Sunday, November 11, 2012

Just Shoot Me. . .

My friend Lime has been posting in recent days/weeks about the joys of her quest for a new job.  On one of her recent posts, Daryl left a comment that reminded me, yet again, of a story from my own young life (which actually happened enough years ago as to call into question the actual, factual youth of said life of mine, but whatchagonnado?). . .


Way back when I worked for my previous employer, who was also my first 'real' employer, I was an eager young engineer, fresh out of college.  Our company was, in those days, something of a pioneer in bringing the new-fangled Computer-Aided Design (CAD) stuff into regular use in the wheel industry (our motto: 'Re-Inventing the Wheel Daily') (Yes, I know I used that joke in another post, just recently; sue me).  That fancy-schmancy CAD stuff had originated in the Aircraft industry, and was fairly new in the Auto industry, but li'l ol' wheel companies like us hadn't much gotten around to it yet, in those days.  So it was a kinda cool time to be working there, and my boss got to go on all sorts of boondoggles trips explaining how a mid-size company like ours was using CAD, and more to the point, how we justified spending that kind of money.

As it turned out, we settled into a bit of an unusual mix of hardware and software, but it worked well for us.  Before long, our CAD system had grown to the point that it was beyond the modest abilities of us engineers to maintain it (besides which, we really wanted to be working on 'engineering stuff', not taking care of a bunch of computer hardware and software), so we decided to hire a 'computer guy' to take care of our CAD system for us.  We talked to the IT department (which, in those days, was called 'Data Processing'), to see if they had anyone they could assign to us, who could run our quirky little mix of stuff.  They didn't have anyone to fit our needs, so we set about looking for someone who could.

Now, we used to go to all the various and sundry 'User's Conferences' for the hardware and software we were using (which, I suppose, is why they were called 'User's Conferences'), and we would meet other folks who were using the same stuff we were, and we'd get new ideas for how to do things differently/better than we were.  It was at one of these User's Conferences that we were talking to a young fellow (even younger than me, and that was back when I was still young) who worked for a company that used the exact same quirky mix of hardware and software that we did, so we could talk to each other with a high degree of familiarity with what each other were doing.  At one conference, he told us that he was a bit disillusioned with his employer, and inquired as to whether or not we might have a position for him, since he was already familiar with what we were doing.

Well, that just seemed too good to be true.  We had just decided to look for someone who could tend our oddball little CAD system, and here was perhaps the one guy in the United States (or the world, for that matter) who could just walk through our door and do the job, from Day One.  So we scheduled a set of interviews for him, barely containing our glee at having found the single, best, perfect guy, before we really even started looking.

So, we brought him in and had him talk to our engineering bosses, and everyone agreed that he was perfect for us, almost like the heavens had opened and dropped him in our laps.

The final interview of the day was with our Data Processing guys, mainly as a courtesy, since his job would actually be a 'computer job', even though he'd be working for Engineering.  He spoke with the DP guys, then we all went out to dinner, looking ahead to when he could start working for us, and all the ways he'd help us do stuff better, faster, etc, etc.  We all shook hands, and he got back on his plane to head home and wait for our offer.

The next day, all the interviewers got together to discuss the interviews, and come to a consensus on what kind of offer to make him.  All of the engineering guys were beaming at the way the perfect guy had just fallen so serendipitously into our laps, but the DP guys were strangely silent.  When we asked them what they thought, they said, "He doesn't know COBOL."  (At this late date, how many of the elderly among you even remember what COBOL was?)

"So what?" we said.  "The job doesn't have anything to do with COBOL.  He's a perfect fit for what we need.  What's COBOL got to do with anything?"

"Well, we have a corporate hiring policy that all DP employees have to know COBOL.  And he'll be a DP employee.  He doesn't know COBOL, so we can't hire him."

"But he'll be working in Engineering!  We'll do his performance reviews, and all his work will be accountable to us!"

