Archive for June, 2011

I get really bored with zoo animal types who are unhappy at work but just can’t just can’t find it within themselves to go get another job. Since most of the people I know are unhappy at some level with work, I wonder why they just don’t go to another company. I mean if you are happy, then by all means STAY in the zoo you presently inhabit. I really liked my 6 years at Sun. I admit it. I am ultimately glad I left to go make my million, but for six years I was in love with work. It wasn’t perfect all the time but in the morning I actually looked forward to going to work and often stayed late in the evening rather than rushing home. My wife understood that this was a rarity for me. She supported my endeavors.

I rarely felt that at the myriad of crappy pie holes I worked at over the years.

The fact is most people hang on to jobs like bad relationships.

Too long.

One friend told me that he just can’t seem to market himself. He just can’t seem to network. It is too painful for him. In his case he has no job at all. He hasn’t had one for about 5 years. He is living on unemployment and credit cards.

“I just can’t do it,” he whines his head dropping down.

“I’ll coach you to a new job,” I told him.

I just can’t do it.

In the meantime he knocked up a girl and got her pregnant.


I just can’t do it.

I remember what it was like to be up against the wall financially after the three witches ran me out of Borland. I had some severance and a bit of savings. I had 2 months. I wanted to give up too.

But working my ass off, like a hungry cheetah who has lost their kill to the lions, I hunted until I found my next job. I didn’t blame the lions. I didn’t blame the three witches. Witches have to be what they are.


They might still be out there. Whatever world they inhabit, I left it behind when I left Borland. I knew their hate would eventually consume themselves in the end.

It is the way of it.

You move on. You MUST move on.

It is too easy to be paralyzed by what is happening to you. It is tougher to move on.

If you find yourself in Hell, keep moving. Churchill said that and he was right.

It isn’t the job or your boss or what others think of you that is important.

It is that you posses skills and ability. Your gifts. You can take those anywhere you want.

But more often than not, I hear those words.

I just can’t do it.

I am working on my resume.

It isn’t a good time for me to move right now.  It is however a good time to let people beat the crap out of me at work or in my personal life. Yes, it is an excellent time for that!

“But you see, I have, let’s say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I’ve chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I’m only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards–and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one.”

  • Howard Roark

If you are truly unhappy, try going out the door. What you will find is another door. One that is waiting for you. A door to be opened.


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Two friends of mine retired recently in their early 50’s. One was a long timer with Apple. The other spent two decades at HP. I was sitting next to one of them at breakfast Saturday and I mentioned that I had heard that he had taken the alternative (retired).

He smiled. “I worked for money,” he said. “I have enough now.”

I asked him if he could imagine consulting or contracting. His face darkened.

“No,” he said succinctly. It was the same “no” I had uttered at lunch Friday.

I remembered my chance to retire in my mid 50’s after cashing in a whole bunch of stock after the company I was working at went public. You have to wait 6 months but then you are free to sell. I sold but after 9 months of doing little or nothing, I was lured back in with part-time consulting work that lead to full-time contracting work. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. I did. But it was never-ending. It went on and on and finally I ended up going back inside for 15 months and after that still did some more consulting until I drew the line in the sand and said “no more”.

No More…

I am a runner again. http://siliconvalleywarrior.blogspot.com/

Actually I have been a runner for 44 years with 25 years of competition. I stopped racing in 1995 but never stopped running. I just stopped training.  But now I am back at it trying to reach respectability in my age group. This is my new job.

I am doing it for free. Who would pay me anyway?

Any other work is a million dollar job. You’ll have to pay me a million dollars (50% up front) for me to do it.

I am beginning to re-associate myself with the running community. It is strange to be going back there. Some of my closest friends coach high school cross country in the fall and track during the spring. They have made it their full-time job. I help one of them part time but it will not be my vocation. At best it is my avocation.


