Archive for July, 2010

Well, as prophesied by the oracle of the Silicon Valley Warrior, Tony Hayward is stepping down as CEO of BP and Robert Dudley has move up onto the throne. Wasn’t there a Robert Dudley fooling around in Elizabethan England?

And Tone? He’ll be sent off to Siberia (or a place like that) to drill oil. A friend of mine spent some time out in the middle of the Russian oil fields. They are on the great endless and pitiless plains of Asia. In the truest sense, Tone is being sent to Siberia. He wanted his life back but now he’ll never get it. Not unless he quits. My best guess is that this is a transitional  or bridge job until something more suitable can be found like  Tierra Del Fuego or termination. He can stare at Antarctica across the Southern Ocean.

It’s endsville for Tone.

If he were truly a beast of prey, he wouldn’t stand for it. He would resign and still collect is sizable severance. But he seems to want to stay. He is in truth a zoo animal waiting for the next meal. The board wants him to go away and so they’ll bury him in “Siberia”. But they will never forget. He may believe he’ll be back but nit under this administration. If he resigned and went to another competitor or started his own company, the chances of a comeback are better. The great ones learn and do come back. The mediocre ones just slip into obscurity.

They could all learn from Marius of ancient Rome. Seven times consul. He was written off again and again but always came back. At the end he was little more than a viscous dictator but he died in power, not out of it.

“Marius Amid the Ruins of Carthage” by John Vanderlyn


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File photo of BP CEO Hayward and Managing Director ...
The board would have to be insane to keep this guy. Someone has to take the fall. It’s the corporate way. Been there done that and had it happen to me. It’s just part of the game. It’s very much like a struggling sports franchise. The coach usually goes first. Of course the BIG question is how many guys was Tone able to fire in an attempt to  deflect the blame away from the palace doors. If the answer is few or none than Tone is toast. His power is gone. Who needs a CEO who has no power? CEO’s to be effective have to be alpha and Tone has move rather quickly to beta.
I have watched these guys sweat in air-conditioned offices once their time runs out. Their job was to make others sweat. Now the tables are turned and the bell tolls for them.
To remain alpha it is best to resign. Just leave before the axe falls. The best do that. The cowards hang on by their necks. It’s not the severance because they get that anyway. But if you are going to rebuild your reputation it is best to start right away.
When I was getting deposed at Borland many years back (I was an HR Manager..small fish) I could hardly wait to leave so I could get on with it. But I had to hang on for almost a month, waiting because of financial obligations.
I hated it.

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On June 28th I said that it was silly to believe that Tony Hayward wouldn’t be pushed out as CEO or BP. And now that event is all but upon us. Go here.

Why should this be a surprise? It is not because I am clairvoyant.  It is because I have been the agent of many such firings over my 33 year career in Silicon Valley. That’s a role that us HR dweebs often play. Let’s set the scene so we can pull the trigger. HR goes into a hush mode (read: Cone of Silence!). So right now whomever is BP’s agent in this matter has legal and HR running around like jackals in heat. Whatever it looks like, it’s not pretty except that Tone (I hope you mind if I use the familiar) has to pay the price for the stupidity of his company and the idiocy of his statements to the press. Tone didn’t look like he cared and if I am guessing right, he didn’t. It’s hard to fake that sort of thing.

One thing will be nice though. His severance package. Oh, and the numb nut wording of the press release. They’re all the same. While they praise the outgoing man for his many years of service they also talk of how they wish Tone (or whomever) best of luck in his future endeavors. I may not have it all correct but I believe I will be in the ball park.

Unfortunately it won’t end the game as we know it. The board will look for the next BS guy (and if you don’t know what BS stands for I can help you). But as long as profits stabilize and there are no more big gushers in the middle of some large body of water, whomever succeeds Tone will be OK for a while.

Go to fullsize image

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I am so finished

I had a chance to catch with a friend who started his own technology company several years back. Things are progressing well for him. He has avoided using VC funding and that way he can keep control. A few years back I might have wanted to part of this but as we sat out on the patio of the Palo Alto Airport Cafe Restaurant, I found that while I was truly interested, I was glad I did not have to part of it (not that he asked).

Yesterday  I chatted it up with another friend and former colleague who is looking at an opportunity that would have made me drool and salivate ten years back or maybe even five years back. Well, I did salivate a bit but not for wanting to go be part of this. Just in discussing what this would mean for her. It’s a classic turnaround which I know I always enjoyed. I always like the odds stacked against me. Bases loaded. Relief pitcher coming in trying to get the side out. What a rush (and I don’t mean that fat f#%k on radio).

I must be so finished.

I am so finished.

If I use the word retired, peoples eyes glaze over and they say “Rich, enjoy your retirement”. Until I began using those words my network still believed that I was simply getting some much needed down time and that I would be back. But retired cause them to go away. Not that I want that but let’s face it. I NEED TO MOVE ON! Detox from one way of life is tough if you don’t replace it with something else. Even if it’s just watching HUNG on cable.

I have been an unofficial assistant coach for a friend of mine who is running a summer program for members of his High School Cross Country Team. By the way, something I said I would never do. But now I am doing it. High school kids. What a challenge. Many of them are the precursors of the engineers I worked with for much of my so called career in Silicon Valley. The high school girls mystify me as much as when I was in high school (so long ago). I still haven’t figured them out. I just keep my distance and try to be there if they have any questions.

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The one thing I have discovered is that men who are married at best are at zero or even. You are never ahead even when you think you are. You do the big wedding for the bride. If you said, let’s not do this and let’s just go off and elope, that is fine as long as you have a real ceremony later on or a big reception. But you do it for the bride. If you do it for the man, then the male part of the bargain is not an alpha male. Not really.

