Thursday, September 24, 2015

Even worse than lay-off day

SQL can be a tricky thing. It can be even more tricky to ensure you are in the right schema. A query that works in one schema might not work in another. I'm trying to glue up a couple things that don't normally talk to each other, and it's a bit tricky. You don't want the details.

In the background, they are cleaning offices down the hall. It's noisy. There are comments about the stuff they are finding and the people who left it behind. I don't think they realized I know many of those people. Lots of paperwork is being dumped into the shredder bin. When in doubt, shred, is the philosophy.

There was all sorts of work in progress on lay-off day, and it just stopped. The people evaluating the stuff left in the offices are cleaners, not technical people. A map or a document is just a piece of paper to them. You would think that out of all those people, at least some of them had to be adding value and doing productive work. After all, most of them were either new hires, or had survived several purges already.

Entire departments were sent packing so there isn't even a chance of someone saying "Bill was working on something important, we need this or that document, the current version is on his H drive." If nobody asks for access to that H drive, in 90 days it will be gone forever.

I'm dying of curiosity to know where one colleague put a particular document and what she called it. I've searched the shared team drive, and her H drive. Nothing. I don't want to think about the mindset that would think the C drive is a good place to store anything, yet I think that's where it is. When the impossible has been eliminated, and all. Unless she got really creative with the file name. Hmmmm. And no, I'm not going to call her and ask. The company lost access to her brain, and the people trying to revise the processes she was documenting are going to have to create new processes without knowing what they are changing.

This is how institutional memory dies. All those people take their knowledge with them. Paperwork gets shredded. Electronic documents and network structures get deleted. Granted, this isn't the fire in the Library of Alexandria, but still. It's sad to see, the more so because much of my work experience has been to maintain and improve data integrity, and the related process.

While I'm doing this, trying to focus, I'm dreading the thought that either of two people could come to my office and ask about the details of two different pies I have my fingers in. Those two things, and my current task are all very granular, with lots of complicated detail to hold in memory. Switching one task to the other probably costs me an hour or two to find the right queries and get back into it again. Neither of those people are my boss, and I've seen lots of him lately, asking about stuff. Lots of detail there too, of a different sort. I'm finding it harder to switch between tasks. I'm not sure if that's the complexity of the task, or my brain going soft.

This situation is what happens when you don't get to finish a task before being pushed into the next. In an ideal world all the locations would have been created first, then I'd have migrated assets and related specifications, relationships, then work history. Nope. It's a mixed bag, with some future planning documents attached to some of the assets. It would have turned out ok, were the team allowed to continue, but no.

It's a tough time in the oil and gas industry, and it's not getting better any time soon. Lots of people I know are not working. Many that are working fear being let go, and you can't blame them. Trans Canada just warned staff about a reorg and upcoming lay-offs. Sigh.

Next Wednesday I move up one floor and down the hall a bit. I lose the nice window office, but that's ok. It will be nice to be around occupied offices again. I like quiet so I can think, but not having anyone at all around is a bit creepy. Office buildings should not be empty or almost so.

I've been part of a mass lay-off. I've been the only person laid off from a small company. I've survived many lay-offs and carried on with a reduced team or changed responsibilities. This is the first time I'm essentially the sole survivor, and almost everybody else I know and worked with has gone. This is harder than I thought it would be. Yes, I'm getting paid, but there's more to life than money.


  1. Good post Keith. I never thought of all that information that just gets tossed when people are let go.

  2. Good post! I never thought about the lose of information when all of that happens. My company is laying off 540 people in the next few weeks and the stress of it is terrible and I don't know which is worse - getting laid off or watching the people you like and respect that you work with getting laid off

    1. Thanks for commenting Leslie! The very worst is waiting for whatever is next. For the axe to fall. To find out you're staying, but you don't know who your boss is, or what you'll be doing. Once you know you can take action, but limbo is hell. (A classical reference for those that missed it.) I'm in a form of it now. I don't deal well with aimless work.


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