Monthly Archives: March 2010

Think Time

After last week’s surprise, the rest of the week was a whirl of phone calls, meetings, and e-mail exchanges, making and renewing contacts, gathering information, and trying to get to a place where I’d have enough data to think about considering making plans.

I realized that while all that activity was necessary, it wasn’t sufficient, so I also blocked several hours of “Think Time” on my calendar for today. The plan was to stand in front of a whiteboard and write down positives and negatives of various options, make unanswered questions explicit, and ignore the world. I told a couple of colleagues that that was what I was going to do; I even blogged about it yesterday.

It didn’t happen.

Instead, I spent most of the day talking with people who’d also been affected (some directly, some by having their teams reduced), as well as several other colleagues in various parts of the business (at least two of whom had been my manager at one time or another). I also had a long session with IBM Benefits, so that I really understand what my choices and resources are if I do retire.

But what I really did was listen carefully to my gut.

Because it turns out that this decision isn’t going to be one I make entirely objectively, based on threats and opportunities, strengths and weaknesses, and financial considerations.

My gut has to be happy.

And it’s giving me a pretty clear message about what will make it happy; it’s a message which doesn’t require a whiteboard to analyze.

I’m going to sleep on that message tonight and make sure I’m reading it clearly.

Tomorrow could be interesting.

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I had my first session today at Right Management, the outplacement firm that IBM has contracted with. I had a 90-minute one-on-one with a “Career Management Consultant”; we talked, unsurprisingly, about me and my options going forward.

There was some very concrete advice (have a local phone number and a “professional” email address for the search process; never answer a call to your cell phone that might be search-related unless you can actually talk right then (otherwise, let it go to voicemail); remember that your résumé is a sales document), as well as some discussion which centered on my own needs, desires, and skills.

I came out of the session with a few must-dos (some of which are administrative in nature), the realization that I can’t hop along both the internal and external paths for very long, and some hints towards turning my bulleted list of accomplishments into a résumé. Not bad for a first step.

And then I came home and spent the rest of the day on the phone (even attending one conference call, which will be the last in that series for me). It’s helpful to get the perspective of folks who have been through this process, as well as those who are still safely ensconced inside the Blue Curtain.

Tomorrow, I plan to go to the office; I have a lot of “think time” booked on my calendar. I expect to turn off the phone and Sametime for most of the day, too.

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I’ve been taking classes at ComedySportz San Jose for a little over a year and I’ve finally reached the pinnacle of the system, Rec League (we even have our own t-shirts!). In Rec League, we intermix classes and shows — tonight, it was my turn to be in a full-length show along with five of my classmates.

I don’t think the timing could have been better. It was great to be able to concentrate on what was happening on stage right now so that I could respond and make the team look better. I probably could have done without one scene suggestion (“fired”), but even that one led to a very funny scene in the game of “I Can Do Better”.

Tomorrow, I get to continue my exploration of what lies ahead. I haven’t connected to the intranet this weekend, either (though I can’t blame a snowstorm and cable cut this time), but tomorrow morning, I’ll be curious to see what awaits in my inbox, and what options have opened or closed internally. I also have my first meeting with the placement firm tomorrow, which should be interesting and informative.

One thing that improv has taught me is that it’s not always wise to plan too far ahead, because you never know what curves your partners will throw at you, and trying to force the scene in the direction you want can hurt it and make you look silly. Tomorrow will be here soon enough; for now, I want to thank everyone who’s given me support or advice so far — you’re making me feel very good!

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That was the week (and job) that was

It started very innocently.

It was Monday morning, about 9:20am; I’d been in the office about 30 minutes, after my usual weekly trip to the chiropractor. I’d been unable to connect to the intranet all weekend because of a fiber cut in Westchester County, so I was busily processing my Lotus Notes inbox (reading email, in English). And I was awaiting the arrival of a colleague (let’s call him J) who was driving in from Fresno to work with me, at our manager’s request — there were two goals: better defining a project we were planning and making sure that J saw other IBMers occasionally. So I wasn’t surprised when my manager (M) popped up on IM to ask if he could call me — I assumed he was going to offer some suggestions for our meeting.

I was wrong.

“Hello, David. There is a resource action today and your job has been eliminated. If you cannot find another position within IBM by March 31st, your employment will terminate on that date. I am sending you the official information by email – please read it.”

I’m probably not quoting exactly, but that was the gist of it. I’m sure M was reading from a script, because the words weren’t in his style, and he delivered them almost in a single breath.

I was stunned. Not just because of the news, but because I hadn’t heard any rumors of a resource action, unlike 2009, where I think there must have been ads on TV telling IBMers to watch for it, it was so widely expected.

After the scripted part of the call, M and I talked a bit longer; he told me to concentrate on myself and not worry about the work in progress and apologized for this having happened.

Almost as soon as we hung up, another IM window popped up; it was another colleague on the East Coast who was going to call when J arrived so we could work together. I told him that I’d been resourced, and that I might need to cancel our sessions, but would let him know.

Of course, I called Diane immediately and gave her the news — she says I sounded pretty shaken. I don’t remember.

I decided that since J had already driven two hours, it didn’t make any sense to tell him to turn around — I did phone him and warn him that I might be distracted and told him why.

When he arrived, we called our East Coast colleague and had a good technical session — I told them where the things I’d been working on would fit into their project (that’s not how I’d been planning to phrase it originally), and we talked about where they were going to go with the project.

In the meantime, I’d told my assistant (who was probably more shocked than I had been) and asked her to start setting up meetings with people who might be able to help me, starting with my HR Partner, who I met right after lunch (with J, where the discussion was not very technical).

The discussion with my HR Partner was just what I needed; she was empathetic, sympathetic, and knowledgeable about the resources that IBM was making available to me (including an outplacement firm, financial advice, and, of course, a severance package). She was also straightforward about my chances of finding a new position in the 30 days I had left (not good, but it had happened in previous cycles).

When I left her office, I felt a lot better — I wasn’t thrilled about what had happened, but I realized that how I reacted to it was in my hands (as a senior IBM executive once said, “You own your own morale”).

So I started reaching out to people in my network and asking for pointers to opportunities, whether inside or outside IBM. And I started declining some of the standing meetings on my calendar (especially the ones at 6am Pacific!), while keeping the ones where I thought I could make a contribution.

I could go on in endless detail, but I suspect it would be boring, and wouldn’t actually help anyone reading this. Suffice it to say that I haven’t been nearly as busy for quite a while, and that it is wonderful to have so many friends and colleagues (both those still at IBM and those who have made the transition) who have been willing to listen to me and offer support of one form or another.

I would have been quite happy not to have gotten that phone call on Monday, but I’m very fortunate because I’m in a good position to use this to move forward.

  • I have the luxury of time to figure out what “forward” means (not everyone does).
  • IBM is providing various forms of assistance (I meet with the placement firm on Monday — since I’ve never had to write a résumé, I know what one of my first tasks will be).
  • I know lots of people who want to see me succeed and are willing to help.
  • And I don’t have to write a PBC for this year! (Well, probably…I am looking internally, and my management team is helping me in that quest.)

Stay tuned.

Special note for IBMers

Frank Jania was included in last year’s layoffs; he wrote “Lessons From A Layoff” during his last month at IBM. I read it at the time, little suspecting that I’d find it so pertinent a year later. It’s on BlogCentral, which will be replaced by Lotus Connections blogs sometime in the not-so-distant future; I recommend you read the series (8 postings) while the URL is still good!

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