I lost my job today when Oculan went out of business. It happened two days after many of my coworkers lost their jobs. Now *all* of my coworkers have lost their jobs. Such a shame, too. It was a fun company while it lasted.
The news arrived while I was working a trade show for a Long Island partner. I was breaking down the booth at 4 PM when the call arrived: an “all hands” call would take place immediately. I dialed in and listened to the news, fully expecting to hear that funding had been found.
Instead, the news I got meandered from the efforts of securing funding to the abrupt and sudden annoucement that the doors would close effective immediately. This was the last day. That’s it. Closed.
I listened to the call as people all around me worked to pack things up. Here I was hundreds of miles away, working my hardest to hold things together and the end came in spite of me. I wanted to be there in the office to shake the hands of those people whom I’d grown to love and trust, but a distant phone call was all I had. In a way, though, I’m also glad I was on the road when the end came. No one can accuse me of not putting forth the effort to succeed, even in the company’s dying days.
My partners were shell-shocked at the news. In the few hours I’d gotten to know them, they had adopted me and felt genuinely hurt at my misfortune. I spent the day talking and kidding with Deanne and Matt and they had accepted me, too. Deanne became emotional (hey, she’s Sicilian! What do you expect?) and all but vowed revenge on those who torpedoed my job. Matt was supportive and reassured me that I would get a new job soon.
Deanne was captivated at how easily I put a prospect under the Oculan spell. She
said I had the guy “salivating” over the product. She seemed genuinely angry that such a great product could be finished. Compared to most demos I do, that was nothing. She could see the benefit of the product, no doubt about it. And she’s not even technically inclined!
They offered to get me drunk tonight, to which I agreed. We drove back to their home where I was offered a generous glass of Wild Turkey. We sat in their living room, where I vented about the company while praising the magical product I sold. We all agreed what a shame it was that so much work had to go to waste.
Matt had earlier promised me dinner, so we headed out to a great Italian restaurant in the neighborhood. Over red snapper and chicken linguine, we traded kid stories. I heard all about their grandkids and told them about my daughter Hallie. There were plenty of laughs and deep insights.
I thanked them over and over for the incredible hospitality they showed me at such an uncertain, lonely time. I can’t imagine how today would have been without their warmth and generosity. I will never, ever forget it.
They dropped me off at my hotel and We said our goodbyes, after exchanging contact information. We will see each other again, that’s for sure. Perhaps as business partners, who knows?
The job loss comes at a difficult time, with a baby on the way and a contract for a new home hanging in the balance. In spite of all that pressure on my shoulders, strangely I feel very serene. I don’t know why, really. It’s not just that I’ve been in this place before, but perhaps that I’ve been getting ready to leave Oculan for a while now.
Don’t get me wrong: I have been very happy with my job, doing things I’ve never done before. I’ve got skills now that make me much, much, much more valuable than I was a year ago. Skills I would have never acquired otherwise. That said, I have always been underpaid for the work I’ve done, as have all the sales engineers (and, most likely, the rest of the company). I passed up better-paying jobs to join Oculan, and the impending arrival of my second child made that all the more apparent.
I am confident now because this job showed me that there’s no pressure that I can’t handle. If this once deathly-shy kid can fly to a different city and present a talk he didn’t write, then parachute into another city to work with closely with people he hasn’t met, all on moment’s notice with zero preparation, I’d say he’s ready for anything. Job interviews are a friggin’ cakewalk by comparison. Bring ’em on! You will hire me or wish that you had. Period!
I already have strong leads for my next job. I’m lucky in that my job brings me in contact with many potential employers. Plenty have been impressed with my skills and attitude. I’ve saved every business card given me and I intend to mine them thoroughly.
Or, I might decide to return to full time consulting with my own company, Siteseers. I’m so glad I didn’t close up shop when the going at Oculan looked good. There is no guarantee that Siteseers will succeed, but at least I’ll know who to blame if it doesn’t: me. I figure: what have I got to lose?
Some might look at this as a terrible occurance, considering all that’s going on in my life. I see it as an inconvenience. Much better things are in store for me. More importantly, now I am ready for them.