LowComDom Performances Presents
The Crapolla According to Fek'Lar
You Know You're DOOMED When...
you turn to your manager in a meeting and scream, "Oh my God! I'm becoming you!"
You've stumbled onto another issue of The Crapolla, a journal written for software professionals. No not the managers; I mean the people who do the work.
This Crapolla is sponsored by...
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In This Issue...
Marriage, Schools and Layoffs
The world has changed. When I grew up in The Valley, Dad worked at Lockheed, getting payloads into space, and avoiding layoffs like the plague. Prior to 1974, The Valley as more low tech agriculture rather than high tech money making. If you worked in Aero-Space, you didn't have another company across the street you could go to if your company no longer required your services. Lay offs were bad. Twenty years later, The Valley is crammed full of companies, hardware, software, Starbucks every other address. Although aero-space is about the same in terms of companies, if you're in software or chips, there are a lot of choices.
My buddy Chris is going to be laid off in December. He's very happy. Chris works at a dieing company. I shouldn't mention their name, but the initials are SGI. Chris is George Jetson. He has automated his job so much that he's had his CPU tasked to the point that there were no more cycles to monitor the keyboard or mouse. At these times, Chris would have a lunch of Marlboros® and espresso.
As I mentioned, the company is dieing, this means fewer people in the department to get the same amount of work done, no more pay raises, they make you pay for coffee. It gets inhuman. When SGI announced they would be laying people off in December, everyone jumped in line to sign up. It reminded me of when Chris and I were laid off from Adobe Systems in 1994.
A giant banner hung over the type support group. "Rif Me Baby!" it said in multi-colored letters. Adobe had merged with Aldus. 400 people were to be laid off, and our group was being merged with our counterpart in Seattle. You could go to Seattle, or take many thousands of dollars to move your office to another company. This came to be known as the Adobe Intelligence Test. Of the 56 people in technical support, five moved to Seattle (can you say brain drain?) and the rest of us took the money and ran. One week later we both had jobs else where and many weeks of Adobe's Free Cash in the bank. One guy went to Vegas and put his severance check on the roulette wheel. It came up black, and he now owns a drive through donut shop next to a police station.
Lay Offs or RIFs, whatever you want to call them, it's all perspective whether it's good or bad. Can you get a new job soon? Will the company you're leaving pay you a lot of cash not to sue them? Then it's good. This is what separates my line of business from my father's.
Even if it's a good RIF get ready for mourning. You will be going through an emotional loss whether it's Amigos being sent to far off expressways, or ending up at a company that actually expects you to produce something, or worse yet, being re-located to an area where the movie theatre doesn't show matinees. Chris will take the SGI Free Cash and go to the French Riviera (no kidding) where he'll live on a diet of Marlboros and espresso. At least part of his life won't change.
As you can see, the rif game can be advantageous if you're in an industry where there are many companies, and something to avoid if your industry has been on a consolidation kick. Remember, we go to work for the money. If they'll give you a bonus to move your office to another company, take it!
Our summer intern has returned to start his Junior year at Stanford. While saying my goodbye and thanking him for all the great work, I found myself telling him to take a class or two in finance. He's going to be a great software engineer in two years. Companies will be fire hosing stock options on him. He needs to know how to handle wealth.
Universities, by definition, teach from the academic point of view. What they don't teach are things like how to get a job, and what to do when you're stinking rich. I know from experience that stock option payoff can be handled right and not so right. Let's look at tax issues.
Let's say you have what's called an Incentive Stock Option (ISO) plan. This is very common in The Valley. At the time you exercise any options, the government assumes you have realized a gain between the option price and the closing price of the stock. Even if you want to hold the stock, the government may require you to pay income tax on that realized gain. This is called the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). You might exercise your ISO and maybe spend a couple grand on the stock, and end up owing Uncle Sam twenty or thirty grand in taxes. Uncle Sam will want cash - now. To pay the AMT you could be forced to sell the stock earlier than you want.
To illustrate, let's say you leave the company after vesting. You haven't exercised any of the ISO. As long as you're with the firm you have ten years to exercise, but upon leaving, you get ninety days. You purchase all the stock, but the price on the open market is depressed. You want to hold the stock for a few quarters in order to get even richer. It's at times like this that relatives like Uncle Sam are unwanted house guests.
