03 June 2008

So long, farewell...

(This is part 1 of a 2 part post. Part two is up now.)

Are you sitting down?


I'm leaving the embedded Linux team I've been with for 5 years now.

...and the Linux Technology Center too.

...oh yeah, and I'm quitting IBM as well.

So far, almost everyone has expressed shock somwhere along that sequence of revelations. Some at the first, some not until the last. Almost universally folks have asked "why?" In this post I hope to explain that question.

First and foremost... I need a change. I'm an engineer, or at least I'm supposed to be, but it's been quite a long time since I've done any actual engineering. I spend my days lately sheepherding younger engineers along doing the real work... and sitting in meetings, negotiating and planning and coordinating. While there is some enjoyment to be had there, it's not much. I've also gotten the message, loud and clear, that as long as the top of our organization remains the way it is, my career isn't going anywhere... I'm stuck where I'm at. So I'm sitting in a job that's becoming progressively less fun, and is becoming more obviously a road to no-where.

A very close second, is that I no longer see the passion I used to see and want to work with, in the group I'm with, or in the company. Once upon a time, I would have been comfortable to say that most of the engineers I work with have a Unix box as their primary system... some might have a windows machine as well, but it certainly wouldn't be their main system. I can no longer say that. In fact I have actually heard *complaints* about having to work on Linux systems in the lab, and how poorly supported their windows workstation is. For too many folks, the LTC has become just a job... the passion has left.

So that explains the first two. Why leave IBM? Afterall, one of the things I've said repeatedly is that my favorite thing about IBM is the wide breath of what we do... there's always something new in some other part of the company. One of my friends in the company has a long story about why his IBM Badge is one of his most prized possessions, sadly I can't seem to find it online. Well, I probably could find something elsewhere in the company, at least two other groups have expressed a desire for my skills... but frankly, there are some things going on in the company that just make me want to retch. Several I can't talk about, but here are some I can:

When I was hired, the sentiment was that IBM only hired the best. I can't count the number of times I've heard that. Not any more. Recently I was asked to review a resume and talk to someone that was being looked at in an area that didn't have a lot of Linux skills in house, but was in need of expanding them. Their candidate was great, would have been a tremendous addition to IBM in any capacity, but most certainly would have filled the needs of the organization. I gave their management a very positive review. A week later they asked me to look over the resume of someone else... for the same position. This second candidate... well... not very impressive on paper, and worse across the lunch room table. They hired the second one. When I asked why later, I kid you not, the answer was "We didn't think we could afford the first kid, so we didn't even make him an offer." Now I don't know what the first candidate asked for... we purely had a technical conversation... but I do know the second kid was asking for almost as much as I make, 2 bands, and at the time, 9 plus years, above an entry level college kid. Now I'm not saying that hiring at IBM is purely broken... they do occasionally get some very good people, but it seems to be an accident now, instead of intentional. At least in the US.

Which brings me to another thing, which is related. The group I've been in, Systems and Technology, is about to get new leadership at the top. The guy coming in has a number of nick names in the company... "the hatchet" is one of the few repeatable in mixed company. His modus operandi is to replace expensive US staff with cheap off shore staff, because after all, engineers are plug replaceable. Interestingly, while he's shipped line work to the four corners of the earth in search of cheap labor in all categories, he's omitted one: executives. Apparently his "they're just as good as we are" mentality stops at his own staff. Heaven forbid it should be suggested that *he* be replaced with a cheap Indian executive. Heck, with the exchange rates we could get two... one in India and one in Brazil for the amount he likely costs us. And while eventually we'd likely be able to bring them up to speed in the company and get them managing it just as well as he was... about a year short of that we'd have had 100% turn over in those replacements and they would have only passed on a small fraction of what they learned to their replacement. I don't want anyone to think I'm being geo-bigoted here, so let me point out that I've had the pleasure of working with some very good engineers in China and India, many of whom I would welcome working with again. But the hiring practices we've started to use here, seem to have been started there... and those few gems in the rough seem to have been the exceptions, not the rule. In the end, I expect his tenure at the helm to be bloody, but it has a chance to be cleansing. That same chance has been missed previously however in other groups he's worked at, where some of the best people have been the ones cut, and the local but cheap lower quality replacements kept.

A few others for the IBMers reading this... I won't bother to go into details, as I expect most of you to cringe with recognition just from the names: BSOs, CEPT, ABAT, IT-SAS and a hand full of other "sounds great in theory, let's rush it into production before anyone realizes the shortcomings and has a chance to stop us." acronyms, the great sametime witch hunt, lotus notes, off shoring key infrastructure support.

So, it's time to bid auf wiedersehen to IBM... so long, and thanks for all the fish.

(see also, part two which is up now.)



Blogger Jim McDonough said...

Nice summary Chris. Explains so much about why I left as well (15-years at Blue, LTCer since 2000).

6:16 AM  
Blogger Andy said...

I left IBM once, too :) If I hadn't I'd never have found


8:15 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Way more important to have a passionate cabbey outside IBM than a burned out cabbey inside IBM. Its a pity we can't have both (and no, I don't mean a burned out cabbey outside IBM.)

3:30 PM  

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