Sunday, December 09, 2007

... A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

OK, maybe 12/07/2007 won't ever match the infamy of 12/07/1941, but it will still be a big turning point in my life. To understand why, we have to rewind a little way back.

November 21, 2007

En route to his in-laws for Thanksgiving, the CTO calls me at work in the morning to let me now that he successfully downloaded the 19 GB of emulation environment files and got them working on his computer. After discussing some other tangential items, he instructs me to start looking at flight itineraries for my scheduled trip to the standards body technical meeting Dec. 10 - 14 because he's worried about flights filling up for the holidays.

Recalling that he did nothing with my proposed itinerary back in September, when I prepared it on a similar request, I chose instead to come up with a flight plan and then keep coming back every day to see if the flight was still available. I would send it to him when he e-mailed me to ask for it.

November 26, 2007

After over two weeks of silence regarding the third party contractors that were supposed to be working on the security audit for our client, word arrives that they are back on board.

A teleconference is held with the second group at the medical device manufacturer to discuss their security audit. The IT guy is expressing skepticism about our company's security credentials, saying that the sample audit reports that the CTO sent his way were several years old and that our website does not advertise any security consulting services. He also says he has doubts about the company being able to complete the audit by early December because their architecture is complicated and very different from that of the other department. He wants a more detailed explanation of the company's methodologies for becoming familiar with newer systems.

My coworker hears from the CEO that if this department balks at the deal, they will proceed with the audit anyway since they have a signed purchase order, and then they will send them the bill. My coworker and I agree this seems like a wrongheaded thing to do, because whatever work product emerges from such a hamhanded approach will contain information of limited value to the client.

November 27, 2007

A teleconference is held with the contractors, wherein we give them the information for downloading the emulation environment.

During the meeting, the coworker notes the IP addresses of the contractors as they log into the machine and note that they are residential cable modems.

November 28, 2007

Shortly before 1 p.m., I get an e-mail from the CTO asking me to send him the flight itinerary. I send him a PDF of the flight combination that I had been eyeing. Lag time between his e-mail and my response is less than two minutes. No e-mail arrives regarding plane ticket.

November 29, 2007

In the morning, we get an e-mail from the contractor saying that one of them has looked over the emulation environment and supporting documentation. He has concluded that there is 25 % more work than what we estimated in the proposal. Instead of 40 hours, it would take 50 hours. Moreover, given their preexisting time commitments, they will not be able to complete the contract before January 15. The CTO's head explodes after hearing about this. During lunch, my coworker has an IM conversation with the CTO via Blackberry. The CTO tells him that the audits have to be completed by the end of the year for tax purposes and "the deal." My coworker asks, "What deal?" The CTO offers only the terse response, "The deal in LA."

Later on in the afternoon, my coworker notes sends me an IM link for a website maintained by one of the guys who works for the contractors. It is recently updated and suggests that he is an independent consultant, leading us to speculate that our subcontracted contractors are subcontracting themselves.

No e-mail arrives regarding plane ticket.

December 3, 2007

The contractors' huge deadline shift has produced a series of nastygrams between the CEO and the contractors. My coworker is in CCed on the exchanges and sends me copies. The CTO is outraged, complaining that he was misled by them on their availability and that their time estimates make no sense.

The contractors defend themselves, saying that two weeks were wasted exchanging e-mails and voice mails regarding the contract. The original contract provided by my employer was supposedly intended for an individual subcontractor. They said that they took on the expense of having it revised by legal counsel to make it more relevant to the actual project. He also noted that they had been doing all of this without a signed statement of work.

The talks break down with the CTO exasperated, claiming that he will not be able to use the contractors. The deal collapses. With one department backing away from it's audit, and the other in such a state of disrepair that it might not get done, combined with the CTO's failure to purchase a plane ticket, I'm beginning to wonder if the wheels are about to fall off of this jalopy.

My coworker and I note the irony of the CTO complaining about the contractor not having enough resources to do the job at hand. It just so happens that the main reason we had turned to them was because he was promising to do something before a deadline without having the requisite resources himself.

I am put on a new task, which involves learning how to hack policy files for a Linux based security framework so that we can get rid of several error messages in the security framework's logging.