"Doesn't matter.  He'll be under our organization, and we can't hire anybody who doesn't know COBOL.  If he ever wants to transfer away from Engineering, we'll be stuck with him."

"He can take a COBOL class, if he needs to know COBOL."

"But he doesn't know it now, so we can't hire him."

And so it went, back and forth, around and around, for over an hour.  We tried to insist that his job shouldn't be under the DP 'umbrella', and that he should be a direct employee of Engineering, but the DP Manager and his VP insisted that anybody who actually touched a computer was part of the DP organization, and at some point, the Director of Engineering and the Engineering VP gave in on that point, and then the battle was lost.

And that's how the perfect guy CAME TO US, looking for a job, but we didn't hire him, over a policy point that had NOTHING to do with, you know, the actual job (to say nothing of the fact that COBOL was already well on its way into obsolescence by then, and had been for a few years).

Looking back, it had way more to do with corporate politics and internal empire-building, and who had the 'cheese' to tell the other one how things were gonna go, than anything else.  I'm sure that, by the time the decision was communicated to our erstwhile would-be employee, he was just as happy not to have come to work for us.  Maybe I shouldn't be surprised that, at that point, the company had maybe ten years left in its viable lifetime. . .


Yesterday was a beautiful day around here, what they used to call Indian Summer when I was growing up - it was 65F in the afternoon, just before sunset.  I was planning to ride 25-30 miles, but about 5 miles in, I decided that it was so nice that I'd stretch it to 36 (and, you know, you don't get many opportunities to be out in shorts in November, so when they come along, you gotta make the most of 'em).  Along with the 25 I rode last weekend, and the 24 I rode on Election Day (which my company very helpfully gave us off), that brought me to 1702 for the year. Oh, yes, I knew exactly how many miles I needed to pass the next milestone; at this time of the year, better to take the miles when you can get them, because you never know when the cold and snow will call the riding season to a screeching halt.  I'd have been really frustrated to finish yesterday's ride in the 1690s, and have it snow 6 inches before I could get the last few miles in.  And there is snow in the forecast for Monday/Tuesday (it's still pretty rare for it to stay this early, but you never know).  So, woo-hoo! and all that.  It's been a good year of riding.  I don't think 1800 is very likely, but I'll just keep riding, and we'll see where it ends up. . .


  1. OMG, that is so corporate BS. THis from a small firm. Multiply by 1,000,000 and that is why the Fed Government is so inefficient.

    I used to marvel at how many employees we lost because they went to other firms for more money. We could not give a raise to an employee of more that 6% so we lost employees.

    THen personell would hire someone to fill that position at the salary the other guy wanted. Seems you had leeway at the hiring salary, but once employeed you were restricted by the raise limits.

  2. Being a business major in the early 80's, I do remember using COBOL and FORTRAN. But there is never any logic to company policies, is there?

  3. COBOL, ok, i at least know it's a programming language. but that kind of logic emanating from DP...i'd have probably lost my mind.

    and i can honestly say, this job hunt is totally demoralizing. i just interviewed for a job in an elem school library which is what i really want. i found out if i get it i'll be making less doing that job full time than i did working a front desk in a chiropractic office part time. public school wages are so utterly depressing.

  4. I'm surprised to hear that, Lime. I have friends who are aides at the public schools and they make really good money, plus get benefits and its only part time. It's very difficult to even get your foot in the door, because no one ever leaves.

  5. joeh - Yeah, corporate BS at its finest. It just amazes me how often slavish adherence to the policy manual trumps common sense. . .

    Bijoux- Wow, you're really OOOOLLLD, if you actually used COBOL. . . ;)

    I'm one of the very few people at my current employer who still uses FORTRAN. . .

    I wouldn't say there's no logic to company policies; it's just that you need to know when the policy applies, and when it doesn't. . .

    Lime - I nearly did lose my mind. . . It was really less about logic than stupid organizational power games. Honestly, no more complicated than a simple 'you can't tell me what to do' d**k-measuring contest. . .