In any case you’ll spend you married life trying to stay even (or zero).  It’s one of the reason we have so many movies and TV series based on this fact of life. “Everybody Loves Raymond” was a great example. But back in the day so was The Honeymooners”.

Women need us (for a time) and they’ll do whatever it takes to get us to marry them. They are in love with the idea of marriage. Then once that is accomplished the job of the male is to provide for the family. It is old an imperative as the paring of males and females. You can spend most of your young life providing that security. This journey is marked by long hours at work, taking shit from incapable bosses, trying to get ahead, getting fired or laid off (they are the same by the way). As long as the money flows you might be near even. Then one day you retire. Your work is done. You have money in the bank. Your kids are out of school on their own.

Mission accomplished.

But you are not at zero any more. You drop back because you no longer provide.

The black widow. She mates, she kills. Well maybe not literally. But whatever you were when the journey began, well, that is no longer you. Your worth to her has gone down. You are like a piece of furniture. Maybe an old dog whose time has come. Time to be put down.

It can be disconcerting. Not all men reach their senior years and no longer love their wives. Some of us still do. But maybe we’ve had out lives perverted by the journey we had to endure (willingly) to make sure that there was some sense of financial security.

But that wasn’t enough. Not really. If you lose yourself in the journey you will lose what is most important. Your sense of what you really are (if you are still capable of knowing or remembering).


That leads to a further journey if you are willing to undertake it. You may be in your golden years (whatever the hell that is) but the need to journey further is still there whether you think you need to or not.

It was the fictional and yet real words of a woman in Lord of the Rings that resonate.

Aragorn: You have some skill with a blade.
Eowyn: The women of this country learned long ago, those without swords can still die upon them. I fear neither death nor pain.
Aragorn: What do you fear, my lady?
Eowyn: A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.
Aragorn: You are a daughter of kings, a shield maiden of Rohan. I do not think that will be your fate.

This is the final journey. It leads to death as all human journeys eventually do. But it is better to go out with a sense of what and who you are. Without fear. Loneliness takes many forms. If in the process of life you lose yourself then that is the loneliest of all.

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Even Bonnie Parker understood what happens when you go against the law.
Of course for her the payoff was a gun riddled death on a Louisiana back road with her lover and partner in crime,
Clyde Barrow.
For these two very rich young women, it is jail time. I know it scared Paris what’s her name
shitless. Not a peep from her since her brush with”the place where they house those who break the law.
But Lohan, fueled by drugs and alcohol, didn’t pay the least bit of attention so now she has to do the jail time.
Don’t do the crime unless you are prepared to do the time.
I don’t wish jail on Lohan (not that I matter). House arrest with no visitors except law enforcement, no phones,
no TV, no alcohol, no nothing fancy, would d her just as well. Let he have all the books she can read and learn from
because she  needs to read and learn. By the way, it would be someone else’s house. Maybe an apartment in Bakersfield.
But it wouldn’t be her world.
Or send her to an ashram (I know of a good one) and let her contemplate her life but live it simply and uncluttered by
all that she knows so she can know something else. It’s not having her learn humility or that the world can go on without her for a time.
No, it’s not that. It’s helping her to become a person again instead of the cartoon character she  morphed into. Paris What’s Her Name (Don’t tell me. I know it’s the name of a loo someplace) learned that she shit her pants she was so scared and that jail was not a place where she wanted to be.
She has continued a modified cartoon character life (she is very rich and can do that sort of thing). Too bad, I was hoping to keep up on her pantyless existence but I guess those days are over. Soon she’ll be 30 and yesterday news.
But Lohan still has a chance. She was and hopefully still is a decent actress. But not only did she do a Marilyn Monroe type photo shoot
but she also is headed for a MM type ending. Maybe this will stop the MM train from derailing.
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 06: Actress Lindsay Lohan, left, r... David  McNew / Getty Images

Paris Hilton crying


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I am not against technology. Far from it. I love my computer (MacBook Pro), my cell phone (soon to be an iPhone), email, IM  and all the other gadgets that make my life easier and keep me in contact with almost everyone.

The problem is that people in my world which is the heart of Silicon Valley, seem to be focused on gadgets rather than other live people. I mean why communicate with a real live person if you can communicate via technology? When people at the many jobs I have worked  over the years at use the term 24-7 they aren’t referring to being in the office 24 hours 7 days a week. They are referring to the fact that people can get to the 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (and vice versa).

Now that I have retired I see it even more clearly. I can be sitting having breakfast or lunch with someone (or coffee) without them picking up an incoming call. Poof! I am no longer there. Then they chat along while I sit there eyes glazing over, gazing off in the distance. Now just to set things straight I have been known to pick up a call or two myself. But I tell folks ahead of time that I may need to take an important call. I keep the call brief and get back to my real life friend.

But it is rare. I usually set my cell on silent or stun and actually talk.

But folks seem hell-bent on replacing real people with technology. Soon we’ll have robotic partners for sex (hmm, not a bad idea now and then especially if it life-like). Are you having an affair if you are having sex with an android human replica robotic entity?

Good question for the far future.

Anyway, I don’t really want to get angry at people or at myself because we pick up a call now and then (EVERY F#$KING DAY!). But I am thinking of going on a I am just going to sit around there and listen to your one-sided inane call fast. I may just get up and wander off and let you come find me (if you care to). I did this to one friend (yes, we’re still friends) and walked out after he took 4 (FOUR) calls in a half hour during a breakfast. I did pick up the tab. The next time we met, he turned his phone on silent as did I.

I just hate to see myself and others lose the ability of singleness of purpose. I am with you. I care about this and I am going to focus on you. What a concept. I build whole frigging career on this capability.

More on this later

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