Yesterday was a tough day. Apart from the fact that it would have been my mother’s birthday, there were other things going on to make it grim. The company I’m working for has suffered badly from the electronics market slump and has had a few rounds of layoffs in the last 12 months. It’s based in the USA and acquired a UK company 3 years ago (the one I’m now working for) and most of the layoffs had effected our cousins across the Atlantic.
The last time though it did affect us (although it happened before I came). A developer was made redundant along with a couple of application specialists. They are friends of mine so it wasn’t a nice thing to see. Having grown up and seen the steady decline of UK industries on television – with thousands of people being made redundant – it all seemed distant and I felt that “it’d never happen to me”. When I left university I felt almost as though the world owed me a living and earning money was a right I had. Not so. Having seen a few friends made redundant it changed my point of view about employment and money (in other words, don’t take either for granted). I work in a volatile industry where losing your job can be a part of the game, no matter how good you are.
Anyway, back to my original story… Yesterday… Okay, back on track. It turned out that the layoffs last time weren’t enough and it was time for some real cutbacks. So from a team of 18 people, only 11 remain in the UK. Two top-notch developers are out of work (which won’t last long) along with a first-class tester and a few others I won’t get into (otherwise this sentence would be too long and you’d lose the thread half way through). It’s a nasty business and shows that the bottom line for any company is making money, not intellectual pursuits. We’re all expendable assets.
It’s going to be strange working in a significantly smaller team on the same significantly large piece of software (around 1 million lines of code give or take). And all the empty desks that remain are going to take a bit of getting used to. And if the company expands in the future it’s going to be damn hard to get the caliber of people we’ve just lost. What I will do, however, is start saving more money. You never know when you’re going to be out on your ear!
On a more positive note though, a large number of middle managers have been removed from the US side of the company – and I don’t have a problem with that. If you’re in a relatively small company and your job is to manage other managers and spend your working life in meetings, then you’re not really contributing to making money. I’m not a big fan of meetings, unless some decisions actually need to be made. Going to meetings just because they’re in your diary doesn’t sound particularly proactive to me… That’s why I like being a software developer, I don’t need to try and justify my position and self-importance in meetings, I can do it by doing what I do best – writing world-class software!