Disclaimer: Just because I am being blunt, open, honest, snarky and forthright in this message does not mean I didn’t enjoy working here and that I forged great relationships. I would be remiss (and a hypocrite) if I didn’t fully vet emotions and sometime painful memories that I have been forced to carry for years. For me, it’s the best way to move forward, shedding some of the agony I’ve experienced. Please consider this what it is, an emotional purge with a light twist of humor. Yes, this is my actual farewell letter.
Tomorrow, October 15, is my last day at the firm as I move on to early retirement after 25 years of service. Despite my looks, which I blame entirely on the firm, I am only 56 years old. For the record I am not being let go, RIFed, outsourced, downsized, right-sized, rebadged, deliberately unassigned, co-sourced, shown the beach, laid-off, “being given a chance to pursue other opportunities,” career-parked, put on the island, assigned to “special projects,” or even paroled. I am retiring, early, in fact I have had an evil plan in the works for some time. I tend to think of this as less as retirement and more as “pre-boarding.” Don’t think of this as me fleeing the firm, think of this as I’m “owning my career.” As with most things in my life, I am doing it my way. Torn between snarky humor and well-placed-parting shots.
I have read a number of these kinds of messages over the years. Most are teary-eyed, “I’ll miss you all…it has been a privilege to work with you…” dribble. If you are expecting such a sob-story message from me in some vain attempt to stir memories and emotions; it is time for you to take a drug test. I can even think of a few people to hold the cup for you when you do (I actually have a list). As I have done with my entire professional life; I refuse to conform to normalcy. I AM a professional writer after all, which is synonymous with “delusional/narcissistic genius,” so strap yourself in for a wild few minutes of my crafted ramblings. In preparing this message, I am reminded of Bilbo Baggins’ quote from the Fellowship of the Ring: “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.” That certainly sets the tone, so let’s saddle-up, take a stiff drink, put your feet up, and dive into my triumphant farewell email (soon to be a major motion picture!)
I never really planned on staying here for 25 years. This place is like that scene in the Godfather, “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.” When you want to stay, they try and find ways to get rid of you – and when you want to leave, they slap on an ankle tracking monitor and lock you in a digital equivalent of a Turkish prison.
Sadly, I barely remember actually having a job that I applied and interviewed for or wanted. All of this talk of “owning my career” is pure horse crap; designed to absolve management of their responsibilities. For the last 15 years I have been doing jobs that I have been slotted into, forced to take, while being told that I need to make the best of it. Mobility? That is a forlorn myth. When you are good at something, they won’t let you leave, trust me on this. So now I AM owning my career with a full departure. You have to admit, my solution is eloquent and oddly Shakespearian.
In case any weak-kneed, spineless, misshapen-sacks-of-oozing-pus-that-call-yourself-leaders believe they are somehow winning…that they are somehow driving me out, perish that thought. I’m going on my own accord. This is on my terms, waging a struggle on a battlefield of my choosing, and I am the victor. You did not win, you didn’t even manage a stalemate. I walk away with my honor and dignity intact. Though clearly with this message, I will have to revisit my definition of the word, ‘dignity.”
Of course I won’t actually be idle in retirement, I will be writing a lot more books, I’ve got some television stuff in the works, and I’ll be spending time on my game company and starting several podcasts. I will not looking back at my time at here with any misty-eyed memories. While I cherish my friends I have made here; and that is where it ends.
