It’s been said that “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword.” The Silicon Valley version could be “she who is hired with investor funding is fired when the investors are ready to cash out.”
In 2008 I was hired in a spending spree that tripled the size of my group and included purchasing another software company. Within six months, my group was slashed in half and I narrowly escaped the layoffs. Three years later we were profitable and were scoring A-list customers with our newest product in a new market. But it was too little, too late. The investors wanted their money and we were sold, just two weeks before Christmas.
The buyer was a private company wholly owned by Mr Z, who built his empire by acquiring software companies for their maintenance stream. The day after he bought us, Mr Z visited our California office to welcome us to the family. In his one hour visit, he proudly told us that he had flown in on his Gulfstream, which takes him around the world to the dozens of companies he's acquired. He introduced us to his lovely flight concierge who travels with him, and joked about traveling places where it wasn't safe for him to wear his expensive watches.
Photo credit: Ben Wang via Airliners.net. Note: The Gulfstream in the photo is NOT Mr. Z’s actual plane.
Within a week over half of the people in the room were fired, including me. No need for finance, marketing, HR or most of customer support. The official paperwork said we were either redundant or our positions were not in alignment with corporate strategy. For me, I suspect it was the latter. Who needs marketing if you’re not reaching beyond your established customer base?
Most of my co-workers fully expected this outcome, so packing up to leave wasn’t as sad as you’d think. We even had time for a little goofiness in the office before we hurried off for happy hour downtown. The strange truth was that the happiest people that day were the ones let go. The ones who were kept seemed somber, perhaps in fear of the BIG UNKNOWN ahead, perhaps with a bit of survivor guilt.
Aside from losing daily contact with my friends in the form of co-workers, my biggest sadness is the loss of an amazing commute. Before working at this company I had ridden my bike to work, but never with the frequency or pleasure that this job has brought me. A five mile commute on neighborhood streets is distinctly different than a 10 mile commute on high-speed roads through office parks.
Still, if I look back at all the jobs I’ve had in the last 20-something years here, all have been within a one hour commute distance, and half have been what I would consider along Dutch-bike friendly routes where I could ride in street clothes (blue stars). The other half were in locations where I’d need to ride in bike gear and change at the office (red crosses). So I feel confident that I’ll find a job where I can still commute by bike.
My big unknown is what I will do next. We’re in good shape financially, but that doesn’t mean I can retire before 50. I’m not really worried, though. There’s always something interesting around the bend in Silicon Valley, even for a veteran like me.
If you were to lose your job tomorrow, what would you miss most? What would you look for next?