Last day. Capricorn 29’s. Year of the city 2274. Carousel begins.
In Logan’s Run, upon their thirtieth birthday, everyone was on their last day, where they would enter into a ceremony called carousel in which they would undergo renewal and be reborn. In reality, nobody was ever renewed.
Today is my last day at work. I won’t be coming in to this office anymore; my renewal will be with another firm. For the first time in my seventeen year working career, I am out of a job. I’ve been retrenched and next week will be unemployed.
Technically, this is still my first post-college job, although I’m on my fifth company. I’ve survived numerous layoffs, mergers and acquisitions, and sell-offs, and have always been part and parcel of every transaction that saw the company name or ownership change. This latest development is the company principal wanting to do a drastic head count reduction. I saw this company go from a start-up in my boss’ home’s basement to being acquired by a near billion dollar company, and then being sold off again as small, lean, entrepreneurial firm, and now a company in shambles as it tries to operate with an understaffed IT group trying to pick up the pieces of the esoteric and complex processes that I dealt with everyday for the last few years in my cube.
Packing my belongings from my cube, I find the old reminders of the early days at the company. There is the superball that we used to randomly throw over the cubicle walls hoping that it would land or bounce onto a developer’s keyboard. There is also the small, hollow tube that I used as a blowpipe shooting wads of paper at the other programmers in the office. So, the denouement of my history at this job are the knick-knacks and toys that pack into a simple cardboard box, which I carry with me on my last exit from the building.
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.