When I hired into the firm, the partner I worked for, on the first day, told me, “This is the peak of your career – working here. Anything else you do in your career is downhill from here.” For the record, he got it 50% right. I am proud of the work I have done, even though the last few years I have hated doing most of it. Ultimately, when you look back, that is all that really matters, your personal sense of pride. The firm certainly got its pound of flesh out of me. I have long maintained that we should have the tag line, “Give us three months, we will crush your mortal soul.” But I digress…
There’s a lot of things I will not be doing going forward. I will no longer have people questioning my private life or implying that because I’m a successful author that I am not giving the firm full attention. I will not have to tolerate some manager saying that because I work from home, I’m somehow not putting in as much effort as anyone who is office-bound. I will not have someone in leadership telling me that they are a better writer than I am and expecting me to take that in silence (only one of us is a New York Times bestseller – and it ain’t you!) I will not have my aspirations held back because someone doesn’t like the fact that I am successful outside of work. (I was told once that I didn’t get as large of a raise as they could give me but it was, “…okay because you have income from outside of work that will offset the raise you didn’t get.”) I won’t be told that travel is impossible, while leaders gallivant across the globe with the sole purpose being padding their frequent flyer and hotel point accounts. I won’t have to watch people promoted only because of whose asses they kiss, rather than what they have accomplished. I won’t have petty backstabbing managers going behind my back and over my head because they lack the balls-that-God-gave-a-sand-flea to talk to me directly. I will no longer have to tolerate passive-aggressive behavior that is considered a substitute for leadership. I won’t miss having to explain our business to people who know (and care) nothing about our end-user community. I will no longer be forced under threat to take mandatory classes that have nothing to do with my job. I will no longer have to bite my tongue when some leader attempts, in vain, to impersonate Steve Jobs with a ponytail or a cheesy black turtleneck. The petty insecurities of even pettier managers will no longer cast doubt as to my worth, intelligence, dedication, loyalty, or commitment. Note: If you were at all offended by this paragraph, you are part of the problem.
Free at last!
Ah, the memories. In my case these remembrances are a curse of sorts, a shadowy nagging reminder of what we once were as an organization and team. I remember when we cared about performance, rather than just getting positive feedback. I can remember both dreading and missing roundtable sessions. I remember when people were a priority, not an undesired commodity. When we called people “talent” it depersonalized them. Our people have become like gasoline. You need it for your car to run, but you don’t really care about where you get it from, just as long as it’s cheap. I remember when people aspired for promotion rather than seeing each level as being a larger target on their backs. Alas, we did not recognize the good old days at the time because we were busy striving to be better. All of that has been lost. Now, work in our IT Department has become a matter of survival.
I won’t miss the Illuminati-ish budgeting process, moratoriums, firm-mandated learning, stinking-badges, travel bans (for people at my rank), firm-mandated fun/social events, trips to India or anything associated with Newark International Airport. I won’t miss trips to New Jersey regardless of mode of transportation. I remember the suicide jumper at the Embassy Suites in Secaucus, leaping eight floors to his death in the middle of the breakfast bar, ruining breakfast for everyone other than the cop who was eating a donut he had lifted from the crime scene. True story. Proof that NJ cops are a sick bunch of bastards and that some people would rather die than stay another night in New Jersey. I get it.
I did some quick (highly inaccurate) calculations in regards to my so-called career. I traveled to New Jersey roughly 53 times during my career at EY – arriving and departing on-time only twice through Newark International Airport. I went to Cleveland approximately 31 times – and oddly enough 90% of those were in the winter. Why? Because the firm hates me. I went to New York around 14 times, spent three-and-a-half weeks in Dallas, and countless other little trips that tore me away from family and friends.
According to one model I created for this email; I produced a total of 51,874 PowerPoint slides in my 25 years here – and only five were read, and only two of those were actually understood. That is less of a testament about my PowerPoint skills as the collective IQ’s and attention spans of those I was presenting to. I sent a staggering 988,246-ish emails, not counting when I hit Reply-All just to cover my ass or to be one. There are entire days of my life spent responding to other people’s foolishness in email.
I have spent two and a half days of my career on the phone with tech support for something I didn’t do wrong, but because some IT manager put something into production that had not been properly tested. I have lost approximately 479 hours of my life because people cannot attend a meeting on time. It would be much easier to count the number of meetings with attendees that actually respected everyone and started when they were supposed to.
