Archive for September, 2011

The first step in stealth career strategy is to do work that you want to do. In other words the work takes precedence over title and compensation.

This is tough for almost everyone. The driving force in career management is to get ahead.

But as simplified as this may sound, try stepping away from the need for the “got you by the balls” hooks that we consider signs of success. Corporations own you based on these two things. Title and pay. Get a bad review, don’t get a good raise, don’t get that next promotion and you feel like you have failed.

If you relegate those things to the attic and focus on work that you actually enjoy doing, you may find yourself actually be happier in your career. After years of banging my own head against the wall, I stepped aside in 1993, took the alternative and had the best 6 years of my work life. Strange as it may seem, during those 6 years, I was promoted twice, received great raises and had bosses that went to great length to make sure that I could continue to focus on what I did best.

Most of you are probably sitting there reading this and are saying to yourself, “Yeah that sounds nice but in fairyland but not in real life.”

But you control what you do with your life and your attitudes. You are the decision maker. Not others. The decision to be happy is both courageous and selfish and selfishness in this case is a good thing.

More on this later.

  • “If you want my advice, Peter, you’ve made a mistake already. By asking me. By asking anyone. Never ask people. Not about your work. Don’t you know what you want? How can you stand it, not to know?”
    • Howard Roark speaking to Peter Keating
  • “How do you always manage to decide?”
    “How can you let others decide for you?”

    • Peter Keating and Howard Roark

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Stealth Career Strategy

I am a big believer in stealth. Especially if you are working.

Most people want attention. Good reviews, good raises, good promotions.

Me me me me me me me me me……..blah blah blah

Some sit back and wait for it, don’t get it and stew.

Others leave.

Others demand it. They are constantly in your face telling everyone how unappreciated they are.

Some years ago I learned that if you don’t make things about you, you can go stealth in your job and accomplish a great deal. If you do it right and stick to it, the money, good reviews and titles will come to you. People around you will sense that you are trying to do good work. Especially your bosses. By the way, if they don’t give you more freedom and try to control you, then you have another problem. Then you have another decision to make.

Stay and die slowly or…

Leave….One of my favorite alternatives.

But the key is to not to make yourself the center of some drama. Unless you are an actor you are hired to go do your job. Drama makes you a target for being stuffed and caged. That how bosses treat drama queens (or kings). If they don’t have the guts to tell you to leave then what they will do is gradually slice and dice you into little pieces. I have had it done to me and I have done it to others.

Freedom comes from not making it about you. The more you are stealth (not making it about you) the more freedom you will generally have to do good work.

I have a paradigm.

If you always had trouble cashing your paychecks how would you feel?

The same for bosses who have problems with employees. You become a paycheck that they have trouble cashing.

B2 Bomber Stealth USAF B-2

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First Test

Got a frantic series of calls from a colleague. He had heard that there was a job open at a company I used to work for. Emphasis on used to. I haven’t been on-site for 18 months. In my world that is a long time ago.

I had to gulp it down and simply tell him that I was retired from Silicon Valley and no longer knew who was running what at that place. Tough for me because usually I will initiate a flurry of calls and email and try to help.

But that’s not me anymore.

I want distance and separation from Silicon Valley as I once knew it and played the game. I mean 33 years. Been there. Done that.

I am headed in a different direction. I am not really retired. I just wrote the first draft of spy-thriller novel. 300 pages and 100K words. Don’t know if it will get published but somehow I will get it out there. My other three books were published but that was in the 1990’s.

But writing is just one thing. I am kissing frogs in other swamps too.


Little girls are frog kissing experts

Anyway, my colleague sent me an email wishing me a happy retirement.

I had passed the first test.

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It’s obvious by the way she acted, that former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz has never been fired. Now I know she has fired people herself but obviously was way too big to take the time to internalize what getting canned feels like.

Firing people comes with the territory of being a CEO and as an added benefit, along with all those stock shares, perks and big salary, comes the zinger that the can is now tied to your tail and you can be summarily fired too.

But Carol, unlike many of us, has never been through the experience of being fired. Only the fake feeling bad, semi concerned world of the firer versus the fireree (is this even a word?).

Well, now she knows exactly what it feel like and in getting fired she made the first big mistake.

