Leaving something is never easy, particularly when I hadn’t actually looked for a job in over 13 years. I also had to navigate telling my parents the IBM that provided our family its livelihood was now completely different than they had experienced. There were also the In-Laws that had entrusted their daughter to me, even as moved her and the 3 grandkids 4 times in 3 years. And there was the slight detail of finding something new to do – which is why I had driven into Tyson’s Corner to engage in a “cattle call” – a recruiting event where a lot of people were mixing in the large center section, a strange dance of those looking and those recruiting. I stopped at a booth for a local company, had a short discussion with a recruiter who, immediately, said he had a role for me… wow…
.. they were forming a new team called “Advanced Technologies”… and needed people who were on the leading edge of computing. Check – I had been in Research for 2 years, with a decent background building labs (Space Station) showing how technology could be used to solve problems. I also had a lead teams in the integration of software/hardware into systems, across different competing organizations while within a small group. I was invited in for a set of interviews, and immediately liked my potential new boss, and the feeling was mutual. I soon landed an offer letter for “Director of Software Engineering”. Now I needed to find a graceful way to exit IBM, which conveniently had started to realize they had too many people and were offering buy-out packages to people in “Sales” roles….
I actually CAN do a little planning.. and had circled this week to write about Thanks… for the obvious reasons, and I knew the soundtrack I wanted to feature – The Avett Brothers. I have a love for Bluegrass that coincided with the season I am writing about, and also their story has enough twists, turns, and pathos to weave into the week… and their stance is consistently one of Thanks. Realistic, not syrupy, but pragmatically hopeful, and sweet like most Bluegrass. It is like most of the work I do – simple, but not easy. Like saying Gratitude changes your brain…. it does, but you actually have to do it and not just talk about it. So this week, I am inviting you to extend the day to the week, and think about Thanks for all of the blessings you have received – some of which have been helpful, while I continue my story of leaving IBM in 1992.
The Avett Brothers – are. Unlike say the Thompson Twins, or Pink Floyd (…which one is Pink?), they are ACTUALLY brothers. Raised in Concord, North Carolina, they had no intention of playing what most people call Bluegrass – Hillbilly Jazz. They both had the typical High School rock bands that went no-where-ish… and after both failed, they left to start noodling around together, and realized together they had something. It was not unexpected: their Grandmother and Father were both musical. After working for a few years, they had enough of a following to record an album of their own – on their own nickel. Today’s song is from that very first album – in 2002. So they have been an 18 year “overnight success”
… I applied to receive the “Separation Plan” from the “sales team” and was immediately denied. Having made myself known to a LOT of people, was now working against me. As my appeal went up to our Division President, I was now in his Bethesda office – the same man I had worked with for 2 years on our project. The admin who had been warm and cordial for most of my visits coldly showed me in. After a quick discussion, he looked me straight in the eye and said “I know you are really an engineer, and you can decide what is best for you, but we are not paying you to leave”.
Did I mention I had not talked with my wife about this? Raising 3 small children she was pretty busy, and the idea of making yet ANOTHER change I thought would likely be a bridge too far… and, I knew that the end was near at IBM, so change was coming either way. When I received the offer letter, all she said “What is the Director of Software Engineering?”, and I simply replied – “I don’t know but I will figure out.” That looks easier after 40 years together, but at that point, I celebrate today the courage that took to engage in yet another season of change.
As you head into this week of Thanksgiving… what are the breakpoints in your past that you need to reflect back on, and realize how important they are? Start now harvesting those memories, and go with me on a journey of Gratitude with the Avett Brothers encouraging us to engage to not only embody the Change we talked about last week, but to give Thanks for it. What do you need to leave to make this to turn this …November Blue.