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Supreme Hunters

I had lunch today with the two people I consider my peers in job hunting. One, Herb, taught me the importance of relentlessness both in networking and in job search. We really met up in late 1992 even though we had talked on the phone a few times. I was down and out having been laid off from Borland. It was heading into Christmas which is supposedly lousy time to be out of work. Most job seekers go into hibernation.

“I’ll get started after the New Year,” and all that sort of crap.

But this guy wouldn’t let me take that path and he turned out to be right on the money.

“Great time to network,” he said boldly. I was thinking of my home mortgage, my kids private school and our two car payments. I knew instantly that I could not afford to coast through the holidays. I was living on severance and unemployment. Very little savings in the bank.

He really took me under his wing. I was always good at getting new jobs but very bad at getting a good one. I had decided, the hell with it. I was going to be a contract HR person for a while. It was a tough market and contract HR was dominated by the old Turks. They were very clannish and tended not to share leads with anyone out of their group.

So Herb and I partnered on jobs and leads. If it wasn’t right for me then it was right for him and so on.

It worked out for both of us and when he passed on a contract job at Sun, he handed the opportunity to me. It eventually became a full time regular job.  Best job I ever had.

Over the passing years he has helped me and I have helped him.

He is still going. He is still relentless.

He asked me if I missed working.

“Not yet,” I said without hesitation.

I knew the next question before he asked it.

“What do you do all day?”

“Whatever I feel like,” I responded. Then I outlined a typical day.

It was like I was speaking a foreign language.

My other lunch mate was The Jackal who recently exited (stage right or left..any stage just to get out of there)  a bad, bad job and has quickly transitioned to working a part time contract and is searching for other work.

Three supreme hunters united for an hour at the Palo Alto Airport.



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Forgotten word hell

Today I forgot a business word this morning. I was leaving a restaurant where a friend and I had just had breakfast and I looked over to see our waitress sitting down, taking a quick break. She was playing a game on her mobile phone plus she was grabbing a bite to eat.

I said to her, “Hey you are……..” and then I went dark.

I could not remember the word. I looked over at my friend and he had no idea of what word or phrase I was searching for.

“You know. When you do two things at once,” I blurted out stumbling further into forgotten word hell.

“Oh well,” I said with a big sigh. “I forgot the damn word.”

The waitress smiled and I shrugged. I started to go for the door when it hit me.


“You’re multitasking!” I said loudly.

As we walked out onto the street I turned to my buddy.

“I must be retired. I would never have forgotten that word a year ago.”

Then I remembered that multitasking, like 24-7 is one of those phrases that means we have too much on our plate (another meaningless phrase) but it doesn’t mean we are working smarter or better. No, instead we get to revel in the fact that we’re SO important.


Here is an interesting blog on multitasking.

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The Jackal sends his story of his first real job.

My life in the Sleep Lab

My first real job started when I was a senior at University.   Actually it started as an internship after my junior year.   When you are a Psychology major most people openly tell you that you will never get a job. I am my own person and after being every major for at least five minutes, I was not going to be proven wrong in my choice.   At the Career Center I found out about a Federal program for paid internships in research.   I got an interview with Dr. W.  PhD, a well-known researcher in his field and at the time I was reading a book about Sleep and had it with me.   The meeting went well and I got the job as a Research Assistant.  As I was leaving he said “I always wanted to do research in Sleep, so we will start there”.

Great  job .  Great boss.   Dr. W.  PhD took me under his wing and he did something that he didn’t have to do he treated me,  a 17 year old, as a peer.   I had a lot of independence and worked with computers, statistics, programmed software and learned my way around the library doing research (pre Google).   I collected a lot of data and learned how to interview but taking the backgrounds of countless patients.   With Dr. W.  PhD‘s encouragement I taught myself how to be a Research Assistant.

By choosing “Sleep” Dr. W. PhD leveled the playing field as it was not his area of expertise and I was already one book ahead of him.   I spent time in the Sleep Lab learning.  At the time the study sleep was an emerging area and there were only a dozen of such facilities in the US.  The members of the Sleep Lab were more than accommodating to an eager learner.  They taught me about Sleep Architecture, Sleep Disorders, how to use the EEG machines and everything about the world when we are not awake, and in return, I taught Dr. W.  PhD.