At 2 p.m., I have a second in-person interview with Bonded and Insured. I am to meet with the company's president and the controller, two very high profile positions, so I come dressed in a button down shirt and slacks. After arriving in the parking lot, I put a tie and suit coat on. I forget to move my keys from my winter coat to my slacks. I throw the winter coat into the back seat, lock the car door, and then close it. It is at this point that I realize I have locked myself out of my car.

Already cutting it close, I decide to remain calm and go meet the recruiter. I tell her about the mishap as we're getting ready to do the interview and ask her whether there might be a security guard in the office park who can help me out. She says she doesn't think so. She asks whether there is anyone who might be able to come help me. I say that my wife has another key, but she is clear on the other side of town, so it would take her almost 40 minutes to get here. Given that she was supposed to be taking our older daughter to preschool and pick her up at this time, I didn't think this was a feasible option. She says she will see what she can do.

Both interviews are non-technical conversations, more interested in who I am as a person. It's pretty clear that they're checking for a personality fit. The president is eager to learn about my outside interests, focusing on sports and hobbies. He seems like a pretty down-to-earth guy. I impress the controller by bringing up Sarbanes-Oxley compliance and how it would impact the work I would do.

During the interview with the president, the recruiter says that they are getting the city police department to get the door open. During the second interview, the recruiter asks me to come out to speak with the officer. It turns out that he has succeeded in shattering the driver's side window, ostensibly because it is so cold out.

I ask whether it is legal for me to drive the car. He says he can punch the window out, which he does. He says normally they don't assume liability for damage during these kinds of procedures, but because he failed to get my consent, he says that he will contact his superior officer to see what they can do for me. He takes my personal contact information.

I drive home with an extra breeze, stopping at a hardware store to pick up some polyethylene sheeting and some clear adhesive tape. Before going to bed that night, I jury rig an ersatz window for the car. My wife is mad at me for not calling her and says that I'll have to wait until the end of the week to get the window fixed because we don't have the money.

Later on, I check our bank account balances via the web and find that we have less than $100 in savings and less than $300 in checking. I express my unhappiness at her, given that we are now supposed to be bringing in more money because we've switched our health coverage from my employer to hers and she's now working 32 hours a week instead of 10. On my paycheck alone, that freed up over $300.

Her reply is that I should have expected this because "we were barely making it on what we had before." I said this didn't make sense because we now had more income. I said that I didn't know where the money was going and what I could do about it. She just told me that maybe I should go find another job and move out so that I could be happy.

Throughout the day, I receive e-mails from my references indicating that they have responded to requests from Company Line, which means that they are moving forward with the references. However, the week would pass by without a word from them. By the end of the week, it will have been three weeks since my technical interview and the subsequent request for work references. My confidence in them to execute in a timely manner is slipping substantially.

Still no e-mail arrives regarding plane ticket.

December 4, 2007

The drive to work is very loud with the polyethylene film making lots of flapping noises and becoming frighteningly deafening when a semi passes by.

I have therapy with my counselor. She told me it was time to start getting tough with my wife, going so far as to separate the finances, having my pay deposited in different bank account where my wife has no access and then doling out an allowance to her. I agree in principle but argue that it probably doesn't make sense to do this with my current job since I'm on the verge of jumping ship. If I put in notice this week, it may be impossible since past experience shows that it takes a couple of weeks for them to get the adjustment made. I decide that I will institute this on the new job instead.

I get a hold of my car insurance and find that we have full coverage for glass breakage. They set me up with their preferred repair shop to have someone replace the window that afternoon.

I get a call from the recruiter at Bonded and Insured saying that she wanted to get a feel of whether I was definitely interested in the job. She says that the president doesn't like to go through the paperwork of making an offer if the compensation isn't what the recruit is expecting. She asks me what it would take for me to come on board and disregard the potential offer from Company Line. I say that I need to sleep on it and do some salary research.

Still no word on a plane ticket.

December 5, 2007

Coworker and I discuss the current state of things, wondering what is going on with the security audits and the revenue chasing with Red Crescent Cable. I note that we are barely doing any work developing a sellable product that it's almost an act of fraud to go out to that standards body meeting.

In the afternoon, I call the recruiter at Bonded and Insured to discuss an offer. I ask her what they were thinking in terms of compensation. She says that their HR department does a thorough survey of market compensation, and they came up with a figure of $70K.

I said that I've watched advertised compensation figures in job postings for a long time, and I had compared breakdowns for similar positions on and came up with a figure in the mid 70s. She counters that is a huge increase from my current compensation, and it might limit my ability to get raises in the future.