    And I've mentioned before how Jen was stunned to find that she could make three times as much cleaning rich ladies' houses than she could in a childcare center, for which she has an actual degree. . . You know any rich ladies who need their house cleaned?

  6. i'd rather serve the inner city kids who need someone to apply their skills to give them a chance than the rich ladies who could just get off their butts to clean their own houses. even if it means less pay.

  7. And God bless you for that. . .

  8. I think it is impressive how many miles you've biked this year!

    It is also amazing how many perfectly good employees have not had a chance to prove that due to company policies that can't be bent just a bit to allow for a good match like this young man seemed to be for your company years ago.

    hoping your Indian summer days last a few more in the days ahead.


  9. corgi - Aw thanks. Jen thinks it's more like banging my head against the wall 'cuz it feels so good when I stop. . . (no, not really; for some unfathomable reason, she likes the idea of me staying alive and healthy for as long as I can. . .)

    Even from the company's perspective, we sent away someone who could have helped us be better at what we do, all because the DP guys were essentially copping an attitude of 'You don't get to tell us who to hire'. Stupid, stupid, stupid. . .

    And alas, it's raining as I enter these words, and we've already seen our high temperature for the day (and it was only in the upper 40s). They're talking about snow flurries (no accumulation, tho) for the drive home tonight. . .

  10. Kind of reminds me of my exit interview from the Navy.
    The XO wanted to know what it would take to get me to reenlist. I explained that I would consider if I was allowed to change my rate (I was a radarman). He replied that it couldn't happen because it was a critical rate (there was a shortage) and that it cost thousands to train radarmen. My response was that either way I wasn't going to be a radarman any longer. XO just gave me an ironic grin.

  11. You mentioned everything except DOS and a Commadore 64......

  12. Skip - So, radarman is essentially a for-life appointment, kinda like 'Supreme Court Justice'?


    G-Man - Well we had a rack-mounted HP minicomputer. And the CAD system ran from an IBM mini-mainframe.

    Funny, there was a period of time, before the CAD system, when we submitted jobs over the phone line, to a computer in Akron, via an acoustic coupling. One time, we were giving a demo to a prospective customer, and I was sitting at the acoustic terminal, waiting for results to be returned and displayed on the screen. My boss, to impress our guests, said, "The whole job is being transmitted over the phone, by this connection right here," tapping the handset with his pencil as he spoke. Which, because it was an acoustic connection, quickly brought the remote session to a screeching halt. I just looked up at him with a look of "why the hell did you just do that?" and it took a couple seconds for him to realize what he'd done. So he quickly scurried the customer to another location, while I tried to salvage the job. . .

    1. "So, radarman is essentially a for-life appointment, kinda like 'Supreme Court Justice'?"

      Well, they're call Operations Specialist now, but yeah once you're one of them they only other thing you can be is a civilian.

  13. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised that, at that point, the company had maybe ten years left in its viable lifetime. . .

    Yup... stoopid is as stoopid does, and its half-life is amazingly short. I never ran into that sort o' bureaucratic nightmare but I DID run into others, that were equally dumb.

  14. Oh. And this... I was a radar guy in the Air Force and it took me **16** years to get out of that bid'niz. The job was damned near a "lifetime appointment," and it ended only when USAF decided to dismantle our entire air defense radar network. (Talk about STUPID!)

  15. Buck - Having now had two companies essentially fail out from under me (counting the one I work for now, which, since bankruptcy, is technically a different company than the pre-'09 one), my goal is to retire before it happens a third time (or before they decide that their survival will happen without me). I've just got to get thru another 8.5 years or so. . .

    And - dismantle our entire air defense radar network?? In favor of what?

    1. In favor of nothing, essentially. NORAD gets feeds from FAA air route surveillance radars now, but those radars surveil air routes and have large gaping holes in their coverage. The Powers That Be decided the air-breathing threat (i.e., bombers) went away with the advent of ICBMs... so they took down most of the old air defense network.