Eventually I worked in the Sleep Lab testing patients, scoring sleep records and doing additional research in insomnia and pioneering work in sleep apnea.   A white lab coat gives you a lot of power.  So I worked full-time and had six classes at University, one more than a full course load.  I would go to classes during the day and get to the Sleep Lab around 8 p.m.  Some nights I worked overnight and others to 11 p.m.   The good thing about a Sleep Lab is that they have rooms with beds in them, somewhat like a Motel 6, and I could sleep at work and go to school the next day.   Sometimes I even got paid to sleep while they tested new equipment.  How many of you have gotten paid good money to sleep?

By May of that year I had one year’s experience, a bachelor’s degree and was a published researcher and set my sights on Graduate school.   More importantly I learned universal skills that I apply at work now every day in the for profit world.   Specifically, I learned:

  • how to be objective using analytics.  In Research you have a hypothesis and use statistics to test your theory.   So I learned to always ask “What is the evidence?”
  • to conduct a thorough and professional interview.   If you can successfully interview someone with advanced Alzheimer’s you can interview anyone.
  • what a great boss for me was; give me encouragement, direction and the independence to let me go where I need to go.
  • my best learning style was to teach myself a new role with limited direction.
  •  to write for professional journals using various style guides.
  •  to work within a team of specialists all interdependent peers with a common goal.
  • to use PC and software programs (these skills eventually paid for Graduate Studies in full).
  • the importance of ongoing learning (actually my Dad taught me that already).

Eventually I left non-profit taking with me great lessons and skills to the for profit world.  Looking back these three formative years  were better than any degree from any University.   In the end I disappointed my mentor by not going in to research, however I owe a lot to Dr. W.  PhD  in the success I have had since my life in the Sleep Lab.

Send me your story about your first job via comments.


The Lion and the Jackal hanging together after a long day of hunting

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When I am hunting for my next gig, I make it my business to know what jobs are moving in the job marketplace. Not some of them. If possible, all of them. Since most jobs are filled through internal referrals, only a small number are posted on job boards or company websites.

What you see is perhaps 20-30% of what is actually open.

More mature companies do post jobs but by the time zoo animals see them, the jobs already have a viable candidate. Someone has already gotten there before you did.

“That’s not fair!” I have heard people (zoo animals) shout in indignation.

While you were worrying about what was fair, some job hunter was already moving through the tall grass of the veld.

Since this is called a job HUNT then it must actually be like real hunting.  You know where the game a actually tries to evade the hunter.


Fairness isn’t part of it and I am not talking about race, religion and gender. I am talking about hunting skills.

During World War One (the Great War), pilots only received credit for knocking down an enemy plane if it was witnessed by either another pilot or friendly troops on the ground. Frank Luke shot down a plane and almost didn’t get credit for it. After that he started to leave notes saying that he was going to torch observation balloons. Back in the Great War shooting down balloons counted as a kill because they were so difficult to bring down. Anyway, Frank got the hang of the game. It wasn’t fair. So he played by the rule of making sure people saw him shoot down what he said he was going to shoot down. It was about the only rule he played by and he was shot down within about two weeks of his first kill. By then he had shot down 14 balloons and 4 enemy planes.


Frank Luke 1897-1918

Frank understood the game right to the bitter end. His plane went down in a small French town. He was still alive. he tumbled out of his craft and went down to a creek to scoop some water up for his parched throat. German infantrymen swarmed the area yelling for him to surrender.

“Come and get me coppers!”

Well, he didn’t actually say that but he didn’t surrender either. He shot it out until he was hit by a bullet which killed him.

The point being, if you are on a job hunt, BE THE HUNTER! No one is going to release birds right in front of you so you can shoot them down in large masses a la Dick Cheney.