I said that I had been working for an underfunded startup for two years at a below market rate without a raise. I add that people working at startups will sometimes forgo compensation for bigger rewards in the future.

She asks if I would consider 72.5. I ask her to nudge it up to 73, just to make it more in my favor. She agrees to go clear it with the higher ups. An hour and a half later, she comes back with an OK and says that an offer letter will be put together and sent out either that evening or the next morning.

The offer letter will be part of a larger packet that includes two copies of the offer, information about benefits, and what I will need to do on day one. She said that the offer is contingent on a background check and drug test.

We talk about starting dates. I tell her that I probably need to give two weeks' notice, but given the circumstances they might let me go immediately after giving notice. She says that seems to be a more frequent practice among employers.

She says that the earliest I could start would be the 17th of December, but if I can't start then, they would probably have to start me on the 31st because of the holidays.

No word on a plane ticket.

December 6, 2007

My coworker is feeling ill, complaining of symptoms that suggest a sinus infection, so he opts to work from home. He sits in on the teleconference with Red Arc Cable wherein the CTO makes all kinds of fradulent claims about existing features. We agree that the talk of a deal to sell the company to the guy in LA is just that: all talk. The security audits and the sales pitch to the cable company looks like an ac of desperation.

I chair the weekly teleconference for the standards body group. Only two other people attend, and those are the only ones who have been attending and contributing on a regular basis. Given that I still have no plane ticket, no lodging arrangements, and no meeting registration, I feel like a fraud acting like I'm actually going to be out there.

In the early afternoon, I get an e-mail from the service that is doing the background check for Bonded and Insured. Attached is a consent form to do the check. I complete that and fax it back to them.

Sometime shortly after 3 p.m., I get an IM from the CTO who tells me that he's preparing to purchase my plane tickets and wants to know if I want to fly out on Sunday evening or early Monday morning. This tells me a two things: First, he completely ignored my e-mail from over a week ago which had a Sunday evening departure. Second, he had not bothered to look over the information I had communicated to him about the meeting, which made it very clear I needed to be there by Sunday night.

I sit there about ready to blow up. I really don't want to go, and I have this feeling that he won't be able to book me a flight back on Friday evening. I sit there trying to think of what I should do. About 20 minutes pass by with him sending me two "rut" messages and a buzz. I finally IM him and tell him that I will give him a call on his cell.

I make the call and tell him that this is going to be a difficult conversation, but one that needs to be done. I say that I had received an offer for a job within the past 24 hours and planned to accept it. They wanted me to start on the 17th if possible.

Given that I would be leaving the company, I said that I didn't think I would be the best person to represent the company at the standards group meeting. Moreover, given that I had heard nothing from him the week since I promptly responded to his request, I had questioned whether they had the necessary resources to send me to the meeting.

He asked me why I was wanting to leave. I said that the cumulative effect of uncertainty over the company's future and last minute planning like this had taken a huge emotional toll on me. I said that I just couldn't do it any more. He said that he needed to talk to the CEO and then he would call me back.

About half an hour later, he called me back. He said that he said that I would probably wind up regretting my decision to leave because there's uncertainty in any job and I wouldn't be treated as well as they had treated me, especially with respect to flexible work schedule.

He then said that my decision to leave the company and my desire not to go left the company in a bind. Everyone else was booked, so if I left, no one would be able to fill in for me. He said that they would have to withdraw the RFP, which would cause huge damage to the reputation of the company within the standards organization.

He also said that they needed my help with finishing up the security audit for the medical device manufacturer, and he wanted to know how I was coming along with that. He added that was revenue the company needed.

He then said that regardless of the last minute itinerary planning, there should have been no doubt that they were going to send me. They had plenty of money, he said, adding, "Just in case you hadn't noticed, (the CEO) and I are on the road all the time and spend lots of money on airfare and expensive hotels, so we can afford to send you out to the meeting." In retrospect, I probably should have asked that if they had as much money as he said, why had I been working for two years without a raise and a worsening set of benefits.

Then he had the nerve to say that the last minute planning was done as a courtesy to me so it could take into account any last minute changes in plans on my end. For those of you who remember my go around with him for the September meeting, you know that this is a flimsy excuse. He has done the same thing (scroll down to the subsection titled
"Tales Told from the Titanic") with my coworker as well.

