Counting down…
12:46pm Monday 23 June 2008 by rudy

As of today, I have one more month of employment, after which I will be retrenched.

I’m not entirely certain what I should be doing at the office during this last month. Should I keep working on the initiatives on which I’ve been working, knowing that I probably won’t be able to complete them in time, and that it’s unlikely that any other programmer will pick up the effort after I leave? Most of my code deals with configuration management; it’s not customer facing. So it’s not like if I don’t finish my work, a customer will notice its absence and demand its implementation. My work deals with configuration management and comes into play when changes need to be made to the database: my code makes managing rolling out these changes easier, more reliable, and more robust. At least I’m not getting a slap in the face by being tasked to train-up an employee or outsourced employee who is replacing me at a lower salary.

On the other hand, it is a bit of a refreshing feeling, coming in to work and knowing that I can largely skive and get away with it, since no one will really be gauging my productivity anymore, and I can spend my day working on my resume and looking for a new job. But still, it leaves me with an uneasy feeling that I’m about to go out without a safety net, and not having a job for much longer.

The head-count reduction that the company principal wanted may be going deeper than he anticipated. He’s let go of about half the development team, added to those who have voluntarily jumped ship on the first hint of lay-offs in the pipeline, plus those of us still here but actively searching for new jobs because we don’t see any future in the company anymore. Whomever is left, which may be down to a number you can count on one hand and possibly one finger, is really only enough staff to come in everyday to monitor for problems and reboot the servers if things do go wrong.

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Abandon ship!
11:41am Saturday 14 June 2008 by rudy

For the first time in my decade and a half of working career, I am facing the prospect of being retrenched and having to look for a job. I was hired right as I graduated and have held on to my first job even though I’m on my fifth company. In the time since I was first hired, the company has been mergered and acquired, sliced and diced then sold, reacquired, and I have been passed along to each new ownership.

The company for which I work now has been operating as leanly as possible; we run like the early days of dot-com startups. Our job descriptions basically fall into one of two departments: customer service, or software development/QA. We don’t have any dedicated IT staff to minister the network or servers. All of us wear multiple hats as programmers in addition to network, server, and system administrators. There is no tier-1 support staff from whom difficult trouble tickets would escalate to the development group; we as the non-customer facing department are hit directly when goes wrong with the production system and we serve as the first-line of support.

The absentee principal in the company lives and works in a different state, so he’s rarely if ever in our office space. He conducts his management of the company primarily by email and phone. He recently has decided to reduce head count in the development group down to a level that we in the local office feel is unsustainable for continued operations. With as deep a staffing cut that he desires, those of us left would be in a position only to watch and we would no longer have staffing flexibility to do any development nor management beyond putting out fires as errors occur in the production system, even then we might not have enough resources to fix the error beyond diagnosing and acknowledging that a valid bug existed, and to tell our customers not to perform that operation in the future.

On Friday afternoon, he let go a key staff member. Immediately after that layoff was announced, none of us felt safe anymore, knowing that the next cut could indiscriminately be any one of us; it was like a gunshot had gone off in the room. The whole development team resembled rats abandoning a sinking ship. What little more time that we endured in the office that day was spent on cell phones lining up head-hunters and job searches, and commiserating the loss of our colleague.

We left work early and went to the pub around the corner to finish off this disastrous day.

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One thing led to another…
1:40am Monday 9 June 2008 by rudy

a bottle of Marmite I recently developed the biggest craving for Marmite and ended up spending some time reading the Marmite Wiki article about this savory, yummy goodness.

Marmite and its closely related cousins Boril (Bovril Wiki entry) and Vegemite (Vegemite Wiki article) are by most accounts acquired tastes, usually requiring to one to have been exposed to it at a fairly young age to be able to tolerate or like it in later years. There is also apparently the Swiss version of Cenovis, but its sales seem to be limited to Switzerland. For me, I grew up with Marmite and Bovril but I don’t recall particularly liking nor disliking it; just something that I remember having as a child. So it came somewhat as a surprise to me that I really wanted to have some Marmite recently.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen these yeasty bottles in the local supermarkets before, but certainly on my recent foraging trips, I couldn’t find any. So I did what every well-connected netizen would do: I mail-ordered it from an Internet site. While I was at the business of ordering Marmite, I decided that I might as well augment the order and pad it with a second bottle of Vegemite, and a pot of Bovril. Then it was time to wait for the order to arrive.

In the same vein of acquired taste foodstuffs is natto, a Japanese item of fermented soybeans. For many people, the off-putting thing about natto is its slimy, sticky texture. This guy, Steve, I’m almost certain, is not a natto lover if his blog on his natto eating experience is any guide. I, however, happen to love natto, and at sushi restaurants, I almost always try to order a natto temaki if available. It occured to me that having to go to a sushi restaurant for my natto fix might better be fixed by visiting the local Japanese grocery store and getting my own in-house supply of natto, so that I may partake of it at will on my schedule.

From the most informative Wiki article on natto, I learned that in Japan, natto is commonly eaten with rice as a breakfast food. That seemed like a capital idea, although I couldn’t countenance natto on those mushy 90-second microwavable rice packs. This would need freshly made rice.

So starting with Marmite, through Vegemite and Bovril, to natto, and then to rice, one thing has led to another, and now I find myself the proud owner of a rather expensive, but very capable, computerized rice maker, which to its credit makes very good and convenient rice.

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