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The Added Drama Behind the Layoff

I previously told the story of how I was laid off after eight and a half years of working for NetApp, my first job out of college. There’s…a bit more to that story though.

As I’ve told before, in a previous round of layoffs at that company I had been moved from a position working on their core product to a startup-like team creating a brand new product. This move also gave me a completely new management chain. Although it was weird, because my new manager and his bosses were all in California, and I was in North Carolina. All the managers in the NC office knew me and had worked with me for years, while my actual manager and his peers in California had never even met me before.

The vice president of the engineering organization I used to be a part of had made it a part of his routine to stop by my desk regularly. Despite the fact that he was my great-grandboss (i.e. my manager’s manager’s manager), he knew that I would tell it like it was. After I moved out of his management chain, the conversations only got more honest.

After several months of this, I noticed that he was quite good at saying the right thing, but nothing seemed to actually change.

(I contrast this to the vice president who was actually in my management chain. He was less glib, but if he said he was going to do something, he actually did it. He’s the one who figured out how to get me to New Zealand after HR said no and then actually made it stick.)

After the handwriting was on the wall regarding the dissolution of my entire organization, everybody was trying to find another spot in the company. For most, this behavior was fairly irrational, as trying so hard to stay with such a deeply dysfunctional company doesn’t make much sense. However, in my situation (living in New Zealand, working remotely for a US company) I recognized how difficult it could be to wind up on the job market. If someone were willing to take me, I would go.

I didn’t think it would be very hard. After all, I’d worked for my old organization for years. Everyone there knew me, and knew the sort of work I did. Furthermore, the VP himself (yes, the same one who stopped by my cube for a chat) said that he would take care of me. Yet as the weeks went by with no clarity regarding what my new job would be, I grew concerned.

Eventually, as I told before, I got laid off. No new job was forthcoming.

Later, I found out that the VP in question had _also_ been laid off. Hearing this actually made me feel more charitably inclined toward him. Yes, he was all bark and no bite. But he was also busy trying to save his own job, which I’m sure left him very little time to work on saving mine.

(His LinkedIn profile has listed him as “On sabbatical — architecting an encore career!” ever since, which is a little sad. I guess he shuffled ignominiously off into retirement.)

I have often said that the best thing NetApp ever did for me was hiring me out of college, and the second best thing was laying me off. For the good of my career, I really needed a change. And furthermore, I needed to know that I wasn’t just a big fish in a small pond. That is to say, across the entire industry I’m unquestionably a medium-sized fish at best, but I realized that devoting 8 years of my life to writing SCSI drivers for enterprise storage systems had not pigeonholed me as badly as I thought it had.

But all that is a story for another time.


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