He complains about my lack of professionalism in not giving them two weeks' notice and says that he hopes I'll reconsider my decision to avoid burning bridges.

I ended the conversation saying that I was in no space to reconsider my position, but that I would speak with him further on the subject tomorrow morning. He said that I could call him before 8:30 a.m. the next morning because he would be in between flights.

December 7, 2007

I call the CTO at 8 a.m. and try a more conciliatory approach, saying that if the RFP gets voted on and approved at this meeting, the timetable is such that letters of intent to respond to the request are due on February 12. If I'm not with the company, and the CTO is still as busy, there won't be anyone on hand to do the work, even if a letter is signed and submitted.

He says that they will find someone to replace me. I respond, saying that the skill set is so exotic that they will have a very hard time for them to find a candidate locally. They will probably have to open the search nationwide, and then it might take them several months to find a candidate.

I also note that we've had a very difficult time getting people to attend the RFP teleconferences on a regular basis. I could think of only one vendor who might join in on a response, and if that was the case, the submission wouldn't have much credibility either with the standards organization or other companies that are working in this space.

He then asked me whether withdrawing from this meeting would cause a bunch of scheduling hassles for those sessions that had planned on seeing a presentation. I said that there were only two sessions that had set times for us to give a presentation. One on Tuesday and one on Wednesday, both in the mornings. The session on Wednesday precedes a set of presentations and discussions dealing with a fragmentation controversy between two competing submission groups. The drama and time needed to discuss this is so big that I add they might not miss us.

He decides this drama in the other group is our best hope at saving face. Our standard is supposed to complement that standard, he says. Given that their controversy will delay the adoption of the standard until the next meeting in the spring, it would be jumping the gun to have people start preparing proposals that are due in April when the earliest the other standard could be wrapped up is late March.

He tells me to call up the chair of the task force sponsoring the Wednesday meeting and get his thoughts on us withdrawing the RFP for a vote at this meeting and postponing until the next meeting in March. I agree to do so and call the chair around 1 pm since he's out in the Bay area. He seems concerned about whether other vendors might be tripped up by the shifting deadline. He says that he wants me to get in touch with the other vendors to see what they think.

The only other vendor with a serious investment in time and effort is large company whose contact is over in the U.K. I fire off an e-mail to him and get a reply in the late afternoon, saying that the shifting schedule is no problem. I think notify the task force chair that we're good to go, so he contacts the voting bodies letting them know that the RFP will not be up for a vote.

The CTO asks me to please at least give presentations on Tuesday and Wednesday. I respond by saying that I think having him give the presentations and calls for greater participation would carry more weight, but he says he won't be able to do it without a major rescheduling on his end. I agree to this, so he books me for a flight out on late Monday afternoon and a flight out on Wednesday early afternoon. I'm back in town shortly before Wednesday 11 p.m. Circle City time.

On the job front, the offer letter from Bonded and Insured arrived via overnight carrier late in the morning. The packet includes drug test form with directions to nearby collection labs. The offer letter instructs me to arrange for the test within 48 hours of receiving the offer letter, so I set out to do this during an interlude shortly before 3 p.m.

I get called in to do the urine collection at around 3:15 p.m. I have trouble getting the bladder to produce, and after a few minutes rude attendant bangs on the door and tells me to come out. I'm told to go drink some water, no more than 40 oz. I can try again after half an hour, but I can't do it after 4 p.m. because they don't do any more tests.

I drink my water and wait my time. I try again, this time only producing half of the minimum required. She bangs on the door again ordering me out, verifies that it's not enough and that I will have to come back again. She tears up the form that I had brought. I then wig out and ask how I am supposed to get the test done. She says that I'll have to get a new form from my employer, seemingly unconcerned about the problems that it may cause.

So after I get home, I call the human resources contact in my employment offer packet and inform them that I need to get another form to do another screen. Given that I will be out of town from Monday afternoon through Wednesday evening, I probably won't be able to get the test done until later that week. I'm feeling embarrassed and frustrated.

So there it is. I have an offer on the table that I intend to take. It's a lot more than what I make now, but not quite what I would have liked to make in order to live comfortably on my own. The red tape involved in getting the offer finalized has got me snagged up until the end of the week, and I'm going to be making a trip that I don't want to make. I will be glad when this week is over.
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