on saturday i spent two hours talking to a guy i used to work with in south florida. we met at one telecom job, and when we got sick of that place, we both moved to another.
that second job turned out to be “less than optimal,” let’s say. i worked there for a year and i was never able to accomplish anything. the people in charge would make deals, buy equipment, and lease t1s. me and the other tech guys would write software, set up websites, and create billing databases. it would appear for all the world as if we were about to start making money. then the people in charge would get into a big pointless fight with a key supplier, and the whole deal would devolve into competing lawsuits. lather, rinse, repeat.
it was in between two of those cycles that i experienced the most absurd event in my entire “career,” such as it is. the two guys in charge of the company had just flamed out with a small, upstart telecom switch manufacturer which was still in the start-up phase and had never made any money. the lawsuits were heating up. next they latched onto seimens, a company that (at the time) made telecom switches, among many other things, and rakes in billions of dollars per year. i sat in on a meeting between the management guys i worked for and a couple of sales reps from seimens. we were discussing various technical details and how we’d accomplish this or that thing. we were having a few problems deciding how stuff should work. so my boss suggested to the seimens guys that he could use his connections in the banking industry to bankrupt the start-up switch manufacturer we were currently suing, buy all their technology for pennies on the dollar, and seimens could build a new, better switch, based on that.
i am totally not kidding or exaggerating, not one little bit. my boss suggested to representatives of seimens corporation, a company that makes billions per year, that they should scrap their existing technology and make a new switch platform, based on work done at a small and completely unknown telecom start-up, which would be bankrupted and destroyed for their benefit. and i’m sure my boss expected to see a little profit from that of course, since he was the kind and benevolent soul who set it all up.
naturally, the seimens guys could not believe what they were hearing. they both got that look you see on people’s faces sometimes when it dawns on them that they have just been introduced to someone who is mildly retarded. one of them looked at the other, trying to telepathically formulate a reaction. there was a long silence. one of them said, “we’re pretty happy with what we’ve got.”
looking back on it now, it seems stupid that i didn’t quit right then and there, doesn’t it? here’s something that makes me feel a little better: the guys from seimens didn’t do the right thing, either. they made a much more costly mistake than i did. they leased a half-million-dollar switch to the maniacs i was working for, despite what must have been monumental misgivings. then the obvious thing happened: the situation devolved into lawsuits. i didn’t stick around for all of that story, but i knew some of the guys who did. i think my former employer owed seimens a couple hundred thousand dollars at one point. both the small switch start-up and seimens had to employ sherriff’s deputies to forcibly remove their very expensive telecom switches from the premises.
as my former employer’s reputation got progressively worse, and they had nothing to show for their efforts, they had an increasingly difficult time raising money. i am ashamed to admit that the thing that finally got me to quit was that they couldn’t pay their bills, and our internet connection got shut off, so i couldn’t while away the whole day web-surfing.
talking to my former co-worker on saturday, i heard the final chapter of that story. the company founders eventually turned on each other, of course. the situation devolved into a series of bitter disputes and, i’m guessing, lawsuits. one of the founders went back to the restaurant business, where he’d come from. the other one is working some kind of scam he hopes will siphon money off of wealthy retirees.
if it sounds like i’m poking fun at anybody involved, well, i’m not. it was a bad situation, to be sure, but i have no excuse, because i was right there in the middle of it. there were many hints that i’d gotten myself into something that wasn’t going to work out so hot, but i didn’t get up off my lazy ass to do anything about it. i was making pretty good money to do nothing but sit around and watch the latest disaster unfold.
people who brag about how they get to sit around doing nothing at their jobs all day: that’s not bragging, that’s a cry for help. you know perfectly well you’d rather have a job where you get to accomplish things you can be proud of.