Sunday, August 28, 2011

Last Letter from a Colleague

Last week I saw the last email sent by a colleague who was let go by the company as part of the reduction program announced recently. I can't forward his email, and despite his joke in the email saying he's part of the 'winners' list who will get 6 months of advanced salary payment, I can see lots of disappointments in his other words.

His name sounds familiar, so I decided to google him. The result: author and co-author of many patents, several IETF RFCs, many Internet drafts, and speaker in International events, member of International forums, to name a few of his achievements in 5 minutes googling.

I can't stop asking myself: why can a good technical person get fired?
In a company that really focuses on new innovation?
In a company that relies on engineering excellence?

Can someone really stays technical in career?
Is it true that no one is indispensable?

After couple of days thinking, there are three reasons that I can come up of why even a good technical person can be let go by the company.

First, many companies appreciate what we did in the past, but I bet they can keep only those who can contribute for today's business and support the companies' future vision. It means even I did something spectacular in the past it may not be enough for the company today, especially if I am considered obsolete.

Second, as I mentioned in my other post it's really difficult to justify and evaluate a technical person. Sales person has a target number associated with her, if she can achieve or even go beyond that it means she's successful. How about a technical person? From the number of patents? From the feedback from the customers? From the number of initiatives?

Third, no matter how valuable I am I may still be out of the team if I'm not a team player. Unless someone has reached the top notch level, gained respectable reputation in the industry, and has become legend, no individual can survive by working alone. It's about making connection.

I may be wrong. I may be too naive.
You are more than welcome to share your thoughts here.


Anonymous said...

There are alot of factors that come into play when there are lay offs to be done. There is a fine line between technical and business. I had one strategy professional explain to me and i was like what?!!. Yeah, the way it works is this way: In todays day and age, anyone can go..CEO,CTO,CFO,CIOs,anyone in the company. I once heard the former Nokia CEO say that, "there is nothing like permanent employment nowadays."

Anonymous said...

Let's be clear here! Unless you are running your own company, everyone regardless of title is employed at the discretion of the corporate entity.

Ashi said...

I think you've hit the reasoning right on the head. The big reasons no longer sit on a person's pure technical capability, especially at a large multinational tech company. It's made worse when said company is THE name in the arena. The demand to grow with the rest of the industry means the company needs to keep innovating and have team members NOT purely individual contributors.

Anonymous said...

it's all about "selling" - if you can sell peanuts to monkeys you're a sales champion. technical guys are intellect, skilled in bits and bytes, where the packet goes etc... but without SALES skills it's just a tin.

sales rule.... i've learned that big time.. i'm a technical freak but without sales i was just a router without IOS prompt. :)

Anonymous said...

Its all about lowering the costs...If the same Tech Lead would have been based in APAC (India/China) he would have been sitting pretty....

The logic was to lower the costs in salaries from US/Canada employees.

Rest of the world didnt see many layoffs.

P.S: I work for Cisco, just like you.
P.S: Posted an anonymous, for obvious reasons

Himawan Nugroho said...

Hi anonymous who works for Cisco too :) I think you have the best answer, my +1 for you. Thanks

Anonymous said...

lowering the costs and getting rid of employees is just nonsense and utterly poor pathetic management.

how about lowering costs of the hardware, so this way you can still stay in competition and live in real world.

lowering costs by getting rid of valued employees lowers the quality... then it's all downhill after that.