Friday, May 07, 2010

It's Getting Better

It started going bad last summer. The news was bad, but at least it came from the President of the United States. Obama announced that General Motors would be closing plants as part of its bankruptcy. Everyone in the room knew he was talking about us. Within a few days, or was it a few hours, what we all feared was confirmed, our plant was closing and our product was being transferred to Lansing Michigan.

Even though the plant would no longer be producing the Chevrolet Traverse, it would not shut down completely. There's still a part that assembles engines and another that presses metal parts. Some of the plastic extrusion production would still continue for a little while too. Those of us in IT suspected that we might be able to hold on to our jobs. You could feel the desperation in the air. Some people had already been notified of their last days at work.

I spoke to one of those people as I drove her to Bowling Green Kentucky to the Corvette plant on an emergency run to get some parts we needed in Spring Hill. She was near tears. I felt bad for her but I had confidence that I was one of the safe ones. My skills would protect me. The sacrifices I had made for the company would pay off now.

What sacrifices? I moved from Albany New York to work for the company in Kansas City. When someone died in Oklahoma City I picked up and moved there to pick up his job. When that plant closed I had relocated again, this time to Tennessee. Again, someone was leaving and they were desperate for someone with my experience. I had a resume they could show to the customer that would satisfy any requirements. Even within the locations I was the man when someone was needed in an emergency. Someone is needed in Kansas City, Ohio, even Mexico, I was on a plane the next day.

Still, we planned for the worst. Even if I could hang on at the plant, how long would it last? General Motors while still holding on to the largest market share in the US seemed to be circling the drain. Especially in Tennessee. The Volunteer State is a "right to work" state and the Michigan union folks were always resentful of that. If they had any say in it, Tennessee would be the first plant to be closed, forever.

November I got the news, my last day would be February 1 unless I could find a job in the company. I made a few phone calls and it was quickly obvious that there was no money for relocation. Having purchased a house twice in the last six years meant I wasn't exactly in the position to move myself. We had been saving as much money as possible, but it was much more difficult after a 5% pay cut in February, a 10% pay cut in April and a 20% pay cut in September. More pay cuts were scheduled. The only thing that kept them from cutting sooner was the law.

Through pure luck I picked up another job from a local manager who I knew only through my fantasy football league. The work was good, much more interesting and challenging than the customer maintenance type jobs I had been doing for the last six years. It was actual software programming. I was on a team of two and we worked for a remote team out of Michigan. We still went to the Spring Hill office so we could collaborate, but we didn't work for our local manager. This was big, because the local manager is a complete weasel.

The problem with this job was that the light at the end of the tunnel was a train. There is a team responsible for this software development, but they cannot handle all the work so some of it trickled down to the dregs. There seemed like plenty of work to go around, but at some point the main team would start to get paranoid that we were doing better work than they were, get off their asses and do their jobs. Then I'm out of luck again. My guess was that by August I would be out of a job, although my manager said we were set for the rest of the year.

One of the "lucky ones" who got to keep his job at the plant told me in confidence that he had found another job. I congratulated him but selfishly thought how much I would miss him. "Lucky ones" is in quotation marks there because his job responsibilities had increased three to four times, and his pay had been cut as severely as mine. He was my closest friend in Tennessee but I knew that relationship would begin to fade when we didn't see each other every weekday at work.

When he gave his notice it sent the local weasel into a panic. Finally to fill the local position they took away my teammate. On the bad side I didn't have anyone to bounce ideas off and I would have to do all the work myself. On the good side I no longer needed to go to the Spring Hill plant to work with him side-by-side. I talked to my new manager and he had no problems with me working from home. I didn't think he would, since he works from home about 30 miles away from me. With laptop in hand I gave working at home a try, and I really liked it. All the while, that light got closer as the train plowed forward.

But as the "lucky one" was serving his last two weeks, he approached me and asked me if I was interested in joining him at his new place. His new boss told him he wanted to expand his team and if he knew anyone else from Spring Hill that was qualified and interested, let him know. I was more than just interested.

What made me feel really good was that my coworker did not hesitate to recommend me. He told me he gave them his highest recommendation. Prior to this my confidence was very low. My reputation and my skills had been crapped on for the last six months. I was certainly depressed and I was beginning to feel that what I had been hearing from management was true. I felt worthless and my co-worker, a person who knew exactly how I worked because he sat next to me and worked side-by-side with me on projects for four years staked his reputation at his new company on me and my skills.

This display of encouragement from an unexpected place really inspired me. I charged into the extensive interview process at new company and was sincerely interested in the position. I like that type of work, I like the industry and I like the environment. I like the company attitude and so far I like my coworkers and my boss. While the drive is about 20 minutes farther each day, it's easier driving 20 minutes farther to a job I like than it was driving 40 minutes to a place I hated.

Ironically I would have done better financially if I had gotten laid off in February. I'd have received a lump sum severance for more money overall than I made working that time. It may have been nearly even if I had gotten paid for vacation I didn't take (as per company policy) but my last check reported that all my vacation time for the year had been used. I don't remember taking any vacation time, but I guess my memory is poor.

Speaking of vacation I received as part of my offer from the new company that I was considered a "mid-career hire" and that I receive benefits as though I had been working here for years, like three weeks of vacation immediately. A nice start.

I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. There's a lot to learn and a lot of work to do at the new place, but it feels like I am working toward something in the future, not trying to prevent the inevitable.

The difference is beyond belief.

7 comments:

SirFWALGMan said...

Gratz Duggles.

PokerVixen said...

Happy that you got a new job and new challenges. Sorry to hear that you ever doubted your abilities or your talents. Don't let the trolls get you down.

PS I'd dispute the Vacation pay issue. Get the money you deserve. Can't hurt to ask.

Riverrun said...

It's nice to hear a glimmer of good news these days!

Keep on griding!

HighOnPoker said...

Congratulations. From the sound of the post, it could've gone either way, so I'm glad there is a happy ending.

Fuel55 said...

+1 to that.

23skidoo said...

I'm glad to hear things are looking up. It's amazing that somehow hard work pays off!

donkeypuncher said...

Congrats, man.