She couldn’t keep her mouth shut so she got fired from the board too. Okay, she resigned but after her comments to the press, it was a forgone conclusion that any connection she had with Yahoo would be reduced to severance. Having created and reviewed these documents in my past life I know there is a non disparagement clause and she blew right through that. If she hasn’t been paid yet, a Yahoo lawyer  is contacting her lawyer and reminding that person that Carol needs to keep her mouth shut.

She probably needed an executive coach or lawyer in the worse way to take her through the hells fire of this process but right now it is too late.

She feels her pain but isn’t thinking of anyone else.

The inability to translate what she is going through to the pain that others felt when she fired them is a serious flaw. Empathy may not be one of her strong suits, I guess. How do I know she doesn’t feel this empathy? Because of her own words.

They are splattered all over the news.

Yahoo “f—ed me over”

Or did she f–k over the company?

She came in and made some immediate  and needed changes and then on the cusp of victory, suddenly stopped her campaign and became part of the problem. My guess is that she fell way too in love with the perks of being a  CEO of a big company. Pure conjecture of course but I have seen it before.

She didn’t go far enough. That was the problem. Her style is blunt and abrasive. That works when you are winning. Not when you begin to lose.

Oh well, as Winston Churchill once said, “When you are going through Hell, keep moving.”


I feel badly though. Bartz was someone I expected to be a change agent. She did a good job at Autodesk. Yahoo needed an outsider like her. Someone to shake them up and get them on the right path.

I have some Yahoo consulting experience. It was a company tied in not’s”.

Not invented here was a biggy.

Not open to outside input even though the company regularly hired outside consultants to help them.

But change requires consistency of effort and vigilance.  You can’t take you eyes off the ball. Not even for perks and perceived self importance. The worst is hubris. Self pride and unawareness of what is really happening. I have been fired twice. Once at age 22 and the second time at age 47. Each time I knew that it was coming. It was not a surprise. And each time I knew why.

You have to know why.

Then you’ll learn and perhaps grow from the experience.

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On September, 11 2001 I was in our corporate headquarters in Germany.  Ironically I had forced an outside consultant to travel with me to Europe and inadvertently saved his life as he would have been working at the Towers that day otherwise.  It was the end of a long corporate day of meetings back to back and I was looking forward to having a couple of good German biers and dinner, when we noticed a crowd in front of a TV in the company’s lobby.  It was crowded and the broadcast was in German.   I found a German colleague and he directed me to another building where the TV was in English.  Quickly we went to the other building and my mind was racing of thoughts of the people I knew in New York.  I watch and listened; dazed in disbelief.  After a 12 hour day, nine times zones behind my home office in Silicon Valley, I began the Disaster Recovery plan for my company.  In between I wanted to make sure my wife; “safe” in San Francisco was OK.  Both of us worried about all our friends in New York.  We both had a career in New York Banks before moving to the West Coast and I had even worked in the Towers in the early 90’s. There was a bombing in 1993 so for us the threat was real although frankly the day’s images were surreal.   My wife worked in a sky scraper in downtown financial district in San Francisco and did not want her to go to work.  In the uncertainty of the day, no high rise building seemed safe to me and I urged her to stay home.  She went to work, but thankfully they turned people away in San Francisco at the final train station.  Back in Europe I went to work; we had to account for all of our employees, most safe in Silicon Valley, but a number of our consultants supported the NY Port Authority customer and needed to be accounted for.  Hours and many phone calls and emails later we confirmed all our staff was safe- my company was fortunate – but my travel companion’s company was headquarter in the Twin Towers.    Late in the evening, European time, I had dinner with my friend who had lost a number of work colleagues and if it was not for me forcing him to take this trip he would have been one of them.   It was the most silent meal ever.  I don’t remember speaking, not even to the waiter, I just pointed at the menu for my food.   We were stuck in Europe as all flights were banned.  I remember a number of other American colleagues unrealistically making desperate plans to get home.  I can remembering thinking they were crazy, but then thinking that if it that gave them something to do or comfort than it was alright.  We weren’t going anywhere and I was content, at peace with staying put.  My view was I wasn’t going anywhere until some time had passed and it felt safer, whatever that was.  One of my work friends extended an offer for me and my friend to stay at their beautiful home in a beautiful wooded village in Germany, we accepted. This allowed an immediate escape from the other travelers stuck in Limbo.  After waiting days for flights to be resumed I was at the Frankfurt Germany Airport.  The security was at a level I had never experienced and it was overcrowded given the backlog of travelers stuck for days.  After multiple checks I was at the final stop.  They performed a chemical test of my laptop and it failed.  They sat me in a small room for what seemed endless.  I tried to tell them in really bad German that they could keep my laptop.  Two levels of security managers later and an interminable amount of time I get freed to the terminal and finally returning home in the U.S.   It was only a week before I turned around and flew back to Europe.  My company made air travel voluntary; my personal resolve;  Terrorism won’t take my freedom.   Going back to the airport was eerie.   If it was not for all the law enforcement and military I think it would have been a ghost town.   The flight was near empty and I was in Business Class practically alone with the exception of the Flight Attendants.  A week later I was in Paris, a party for my wedding anniversary.   It is September 11, 2011 and now it has been ten years.  Flying airplanes into buildings is wrong.  This is not a political statement, 2970 people died.   Ten years have made me more spiritual about this event.     On this day or remembrance, my request is read your Bible, Old or New Testament, The Holy Qur’an, the Book of Merman, The Tao or Leaves of Grass, The Beatles or whatever scripture you hold sacred.  Then drive Tolerance, Acceptance, and Peace.  If one can plan an act of violence than all can drive a World of Peace.

