Thursday, March 29, 2007

It's about time

Yesterday my employer became my former employer. Their choice.

Now many folks might have a bit of a melt down. "Oh my God, they got rid of me! I must suck!"

But I realize that this had very very little to do with performance. They actually mentioned that they loved the work that I did. It's just that they're now officially a software company, and I'm a consultant and solver of business problems. When the company did get the odd consulting project, I knocked it out of the park. But the company doesn't have many of those. Now, if one looks at how much money my now ex employer makes for my work versus how much they pay me, one can make a compelling case that keeping me around, even if I only work 6 months per year, is great for the firm. The margins on Ken are so high, that it's ok to leave his capacity idle. But they aren't running a services organization to maximize profit, but to maximize utilization.

Yeah, I know. I, too, wouldn't invest in a company that isn't trying to maximize profit.

So for a long time we've done this dance. When they have a project for me, I do great, they love me, realize I'm valuable. When they don't have one, they wonder why they hired me to begin with. So I was only surprised by the specific timing of the parting of ways, not that it happened.

I've been trying to figure out what I want to do next for some time, and now I'm going to get paid (for a little while at least) to figure that out. And this is exactly what I wanted. For, had I quit voluntarily, I'd not have had the extra cash coming in. I'd been waiting for them to do this, precisely because of the economic benefits of making them make that choice.

It's funny, because on Monday this week I sent myself a zip folder of my personal files from my work machine in an e-mail entitled "in case I get fired". This isn't a huge shock to me.

And I've been touched by my colleague's reactions. Not that I take pleasure in their emotional discomfort, but so many are sad to see me go. They really enjoyed my presence, thought I contributed a ton. They think the firm is crazy to let me go, they recognize that I was a unique perspective. I'll miss many of them, too. But I resolve to keep those relationships intact.

This weekend, I'm off to San Diego for the big race. It turns out the two boats we beat last year to win, the ones with a smattering of former (and many very recent) US national team folks in them, have merged to try to beat us. So we'll be racing a boat of almost 100% ex-national guys. This is like a local softball team taking on a bunch of former New York Yankees. And last year, the ex-Yankees lost.

The cool thing here is, we still have a decent shot at winning. This sport, perhaps more than all others, is about coming together as a team and a unit that is actually greater than the sum of its parts. We've spent the last 6 weeks rowing together as a crew to merge in that way, and I think we have. Our competition will row together for the first time on Friday. So we'll see. We may come in second. Maybe it won't even be close. Maybe last year was a fluke. Or maybe even a boat full of ringers can't take us down, and we deserve to be respected and feared.