On at least five occasions I was forced to interrupt long-planned family vacations to take “important” conference calls that were not, most of which required me to lug around my work laptop as well. I have had a total of 32 managers in the course of my 25 years, often times having more than one manager at a time (which we all know is a delight.) Only one; John Russo, actually stood out as an excellent leader and motivator. For the rest of you, breathe somewhat easier – he’s the only person I’m mentioning by name.
Over nine days of my career were wasted group-editing messages for an audience that won’t or can’t read. I attended over 212 hours of learning in my career, only eight of which was something I actually asked for. I have taken roughly 278 internal surveys over 25 years, none of which has resulted in any sort of measurable change. I have missed approximately 58 breakfasts, 426 lunches, and 26 dinners because I work in this place…all part of the firm’s covertly mandated weight loss program I suppose. I’m so thankful they cared!
I am estimating that I have had 17 job titles, the majority of which didn’t involve me actually changing jobs…just renaming what I did (I stopped ordering business cards six years ago). Over the years I have spent more time being reorganized (66%) than I have being actually organized. I have had my budgets reduced 17 times for a cumulative total of 142%. I was forced to adopt four different firm tag-lines and three logos over the years, none of which changed my life in the least. I can remember charge codes I haven’t used in years, but struggle with my current Apple password. Which reminds me, I have had to know over 196 different passwords for work. You may claim I’m exaggerating, but you can’t fight the math.
I believe I am responsible for causing at least three ulcers and two panic attacks with senior leadership, though this is difficult to confirm (I may have only been a contributor.) This last statistic is one I am relatively proud about, because, as one manager told me, “Ninety-five -percent of the time you are a great employee, but the rest of the time you are pure evil.” This monument to idiotic management techniques got the percentages totally wrong (grin). When he got negative anonymous feedback, he spent an entire week trying to identify who had sent it, having me fly to NJ so that he could personally accuse me for over an hour for being the author of the piece. “I know it is you Blaine, it was well written!” I didn’t write it but he swore he’d get me back for it. While innocent at the time of the accusation, I wrote my own scathing piece about his lack of leadership that afternoon…I mean, if I’m going to be accused of it, I might as well actually do it. Oddly enough, he managed a team of writers at the time. Calling him an utter moron insults morons everywhere.
When I joined the firm we did time and expenses on paper IBM forms and our email was MS Mail which required server reboots almost every day to stay operational. There were days it would have been better to use tin cans and string to communicate (actually, compared to Skype, this may be a good viable alternative.) I was here when Lotus Notes was considered bleeding edge technology – and when we replaced it as “archaic and outdated.” I’ve seen TRAX, Bert, GFIS, and Mercury during my career and want to assure you, I will miss none of them once I leave. I won’t miss failing Skype calls (“Can you see my screen yet?”), mind-numbing webcasts with seeded audiences and questions, LEAP, LEAD, LEADS, Success Factors, reminders from Risk Management which read like they were written by Captain Obvious (Example: Did you know that public intoxication could harm your career?”) I will easily forget that warm cuddly feeling that any alert from Information Security carries with it. Information Security’s unspoken tagline: “Do what we say and no one gets hurt.” Catchy eh?
I oversaw seven technology conferences where I had to play the role of adult to crazy drunken IT professionals (a stretch on that last word.) As a result I have driven four of you to hospitals for injuries you received, had to break up three pool parties at Vero Beach (which included a 3am contest to jump bicycles into the pool, which I had to fish out, thank you!) I had to explain to a tax partner why it was wrong to hold a strip poker party in his room with new hires. No, I’m not joking. I had to explain to one employee why dancing on the bar table wearing only his hot pepper boxers was a violation of firm policy (a perfect use/waste of my Master’s Degree in HR). I have caught three people having affairs (no I will not provide names.) This last factoid includes one man that brought his kid’s babysitter to the conference, leaving his wife at home with the kids…eww… The concept of any of you naked still makes my stomach pitch, don’t take it personal. Thanks to all of these experiences, I generally refused to drink at firm functions. In retirement, I will be drinking again to get catch up on lost time and attempt to purge those memories.