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For years now I have been the job guy. I have known how to get jobs in almost every economic climate that has existed over the last 33 years. I have helped hundreds of people find work. Well, maybe it’s thousands. I can’t remember anymore.

And jobs for me?

18 of them to be exact. That doesn’t include the time spent as a consultant where I had at least another two dozen clients.

I am the job-finder genius. Ta da! Not the job-holder genius. I suck at that.

But it’s over. I no longer want to be the job guy. It has turned out to be a sum game. Most people won’t become the beast of prey’s that they need to be to effectively hunt for work and I am a beast of prey for better or worse. In the job market, I am not a zoo animal and most of you are. Not all, but most.

Enjoy your cages and habitats.

I am not going to stop being a career animal but to those who don’t have the guts to hunt, go someplace else. Sleep with the petting zoo animals. It is very peaceful there.

As for me, my weapons of job finding and survival shine very brightly. If you want them…..

Molōn labe!

Μολὼν λαβέ

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This may be swallowed up in the millions of terabytes of 9-11 tributes and reminiscences.

Of all the people who died on 9-11-2001, I only was aware of one individual whom I actually knew.

Phil Rosenzweig. He was on American Airlines Flight 11 that crashed into one of the Trade Center towers at around 8:46 AM that morning. At 8:46 EST, I was still sleeping in my comfy bed in Cupertino, California. It was only 5:46 out here. My friend and former colleague was dead, his body obliterated in a few seconds along with 92 others.

By the time I found out that both buildings had been struck I was just in time to watch one of the towers collapse into a massive cloud of debris.

I wasn’t in Silicon Valley anymore. Maybe geographically but not mentally.

I now knew what Americans had felt like on December 7th, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

In a way, we were at war.

But it was impersonal. Nothing in my life had changed. Yeah, I was effected like millions of others but it wasn’t personal. My son wasn’t going to be drafted and we wasn’t going on food and fuel rationing.

But we were at war.

It wasn’t until the next day that I received an email from a friend that Phil had been on the first plane to go down.

Then it was personal. I got up from my desk and walked the perimeter office complex. Phil was a one of the good guys. We had worked together at Sun and even though he was on the East Coast and I was out West, we always met when he came out for a visit. He always was asking how I was. He was thoughtful and a great listener.

And now he was gone.

I left Sun in 1998 to go work in a start up. Phil and I lost touch. Then he was killed. I went back to Sun in 2004 for an 18 month consulting job. There is a memorial bench and plaque in Phil’s honor right near my office. I would grab coffee in the morning and go out there and sit on the wonderful marble bench and commune with my friend.


Sun has since been sold to Oracle and Facebook now inhabits the campus where Phil’s bench sits. I hope the Facebook people have honored it and left it where it was. It is beautiful spot under a tree with spreading , shading branches.

Phil would have like it.

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