He had learned the ways of things about him now. It was a war of each against all, and the devil take the hindmost. You did not give feasts to other people, you waited for them to give feasts to you. You went about with your soul full of suspicion and hatred; you understood that you were environed by hostile powers that were trying to get your money, and who used all the virtues to bait their traps with. The store-keepers plastered up their windows with all sorts of lies to entice you; the very fences by the wayside, the lamp posts and telegraph poles, were pasted over with lies. The great corporation which employed you lied to you, and lied to the whole country--from top to bottom it was nothing but one gigantic lie.
- Upton Sinclair, The Jungle
This was my workspace on my very first day here, June 8, 1998. It didn't have a computer, because my manager hadn't been able to secure one yet. He and the other programmer in my department rolled a chair in from someone else's cubicle, and I sat in it and tried not to fidget like a grade-schooler. The network guy and the server guy - yes, back then it was just two guys, not two teams - headed off to a storage room to see if they could piece together a computer for me. A woman down the row introduced herself and handed me a pencil holder with an assortment of tradeshow pens and highlighters. My manager had also been unable to get his request for office supplies filled prior to my arrival. There weren't many solid procedures in place for bringing in new employees. We'd show up, cobble together what we needed to work, and go from there. We were excited to be working together, a small but growing company, deftly navigating an ever-changing market. We took pride in our ability to adapt and survive when so many bigger players were faltering or failing. The company was so young then.
Almost all of those people from my first day are gone now. My first manager and the programmer were out after just over two years, the results of a 'philosophical differences' layoff and a risky jump to a dot-com. The network guy, a sweet grouch of a man, died of a heart attack a few years back. The server guy was laid off, but I continued working with his son, a programmer, for another several years, until he was let go earlier this year. Of all of the people I met on that first day, only the generous pencil lady, Linda, is still here.
The company that recently bought our company concluded that they don't want to keep originating mortgages, which is a smart move in the current economy. They're going to focus on servicing existing loans and repairing portfolios damaged by the subprime crisis. Can't fault their logic. That's where the money's going to be for a while yet.
If they're not going to make new loans, they don't need the team of programmers that worked on the front-end system. They don't need underwriters. They don't need document specialists. They don't need to develop new reports to track their sales goals. They don't need to maintain the code that moves the data from the front end to the servicing system. That's what I do. Did.
A week and a half ago, roughly one hundred people where shown the door. We watched them walk out with their boxes and their plants and their desk lamps, a bittersweet parade set to the tune of grim laughter and choked goodbyes. The severance package is good for the long-timers, and there were very few employees left who weren't long-timers. They were sad to go, but relieved to finally have a definite end.
Those of us not let go and not hired on with the new company are sitting in limbo for the next five weeks. There's no work to do, because all of our projects were cancelled the day of the announcement, and most of the people we worked with are gone. There's a slight chance that the new company will decide that they need some of us for our specialized skills or our business knowledge and hire us on. I'm not saying that I'm counting on that, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping for it.
It's a business, not a family, not a philanthropic commune. This is how it has to work. It isn't personal. I understand that, and believe it. Sinclair's protagonist turned angry and bitter when he lost his naivete. I chose to simply accept the way of things. I'm just disappointed that the herd is now so small, and that I am finally the hindmost.
On the positive, maybe now I'll have more time to knit.