  16. Yup. Just like the places that require a degree even though said degree may have little or nothing to do with your actual worth as a prospective employee. I'm always amazed when somebody won't budge from policy even when the obvious best solution is to do just that.

  17. Suldog - You remind me of another bit lunacy from the same company. We had a few older guys who didn't have engineering degrees, but had worked as engineers for years. They weren't doing anything that particularly required a degree - mainly just pushing papers. At a certain point, the company adopted a policy that they would only hire degreed engineers, which is understandable enough, and the older guys who'd been doing the job for years got grandfathered. And it was understood that there were some things that the older, non-degreed guys weren't going to do, and nobody cared. Then, some overzealous HR guy decided that we were no longer gonna have ANY non-degreed engineers (which was probably more about PR to our customers than anything else), and anyone without a degree had two years to get one, or be 'reassigned'. So you had two or three guys who'd done their jobs, and done them capably, for many years, suddenly scrambling to get a diploma from Aunt Zelda's Mail-Order Engineering (Fly-By-)Night School, just so they could keep their jobs. . .

    And, when we finally got our whiz-bang new CAD system, there was the matter of getting everyone trained, so we could start getting the bang for all the bucks we'd spent on it. When the first group of trainees was selected, one of the guys was a 62-year-old draftsman, who was one of our best draftsmen, but who had already announced that he was retiring in six months. So, instead of just letting the poor guy ease thru his last six months of work on his drafting board, they put him thru all the stress of having to learn how to use the computer system, and stumble thru his last six months in stress and anxiety. And the hell of it was, the training schedule went more than six months out; they could easily have just let him skip it. But dammit, EVERYBODY was gonna get trained in the new CAD system, and we had to put this poor guy at the front of the line, so he got trained before he got away. . . (and I won't even mention how pissed my boss was that I had the nerve to schedule my wedding and honeymoon - six months before the fact, mind you - in conflict with when they wanted to train me, so I had to wait two whole weeks. . .)

    Neither will I mention (OK, maybe I will) the guy who came to us a couple months past his 60th birthday, when the company across town he'd worked for all his life went under, and the owner absconded to the Cayman Islands with the pension fund. So this poor guy came to work for us. Now, in those days, you had to work for ten years in order to get a vested pension, so his goal was to work for ten years, in order to get such meager pension as he could, since the one he'd planned on was gone. Then, six months before he was due to retire, someone instituted a policy establishing 70 as the mandatory retirement age, period, end of story, no exceptions. Which meant that this guy - this ONE GUY - was forced to retire a couple months before he could get his pension vested. It was like they put the policy in to save one single minimum-duration pension, or, put another way, to screw this one, single, particular guy, who had already worked for 9.8 years, right up to his 70th birthday, just to try to get that pittance of a pension.

    Some things just cry out for justice. . .

    Sorry; I guess you kinda hit a nerve. . .

    1. That sort of nerve needs to be hit every once in a while. Glad I could help :-)

      I am so glad I work in an office so small that the HR department doesn't exist.

  18. eh, things like this is why new company no longer allows me to interview folks. most they wanna hire i say no to and anyone i tell 'em is a perfect fit they don't wanna come near.

    most times they've veto'd me have been real messes. the two that slipped thru for me before i was froze out are company stars. go figger

  19. Xavier - Sounds like you need to be running yer own company. . .


  20. well, maybe i should be in the recruiting business at least. i ain't a grate munny man so it'd be fun but short-lived ifn i was running it. ya know?

  21. Corporations make me soooooooo angry. These stories are the norm and not the exception. Ridiculous.

  22. Xavier - Recruiting, eh? Just remember to send me my cut for giving you the idea. . .


    Flutter - Well, all of this stuff was done by people; it's not like there's this evil, impersonal 'corporation' out there screwing people over. Every one of these things came about by the actions and decisions of people. But it is very odd, ain't it, how people will do things 'for the company' that they'd never do on their own behalf. . .