Your long awaited update
Herewith is a long awaited but overly simplified update.
Many moons ago I was laid off. Unceremoniously given the boot from the project I was working on. I was told it was "budget cuts" but I suspect there was more to it than that. I was vocal about the risk profile of the project. I can now tell you the plan was to consolidate the servers for a mission critical application to a secure, dedicated facility. So far, so good, right? Oh, and they were changing their information delivery model. And the platform. And the database schema. And data feeds. Right about then I raised my hand and, ever so meekly, inquired if it was wise to change all these at once. I mentioned that the problem with multiple concurrent changes like this makes testing nearly impossible. They, of course, blew me off.
The thing about being an IT consultant is that you're like Cassandra. So many places make the same mistakes you see them over and over. I used to get angry but now I just mention it, document it and then tell them "I told you so". (They really don't like that last part.)
I was later vindicated after being booted from the project and it started making national news.
The timing worked out well for me. I know from experience that if I was still on board when this happened I would have been thrown under the bus to protect the FTE's. Meh. Way of the world. As it was, I felt like a rat who didn't abandon the ship but more like one who was put on a teeny tiny lifeboat.
Initially, it was good to be off. I haven't had anything approaching a break in a while and it was good to spend time with the family. That wore off rather quickly and I started to get nervous. The end of the year is the worst possible time to be looking for a job. All the budget money for the year is spent and most companies are concerned with closing the books and budgeting for the coming year. I had an offer but it was later revoked as the funding for the position was cut. Things were very cold for a long time. I picked up what work I could and worked as a remodeler with a family member who is (soon to be was) in the business. Nothing like using a wet tile saw outside when it's 22 degrees. Not. Fun.
I learned very quickly that while I'm not wild about corporate life it defines more more than I realized. More than I'm certainly comfortable with. I've had blue collar jobs in the past but they were always a stop on the way to The Big Corporate Gig. Waiting tables, life guarding, mowing lawns, etc. All the jobs you do when you're starting out or when you're home from college in the summers. I have no brief with blue collar jobs. Quite the opposite. I see these guys with skills I wish I had doing work that would wear me out in half the time.
Things are, and remain, very lean financially. Within the first two weeks of unemployment we looked for ways to cut the fat from the budget. Some of it was easy, some of it not. We are much more careful about spending on little items than in the past and that's certainly been to our benefit. I now think twice about everything I buy, not just the bigger purchases.
The hardest part was applying for jobs that I was over qualified for and not getting a reply. Many, many jobs that were available and that I had years of experience doing were open. I applied and...nothing. Exasperated I called all my old clients looking to see if they had anything they needed done. They didn't.
I called a recruiter with whom I've worked in the past and asked him why I'm not getting at least an interview for some of these. He was blunt. They aren't going to hire you because they know you'll leave at the first opportunity. Being overqualified isn't always a benefit.
(It's important to note that the rates for the contracts I normally take had fallen by about 60%. The jobs for which I was overqualified were less than that and often didn't include benefits. I know it's a buyers market but give me a break. One job in particular paid $11/hr. Desperate as I was I didn't apply for that one.)
I had a good lead with a big bank in Delaware. Interview went fine if a bit rushed and, again, I was overqualified for the job. This was the same job I was doing seven years ago. After the interview? Nothing. The recruiter didn't call me back, nor answer my emails. I didn't get the job. That's fine but it's completely unprofessional to not even call me or at the bare minimum answer my emails. Fine buddy you have this round but you burned me and I know every friggin' IT consultant in Delaware and I'm going to warn everyone about you. Your name is your name and you squandered yours. Even if you leave that company, I have your name and you won't remember me but I'll remember you.
Oddly, my current position happened very quickly. I got a call from a company out of state for an interview. At first they wanted to do a phone interview but then changed their minds and wanted to see me. This is a good sign. Phoners are usually cattle calls to weed out the liars, fantasists and bozos. I drove about 2.5 hrs on a Wednesday for the interview. Things went well during the interview. One interesting thing that I thought was going to tank it. They asked about my UNIX background. I told them that I know some calls but definitively stated. I. AM. NOT. A. DEVELOPER. Everyone made a note on my resume when I said that. Oh well, better to not get a job than get a job I can't do. As it turns out that wasn't a problem they weren't looking for one but they needed to know that I can (and have) worked with developers. Specifically UNIX developers.
One thing did happen in the interview that almost made me change my mind. There were two managers in the room and one tech guy on the phone. One of their biggest concerns here is optimization. Conversation went something like this:
Me: "What is the nature of the performance problem?"
Them: "Well, two things: The system was designed to hold three years of data. It currently holds nine. Second, the main table has a billion rows."
Me: "Wait, billion, like with a B"? (that's a direct quote)
Them: "So you understand our problem"
Me (getting lightheaded): Uh...yeah
Them: "We've actually come up against the maximum constraints of Oracle. No one's ever done that before"
We wrapped up and I went on my merry way. Pointed my car (her name is Flattery because she gets me everywhere.
On the way home I get a phone call from the recruiter. They liked me. It was too soon to say anything but the implication was they wanted to hire me. Did I have any other leads right now? I was temped to lie and say yes to bump up my number but I didn't. Good, sit tight something coming shortly. I had an offer by Friday and they wanted me to start Monday. Uh...no, as you are 2.5 hrs away from home and I have to take a drug test and fill out all this other crap I can't get that all done in time. After much back and forth they agreed to push it back a week which worked better for everyone.
So my situation stands thusly: I'm working M-F out of state and renting a room in a borderline squalid house with 5 other bachelors and going home on the weekends. This is not easy. Not on my, not on my wife and not on the kids. Hardest on them most of all I suppose as I've never not tucked them in at night.
It's not ideal but it's a job and it's really good to be working again. I can blog about this now because I'm waiting for all sorts of paperwork to be completed before I can start working in earnest so blogging will remain intermittent for the foreseeable future.