This entry into my literary timeline is meant to be a follow-up to âDrifting on a Life Raft 60 Days after Being Laid Offââa post representing a huge turning point in my W2-labor-camping career. I was turning from government and going back to the private sector. I was officially wading into the world of .NET shops in Southern California (yes, there was a thing before .NET). This entry was meant to report how successful this effort has been. This effort has been successful: I am now âofficiallyâ at the end of the Southern-Californian line in terms of career growth. I have worked at what I consider the biggest and best .NET shops in Southern Californiaâthis includes Amgen, 20th Century Fox Filmed Entertainment and PIMCO (I am still here at the moment). I mention these companies by name because these companies (especially Amgen and PIMCO) represent the best Microsoft has enabled in Southern California for the enterprise. I do expect disagreement with this statement and I do exclude super-high-end-boutique shops like Tim Huckabyâs Interknowlogy in San Diego.
For me (personally) my work at 20th Century Fox (probably now entirely called 21st Century Fox) represents my first opportunity to build the .NET application of my very limited W2-at-will-employment dreams. This achievement is huge to me and no bizarre (and quite evil) revisions of history can take it away from me. At Fox I built a Silverlight application on top of RIA services. I built this application in a brown field. This means I built it inside of an older, crappier version of the same application. My new code ate the old code from the inside out (like a parasite). This brown-field experience makes me even more proud of my work because brown-field building is hard: you have to know how the old crap is built while discovering how to build the new crap at the same time. This made the work all-consuming. It was so demanding that I put up with a noisy neighbor for over a year to avoid complicating my life away from Silverlight. I am glad I was not a married man during this project because I would be in the throes of divorce court by now. When younger programmers talk about how âpassionateâ they are about building software, check with those kids when they get my age and see where the passion lies (most of them would have moved into management to have more time with the wife and kids).
So this entry is meant to be cheerful, celebratory and what they call âpositive.â Yet simultaneously I show this photograph of mine. And I declare that this photograph represents my W2 life from the beginning of my career all the way to the present day. This one, âdepressingâ photograph says it all. One of the first things I am saying is that there is always room for improvement. There is nothing like an old, dilapidated building (with Fox on it) to symbolize this. Somehow, in spite of my vast amounts of experience, it has never (okay, rarely) been the ârightâ time for me to suggest what an organization can do to improve itself. Some of these folks actually give me the title of consultant and never consult me on anything. You have to get the Black history straight kids: it is not like they trusted me first and then I did something to lose that trust; it is not like I was able to âearnâ trust and then did something to lose it. I just showed up and began to workâand the work is supposed to speak for itself without any political campaigning. So umâŠ let us take another look at the whole burning bridges thing. Let us start with a rule that I am pretty much completely dedicated to:
You have to meet people where they are or simply refuse to meet with them.
So, yes, it is true I actively refuse to meet with a great deal of peopleâmost of these people are middle managers of large corporations or owners of small businesses. I can still make myself laugh with the image of a guy walking in an office to meet someone sitting a desk. The guy walks in with a balsa-wood-and-string scale model of a suspension bridge. The guy sits down and starts talking. Eventually the guy sets the bridge on fire, gets up and leaves the room.
My point is that I am certain that the whole burning bridges thing is not always about irresponsibly destroying relationships that might be âusefulâ later. After being myself in the workplace for over 20 years, I can safely say that burning bridges responsibly and carefully only fails in a totalitarian society monopolized by one dominant organization of efficient oppression. So that means Iâll not be working in China anytime soon (but a lot of so-called democracies are starting to look a lot like China).
Imagine a world completely dominated by a cult of personality around the company that posted on the building of this photograph of mine. See that âexecutive realtorsâ sign posted on the building? Over 20 years ago I tried to be a freelance graphic designer in the City of Inglewood (just like this guy named Hannibal Tabu). I saw the horrible logo of this âexecutive realtorsâ outfit and offered to change it. I think we did business (I think the company paid me to trace the logo from a bitmap so it can blown up to any size). But my goal of changing the logo was never achieved. What is worse, is that years after I am gone the crappy logo is still there. At some point we can (sometimes) amicably agree to disagree but effectively burn any bridges between us that would allow us to reach agreement. I donât even remember these people. I just remember the logo. From a time-management point of view, I do not see any loss in that (although ego bounds).
The âexecutive realtorsâ sign on the building represents my first forays into business (it also says that, like Hannibal Tabu, I first tried to establish myself as a professional within my Black communityâso, in spite of monumental non-recognition of our devotion to âour people,â dudes like me are Black first). The fact that the building in my photo is a Fox movie theater represents where I am now as a professional. Racism aside, these âtwo worldsâ are not far apartâthis is why it is so wonderful to see that âexecutive realtorsâ sign on that old Fox Theater.