Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bye Bye HP

It's been a surprising past few weeks. I returned to work at HP on March 1st. I was rummaging through PC parts looking for a power supply (my laptop's power supply had died) when my director walked by. She said we had a meeting scheduled. I was unaware of the meeting due to my computer problems. Power supply in hand, we headed off to a room as I wondered what this could be about. It's not often you have a one on one with your third level manager. She cut straight to the chase, using a practiced and carefully worded script. I had 10 weeks to look for a new job at HP before I was going to be terminated. She said (not verbatim) my nomadic lifestyle wasn't a good fit for the job requirements. I couldn't honestly disagree with her.

It's worth providing some background here. Some weeks before I left Texas I had contacted my manager to tell her that I'd be returning early from my leave. While I was at it I also asked if it was possible to work on a six month on / six month off schedule on an ongoing basis. I saw that I was going to need to return to Texas for months at a time on regular basis. She ran it up the management chain. The answer she returned with was that my best bet was to become a contract engineer. I had contacted some people at HP who were working as contract engineers. Amongst other things I learned that the maximum length of the contracts was six months. Also, the trend was towards more contractor labor. It sounded like what I wanted, so I told my manager that contracting was fine with me. I left it at that. My plan going back into HP was that I'd work until late summer, resign, go to Texas, return in the spring of 2011, and look for a contract engineering position at HP. It was a bit of a surprise to learn that I'd be laid off, but I quickly realized that I was getting what I'd asked for. Then I realized that I was getting more than I'd asked for. If I didn't find another job at HP I would get a severance package. With the severance package I'd be getting about what I would have gotten if I'd worked until late summer, except I wasn't going to be working. I'd be eligible for unemployment. My house in Corvallis was still rented out, and while I was in Texas I had rented out the empty lot next to the building which houses the bakery. A few days after returning to HP I pulled February's sales figures for the bakery. Sales had increased more than 5x in four months. I dug into the value of my 401k and some other HP related assets and found some pleasant surprises. I'd set things up so that a portion of my paychecks would go into various investments, but had forgotten about some of them. I decided not to look for another job within HP.

Another important consideration was that I'd been wanting to leave HP for some time. I was prepared to leave three years ago, when I wrote this poem:

The River

I took a trip down the River. At times the River was calm, at times it was rapid. Mostly it was somewhere in between. Although the River has brought me closer to my destination, I see now that it is moving me further away. Therefore, I must leave the River and continue my journey by other means. Although I will soon leave the River, the River will never leave me. The River has taught me many lessons, which I will need for rest of my journey. For that, I thank the River and wish it well on its journey to the Sea.

I didn't leave at the time because HP had said yes to my first leave request.

I don't harbor any ill feelings towards HP or anyone who works there. No doubt, the place has it's ups and downs, but so does any other employer. The bottom line for me is that my employment at HP has enabled me to do a lot of things that I've wanted to do. For that I'm quite grateful. I've believed for some time that HP had served it's purpose. There's other things I should be doing and I need get on with them.

Yesterday was my last day at HP. My plans are to stay in Corvallis through September. The bakery seems to have caught up with the recent growth spurt. Nina hired an experienced decorator recently and made operational changes which have enabled her to step away from daily operations a bit. It's a welcome change from too many days that stretched into the early morning. Challenges remain, but the shop seems to have survived the infant stage. It's a toddler now, still vulnerable, but less so. Working at the bakery spawned various other business ideas, which I am pursuing now that I'm no longer at HP. I don't know if they'll go anywhere, but for me not knowing what will happen is a big part of the fun.

It's mushroom hunting season here. Matt, our expert mushroom hunter, found a secret location in the forest which has been producing large quantities of morels. We've been visiting the spot regularly for the past few weeks. No one else seems to know about it. Ann and I have been eating them fried or in pasta dishes. They're quite tasty. The photo at the top is of one of the largest morels we've found to date. More photos are here.

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