Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chilton, TRW,and Experian: a progression of three companies (and one Aug. 31 date)

On Monday, August 31, 1987, I was sitting in my cluttered cublicle, with its CRT screen (still monochromatic) with Roscoe and various RPF’s to watch production jobs, and back off the beaten trail, when I heard management walk by the bulky laser printers and talk about the sudden $800000 budget cut.

The next day, we started a month long parallel of the new daily billing system for Chilton Corporation in Dallas, a credit reporting company. It had been acquired by Borg-Warner, and in the era of hostile takeovers, it was under pressure to deliver heavy profits, or else be sold to a competitor and wipe out our jobs.

We had to get the parallels (from an old ALC system with BDAM files to a “modern” Datacomm DB system with COBOL on an IBM-like Ahmdahl) perfect for a month, or the system couldn’t get in. And we might wind up on the market with nothing accomplished.

The parallels did go perfectly (we cluttered up a conference room with printouts on the floor). On October 1, a Thursday, we went live. That night, I and another man watched the batch cycle. We got through it with no problems.   The “reports file” balanced.

I went home Friday morning to my Pleasant Grove condo to sleep, and came back about 3.  My manager told me about a meeting that had just been called.  This had been the best implementation ever.  (“Many people can code, few can implement.”)   But there was a “down side”.  Due to budget cuts, New Systems Development would be phased out.  Four people would be laid off every three months. 

I remember walking down Turtle Creek later that sunny afternoon (still hot in Dallas), and thinking, I might go back “home” to DC (rent the condo, since the real estate market had tanked during the Texas savings and loan scandal), and deal with the job market there. I was apprehensive, because many of the jobs were defense oriented and would require security clearances. This was only 1987, and I wondered if my sexual orientation would stop my getting a clearance if I needed it.

It would, as the 1990s unfolded, but in a way no one could have predicted.

I was offered a “transfer” to “maintenance” so the NSD layoff couldn’t affect me.  I took it. In those days, employees who could keep a place running as it decommissioned were perceived as more “valuable”.  Such was the world of hostile takeovers.  But in time, merged companies would place less emphasis on “merging applications” and tend to keep legacy systems, and use mid-tiers with replication or direct-connect SQL technologies.

Nevertheless, I would go back to DC in 1988 with a consulting job, and Chilton would indeed get bought by TRW (Equifax barely missed us), and the systems we had worked so hard on would be eliminated. But eventually, TRW would spin off its credit reporting operation as Experian, and much of it would be located in the northern Dallas exurbs, effectively becoming the modern day Chilton Corporation, but with all systems completely replaced (again).
I wonder if anyone at all there knows me. 

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