There are ways around this. You'll need to speak with your tax advisor to get the numbers right, but in a nutshell, you can exercise small quantities of your options each year without tripping the AMT. Some people say you can realize a gain of 32 grand, some people say it depends on your income. My point is to talk to your tax advisor and get a plan.
Even after you suck up all that free money and minimize your tax liability, you have to figure out where you park the cash. You need to learn about investments. Knowing how your bozo manager runs your department, do you really want to hold a large equity stake in the company? In my opinion, it's not wise in most cases to own a lot of stock in the company that issues your paycheck if the company is in a volatile business - like software or chips. You'll be putting your eggs all in one basket. If hard times come and you get rif'ed without the golden parachute, chances are your stock ain't gonna be worth doo doo just when you need reserve cash. (Bad time and rifs usually mean lower earnings and a depressed stock price.)
Everyone I know who is stinking rich either understands investments, or has hired someone to understand investments for them. If you want to be stinking rich, I suggest you take one of these avenues. I think our intern will, and he'll be the richest guy dating Chelsea Clinton.
Mrs. Fek'Lar and I had a great time in Hawaii during our honeymoon. Unfortunately, we were both feeling a bit of pain when we arrived home. Mrs. Fek'Lar had a bad cut on her foot, and I had the monster migraine headache from hell the entire 5 hour flight. Then we opened the front door to our abode.
We knew something was wrong as we ascended the staircase. An ornament given to us by one of my sisters was no longer hanging from the door. I thought it was a prank by some kid. I was very wrong, it was a prank by two of the most devious rat-bastards on the planet, my groomsmen.
Most of the geeks I know love a good prank. We've got a code of conduct for pranks, it basicly says you can't prevent a person from doing their job. The prank needs to be done in good fun, nothing spiteful. Clearly, you should try to make the victim smile as much as cringe.
I've pulled many a prank in my day. I've painted people's parking places, sent flowers and romantic cards to a couple of people - from each other (no they weren't a romantic couple), sent anonymous e-mail to an entire company asking if the attached bogus press release was true. I've really dished it out, and I do believe that if you're going to dish it with a shovel, you'd better be able to take it with a smile, even if you have a headache.
We dragged our suitcases through the door. My head was pounding. I just wanted to go to bed and die. I've always wanted a waterbed. I found that I had one. Actually, I think it was supposed to be our own little beach and ocean. The floor around the bed was covered shin deep with styrofoam peanuts. On top of the bed was a Barbie® wading pool, with toys floating in it. An inflatable doll sat at the edge, nude. I clearly wasn't sleeping in that bed without a lot of bailing. Floating in the toilet was a rubber ducky that played, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" as I pissed on its head. There were several other rubber duckies throughout the abode, including one in the blender. (Were they out of frogs?) The shower was Silly Stringed along with the barbecue and the water smoker. There were condoms everywhere. Trouble clearly had help. Some of the work was very detailed. Trouble is like a bull in a nitro factory, Crash had been here.
Now I clearly deserved all of this. However, Mrs. Fek'Lar was an innocent by-stander who, through no fault of her own (except that she married me), had a trashed dwelling. You might lamely argue that she should have known better. After all, before the wedding many approached her and said, "You're going to marry that guy?"
It is at these times, when your wife has just returned from the honeymoon with an injury to a trashed home, that much of her character comes to the surface. She took it very well. We started to clean up the styrofoam, and bail the water. We decided to give the rubber duckies to some kids, but we still have the inflatable doll. Afterall, Mrs. Fek'Lar knows I'll be gunning for revenge, like finding Trouble's car, with the top down, so I can put the doll in the driver's seat and strap on the seatbelt. And of course there is that brass ring in the future, the possibility that one day some foolish woman will marry Trouble, and we'll give them a waterbed.
Let's play, "Who said this?"
Heard in the halls of various software companies.
"I joined this company for its comprehensive therapy package."
"We went from 1.crap to 2.crap."
"He doesn't condone it, but if he had a free ticket, he'd go to a midget tossing."
I need to install Get Rich Quick 3.0.
(Destroyer of Laptops - Morale Officer - The Last Honest Geek)
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