The server it was on was the same server all of our sites were on, so there was no costs there either. None of that mattered at all. It had to go. The users and especially the schedulers kept asking me if there was anything I could do. All I could do was shake my head and shrug. Most teams went back to the only solution left to them… yup… Excel spreadsheets.
Just between you and me, the tool is still being used on the sly by a few teams. I never deleted it I just posted a notice on the front page that read something to the effect that “This tool was decommissioned on order from the ShadowIT team”. That satisfied the ShadowIT people but still allowed teams to use it. Playing with fire, but I felt I had to do it.
I think what really makes me sad in this whole deal is the fact that there was no one left on my team when I finally got out. Between the WFR’s and the early retirements that happened a couple months ago, everyone I knew and liked were gone. There was no party. No cake. No well-wishes or claps on the back. No going away laughs and “remember when” discussions. This whole last week, I spoke with maybe 4 people about my leaving and got probably 6 emails. That’s it. After 8+ years, it all came down to me handing over my badge to a stranger. When I left my first position with HP to join the Web Team, there was a nice little shindig. Marilyn, my then manager, had a nice little going away deal complete with balloons and cake. Of course it was carrot cake which I hate, but it’s the thought that counts. I had been with that team less than a year. Now, after doing the web job for 7 years and being with the company for over 8, there is nothing. That’s what its like in the world of the faceless multinational corporation.
The one thing that HP has really fostered in its employees over the past 5 or 6 years is that you are made to feel like a liability to the company, not the reason for the company’s existence. You don’t add any value to the company, you simply get in the way of them making a profit. Add on top of that the never ending rounds of layoffs, the morale of me and everyone I knew couldn’t get any lower. I have learned one thing and that is I have exactly zero desire to ever work for a giant corporation ever again, unless maybe Google comes a-knocking. You can read my thoughts about living under the threat of constant layoffs here.
There are two things I am looking forward most to in working with Wirestone. One, working with cool fellow employees on a combined goal and feeling a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie and two, feeling like my contributions matter and are appreciated by my boss. Thats it. I have very low expectations and HP couldn’t meet either of them. I have a feeling that I will never again develop a complete webpage that never gets used. Side story… I spent over a month developing a Rewards and Recognition site for all of the call center teams. We had lots of meetings and I did a lot of interactive development. Spent a lot of time on it. I enjoyed it because I got to do a little design work as well as hard core coding. Well, I finally got to the point where it was ready to deploy. All done and I turned over the keys to the management team. Guess what… that site never got deployed. Never got used. Nothing. *sigh* Should have known that HP wouldn’t actually bother with rewards and recognition.
Now, I’ve heard that not all parts of HP are this bad. Maybe that’s true. All I know for sure is that in my general vicinity of the company the HP Way is completely dead and gone. Doesn’t exist. I’m sure Bill and Dave would be disgusted if they could see what has happened to their beloved creation. I read in the Wall Street Journal that HP trumpeted a new ink cartridge that cost 25% less! Uh, all well and good except for the fact that said cartridge contains 60% less ink. The “New HP Way” apparently.
I guess I shouldn’t be bitching this much about it. I mean, its over. I’m undoubtedly going to a better place. But part of me is still loyal to HP. I always wanted it to be what it was when I started. A special place. I haven’t done anything in my life for 8+ years. All I can do is make the analogy that this is like getting out of prison… you know you’re going to be happier, but part of you is still attached to where you were.
I was unable to obtain a WFR package (which for me would have been 4 months pay), so I walked out of HP with the following. A check for my unused FTO, some 100+ hours, and a 4 day weekend (I don’t start Wirestone until Tuesday). That’s it.
I would be willing to bet that once I’m a couple weeks into my Wirestone career, I will forget all about HP. That will be just fine with me.
Onward and upward.