My last few years or so here have been concentrated on separating people from their careers. I hated every moment of it. “Hate” doesn’t seem to do it justice, but there are no other phrases that seem to work short of “Soul-Crushing-Career-Fuc*ery.” I will not miss Incremental Layoffs, Swift, Topaz, SWPI, DIPPI (Okay, I made that one up, but I bet you believed it), Azorian (Google it), Gorilla, Diamond, RIF’s, “staff realignments,” rebadging exercises, location strategy, or anything that has some idiotic code name or acronym. My biggest success was when I saved 25 of your jobs in one shot. True story. There were others I managed to save or had individual’s packages increased because of my behind-the-scene interventions. I saved what jobs I could and never even got a pat on the back for it…in fact, I was painted as the bad guy for fighting those battles by lesser men and women. It didn’t matter – I had my triumphs and all it cost me was my own career aspirations.
I leave knowing that a lot of people will say, “I never knew what he really did in the first place.” It is important for you to know that I am 100% comfortable with this. I don’t care if you know; I know and that’s what matters. Frankly, I have no idea what you do either. We even have betting pools about you and what you do. I don’t expect a statue in my name – it would sink into the swamps of New Jersey anyway. Some folks will rejoice with my leaving while others will speculate as to what is really behind my departure. I encourage you to make up some good stories and spread plenty of rumors attached to my leaving. The only way I wish to be remembered is someone saying, “Boy, I wish Blaine had been on that call. He would have said something snarky/funny about _______.”
My departure should be seen as an opportunity to all of you. You have free will to blame anything that goes wrong the next three months on me. I will hold no ill-will to you, I would do the same if you had retired. All I ask is that you attribute my name to BIG failures or issues. Don’t squander my name and reputation on little things…save it for some big and awesome failure. Just not Mercury please. I refuse to be a part of that f’ing disaster. You can also use it positively, “If Blaine were here, this wouldn’t be nearly as screwed up.” In other words, have some fun with my departure, use it to your advantage. I will not hold it against you. In fact, you’re welcome!
I offer this unsolicited advice to those of you remaining here:
- When you look at who the firm promotes, or hires from the outside; question whether you really want to be promoted yourself. “Do I want these people as peers?” The correct answer is, “hell no!”
- Don’t take what the firm does as personal. It’s never personal. The firm doesn’t have the time or the care to make it personal and in terms of priorities, you are WAY down near the bottom of the list.
- The firm will always do whatever puts more money in the partner’s pockets. They may lie about their motives, but this is the true underlying business driver for most initiatives.
- Organizational Karma is a real thing…it just takes time. Revenge takes longer.
- Always be suspicious when the firm says they are giving you something or doing something for you – like those holidays we were given this last year where they forced us to take vacation days. (Yes, I am still bitter about this.) It is healthy to question leadership’s true motivations.
- Don’t seek to validate your value to the organization in the eyes and minds of others. If you are content with your performance and contributions, that is all that matters.
- Owning your own career often means picking out which box to pack up your office when you are let go. Find your own path in and outside of the firm, don’t let the firm define you.
- “Outside talent” is poorly named in most cases.
- The traits you see and loathe in others, chances are they are inflicting the same BS on people in their private lives. You only have to deal with them for a few hours at a time. Suck it up, buttercup.
- If you seek help with your career, get a mirror or put on your butt-kissing pants.
- Words do not matter. All that matters is actions.
- Don’t pick idiotic code names for your projects or your teams. Look at Mercury. Named after the god of speed, it is 3+ years behind schedule and the system is slow as a snail. I guess there is no Roman god for entropy…
- Don’t be in the office on a day when layoffs happen. It really is just a matter of time before something violent goes down. You can only stress people out so often before something snaps.
- If someone has to guilt you into doing something, it isn’t worth doing in the first place.
- Managing technology has nothing to do with the tech – it’s all about the people. Technologies come and go, but people always remain.