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My first job right out of college in 1967 was with 3M. Last year they did 27 Billion in world-wide sales.  I worked in the Microfilm reader division in Redwood City. Yes, it was back in the days when microfilm was the method of storing and transmitting data. Very crude by today’s standards but state of the art back then.

You know, it’s funny. The building is still there. It’s a car dealership these days. But it is the same building.

Every mistake a person could make, I made in my first job. First of all I got it through an employment agency. Back then you had to give one-third of your first three months salary back to the agency.  I figured if I was there for several years (yeah! right) I would more than make back the agency fee.

My role was in management training starting with the order desk. The guy who had the job before me was leaving with only a days notice. So training, such as it was, was almost nil.

In my first month I had made several critical mistakes.

I made a great many errors on order sheets. Customers would call in, place an order, I would fill out the sheet and send it in an overnight pouch to the Santa Clara Warehouse. My error rate was something like 12%. In out division we were dead last.

Secondly, I refused the homosexual advances of our assistant manager who used to call me “ducky”. He liked to give me neck rubs until I told him to stop. Then he became my enemy and made a big point of making sure that I had my nose rubbed in that high error rate. The fact that I had almost no training didn’t count. I was quickly on my own.

After the first month I befriended the order desk guy for the nearby microfiche office (right next door) and he helped me to get things right. I kept track of my error rate and knew by the end of the second month that I was down around 3% which would put me in the top of the division. But Ducky didn’t come to my office and show me the report. He said that it was unimportant.

By this time I had found out that we had customers who were not getting their orders in a timely manner. Some were waiting for bulbs for their readers and other were waiting for microfilm. No bulb, no film, no ability to use our products.  I found out that we had demo bulbs and film in our storage closet. The sales guys used it. I went to several of the sales guys and asked if I could use some of the supply to help our customers. I could get the sales guys to take it to their customers and then replace the inventory by ordering it from the warehouse.

My God, you would have thought I had an affair the general manager’s  wife. He went ballistic as did Ducky. I explained that several key customers including United Airlines were unable to use their equipment and that they were thinking of changing providers.

No good. I was told not to do it again.

I was now in my third month on the job. The sales guys loved me and Ducky and my boss were not saying good morning to me anymore. I went home and related the events to my father who had years of business experience.

“What’s going to happen, Dad?” I asked.

He minced no words even though he was as kind about as he could be.

“You’re going to get fired,” he said. “So you have a choice. Leave now and stick it to them or stay and go through the experience. It’s good to get fired at least once. It makes you tougher.”

Little did I or my Dad know I would get fired 2-3 more times in my career.

So every day I went to work, did my job, further lowered my error rate down to below 1% and expected to get fired.

One day my boss called me in and told me that it wasn’t working out. I stood up shook his hand and said I would clear out my desk. he looked at me pleadingly.

“Would stay for a week and train the new guy?”

“Oh, so he won;t have to go through what I experienced I said with a laugh?”

I think he believed I was about to shove his job up his ass. But I didn’t. I said sure.

So I stayed a week. The sales people went ballistic  over my termination. The head of purchasing from United called me and offered me a job. I asked everyone to stand down.

“I appreciate your support but it is best I leave.”

I went quietly into that final Friday evening.

Even my father told me that I had handled it in a classy manner.

A year later I was out having pizza and ran into one of the salesmen who had stormed the GM’s office insisting that I be kept on. he was thew sales guy who had the United Airlines account.

He couldn’t remember who I was at first.

“Oh, yeah,” he said as some light came on in his brain. “You’re that guy who really screwed up.” As he went on I realized that he was talking about one of the guys who came after me but it made no difference. He hadn’t really remembered me at all. And after all, in a manner I had screwed up. Before I had decided to circumvent the system I should have chatted with the GM. But I would have lost anyway. Rejecting Ducky put me down for the count.

But I got one big bonus from the experience. After that I was never afraid of getting fired. My Dad was right. You had to go through it once (or twice or three times). It took away the fear.

Location of my first real job

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