Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Today is the ten-year anniversary of my Big Layoff

Well, ten years ago, at about this time, (9:20 AM CST), my manager stood in my cubicle and said “Bill, we have a meeting.”
At 9 AM sharp, I had gotten a message from Netware saying “your account is disabled. Please log off now”, right while I was talking to an internal client resolving a problem in the GUI.  
The help desk called back when I returned from the “meeting” saying, yes, my account was disabled.
Fourteen of us on the “Fourth Floor” were laid off that day, Dec. 13, 2001, 92 days after 9/11.  One of the people had been on nightcall that week.  The nightcall responsibility was split among the fewer people who remained (a 40% cutback), three days at a time.  
I do believe that, had 9/11 been prevented, the layoff, at least on this scale, would not have happened then, not until well into 2002.  9/11 had affected the company.  
This would be my first involuntary termination since 1971.  I had worked over thirty years with stability, quite a record, I thought.  
I never quite climbed back on the mainframe and conventional IT wagon.  I came close a few times. I’ve rehearsed many of the reasons, but one of them is that I had suddenly become spread too thin.  Exposure to a lot of things was no longer good enough as it had been; you had to be an expert at something.  To get a Medicaid MMIS contract, for example, you would need 5 years MMIS, fairly recent.  A mainframe contracting world would evolve (after 2000 and Y2K) where the same people rotated among similar contracts, much as had been the practice with defense contractors back in the 1970s.  Typically, employing clients already knew who they wanted.  

Derek Thompson of The Atlantic discusses the "hiring crisis" (5 months ago):

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