- No one cares (other than you) about your past glories. The organization doesn’t remember the times you saved their collective asses. They don’t recall when you worked the long hours or what bits of your personal life you sacrificed for them. They only remember last week when you were a minute late to their very important call. You cannot change this organizational amnesia so don’t waste time trying.
The firm has changed a great deal over time. It does not value long term, older employees below the Director ranks…that has become abundantly clear. “Seasoned” employees are a minority in our technology teams and have no voice here. I have grown weary of walking into an office and having people stare at me because I am twice their age. I loathe webcasts with live, staged audiences of only people in their 20’s, reminding me that I am an unrepresented minority in my own firm. Even our internal branding site doesn’t have anyone over the age of 50 in images. I am through groaning every year when the promotion list comes out because people of my age group have been glossed over. For all of its grandiose talk of supporting diversity, older (mid-rank) employees such as myself are discriminated against and made to feel unwanted by the very firm we have committed our careers to. Bitter? Just a tad, thank you for asking.
I leave knowing that the organization will endure long after my departure, or at least until my tell-all book about this place is published. I cherish my writing career, where I DO have an impact on people, lives, and real-world justice. We all want to make an impact on the world around us. Working here will not give you that opportunity. Work provides us with the money so we can go out and do that in the real world. That is the best job satisfaction anyone can hope for. I will be spending my remaining years happily writing true crime, and science fiction. In other words, I would rather deal with serial killers and imaginary people rather than some of the people at work. Try and take that in the spirit it was intended (wink).
I will miss the things that make me laugh at work, and this place provided a lot of humor over the years. Humor has been the one thing that stood between my work day and being fitted for a straight-jacket (available in our company colors; yellow, black, white, and gray – complete with our logo!) Fortunately this place has provided me a seemingly never-ending source of material to make me chuckle. Emails about the dangers of touching goose shit in Alpharetta or a mouse/rat infestation in Secaucus provided me quite a bit of levity over the years. Who can forget when BJ’s Warehouse came to the NJ office to talk about memberships and they sent out an email with the subject, “BJ’s in the office Tuesday!” I heard a lot of people made it into the office that day, only to be severely disappointed. One cannot make this kind of stuff up.
The only shame I feel about departing is that I am leaving good friends here. Work isn’t about spreadsheets, deployments, or PowerPoint…it is about people. I have worked with some of the absolute best and some utter idiots. The best, well, they know who they are and why they rock it out despite daily adversity. On the flip-side, there are some folks I know that I am still puzzled how they put on their shoes each morning, let alone their toupees. I even got one evil-incarnate boss terminated (She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named), which was horrible, delightful, and epic all at the same time…may she rot in hell for all eternity. Sure it torpedoed my waning career hopes and she left me with PTSD (true story), but I would do it all over again. There is something great about fighting the good fight for the right cause regardless of the personal and professional cost (no retribution my ass). The mental picture of her walk of shame to her car that last day still brings me joy. Sadly enough, in the last 15 years, her misery is one of the few things that made me truly happy. That’s what this place does to you, it corrupts your thinking.
I would be remiss if I didn’t offer my opinion about employees/refugees that we have taken in from an unnamed banking institution (okay, it’s JP Morgan). I remember when JP Morgan was not a curse word or a synonym for a human-shaped-sentient-enema mascaraing as an IT leader. There was a time when we weren’t the retirement home for JP Morgan’s mentally infirmed and emotionally crippled. We have consistently recruited from a company whose chief output was gross incompetency, egotistic rage, and an inability to organize a bowel movement – let alone run an IT team. You may think I am just venting here, but in reality, there is an overwhelming body of evidence to support my conclusions. If anyone who is a JP Morgan veteran reads this and is offended, let me say, “Good, you deserve it!” Rather than get pissed, why don’t you prove me wrong? I’ve been waiting for years for one of you to at least try. Pardon me if I don’t hold my breath.
I covered for a LOT of gross managerial incompetence over the years. I can’t count the times I have been deliberately lied to by several senior leaders, two of which were vice chairmen who assured me a directorship. Thanks to them, while I am not a porcupine expert, I know a prick when I see one. It is tempting to cite examples, but the list is long and less-than-glorious. Some believe if you dress like Steve Jobs that makes you a visionary. Others confuse recording videos for actually leading. For years, I sat back and allowed lesser men and women take credit for my work and use it to advance their own careers. For God’s sake, we sent one portly director, who had been laid off, to Agile training in London the week prior before his departure! At the same time, I was told I couldn’t travel for legitimate business needs because of severe travel budget constraints.
I took the honorable road, trotting upon the moral high-ground. It was never easy and to this day I regret not punching two of them, and kicking one in the nut-sack, repeatedly. Let me tell you, the moral high ground is a lonely place. I counted on the firm to recognize what it had in my skills and to reward it appropriately. I told myself leaders would honor their commitments. In other words, I lied to myself. I was not alone in that naiveté’; many of you did the same. I assumed, over the years, that the firm would do the right thing. For years I have been told I was a “High performer, high potential employee,” but was never even talked to when positions came available, even ones I applied for.
The machine of our IT Department is clearly flawed and broken. We don’t even have a performance management system in place any longer and the role of counselor has been effectively neutered. Bringing in outside vendors actually makes things worse, not better. No one fights for the individual employees. I tried, and this message is my final salvo in that slugfest. Locked, loaded, weapons-free and are hot…
I was an idealistic fool to have such lofty ideals of the organization; that the firm would recognize talent and promote it. I refused, up to my last day, to stoop to pandering and bootlicking to get ahead. At least I walk away with a thin shred of my morals and dignity somewhat intact – though I’m sure this farewell message l has damaged a tiny bit of that. The difference is that I own this decision – this was my choice to hit send. It wasn’t my choice to be marginalized as a manager and employee.
When I go into offices where I should know people, I don’t see them. We have lost the comradery and far too many of our friends and colleagues. Our leaders have scared people into working at home, using “location strategy” as a weapon of fear. It all has an impact. We used to deliver complex technical solutions almost flawlessly. Now we are years late, millions over budget, and when we do deliver, it is often a disappointment. The sense of team has been lost – gutted by layoffs and tainted by a constant nagging fear which is the current foundation of our culture. Sadly I had a role in perpetuating this culture, and I hated every second of it. We cannot go backwards, but I sincerely hope that the leaders find a way to go forward that reignites that passion and sense of unity. Not Borg-like unity though…that would be bad.
If at this point in this message you likely expect me to list out all of the great things of working here and why you should stay. Clearly haven’t been paying attention. Sorry to burst your precious little emotional bubble. If I have offended anyone with this message, chances are it was intentional. If these comments hit too close to home, well, perhaps you need to do a little self-reflection and personal adjustment. You may say I am just a bitter person on the way out the door, and write off this message as angry ramblings of an ungrateful asshat. I’m totally cool with that. I am King of the Asshats. I am confident that some of what I have written has hit home and rings true. I believe that all it takes to change the world is one person who refuses to compromise their ideals and takes a stand. My departure is my stand. Let’s hope it ends up better than it did for Custer at the Little Big Horn.
If you want to stay in contact, you can follow my blog (blainepardoe.wordpress.com) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Facebook and twitter work as well. My cell is 540-222-9805 and my home office is 540-937-9886.
I leave you with this, “And now my watch has ended…”
PS. Should any of you opt for a rebuttal to this farewell message or offer a critique to my assessment, let me remind you that I have maintained adequate blackmail material from various Technology Conferences, emails, meetings, business trips, dinners, training events, etc, over the years. My archive of photographic and documentary evidence alone should prevent you from saying too much negative about me. My blog has close to 200k visitors to it each year and I’m not above naming names and providing examples once I leave. Ponder this, as I hit the door, I have very little to lose and even less self-control when it comes to digital retribution. Moreover, I will have time on my hands to extract revenge…mwah ha ha ha.