Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Cray Re-org (aka, Jeremy freaks out with change)

Friday morning, February 8, my manager called a last-minute meeting with me and some other coworkers. Ruh-roh.

Short version: Cray re-organized the people under my boss's boss['s boss?]: teams shifted, people moved to different managers, managers moved to different directors... and I was moved away from the sysadmin group. where I spent the majority of my work time, to 100% in the batch / workload manager group, where I previously spent only a quarter (maybe a third?) of my time. Mysteriously, my manager has always been under the impression that I spend most of my time in batch / WLM, but, that never actually has been reality.

Now the obvious good news is: no lay-offs. As one of my friends put it, oftentimes "re-org" is a diplomatic way of throwing people off the Titanic before it hits the iceberg.

Yet I was distraught. Even though I still had/have my job, it's completely changed. The skills I spent 10 months learning, largely are no longer applicable. After 10 months, I felt like I was finally getting the hang of things, and even working on bugs and contributing [small amounts of] source code. My world was turned topsy-turvy, and so my gut reactions were panic and frustration.

In my new group, I do no system administration at all. This is unfortunate, because I enjoyed that work (and, again, because I finally felt like I had a handle on things). Instead I'm supposed to be work more on batch related software integration and testing, which... is fine... but... change scares me. Honestly it's the fear of failure that terrifies me. There were mumblings that I'd be writing code in the new group, where everything's written in C, a language I haven't touched since 2006 or 7. It's not that I can't re-learn it, that's not the issue. It's that I've spent almost a year learning something else - why not leverage that?

After panicking, I set about considering how to fight change. I asked my [former] team lead, "got any openings for a contractor in your new group?" She laughed and identified with me - in addition to losing me, she lost two other [much smarter than I am] people from the group, and the whole change was a surprise to her as well.

On the other hand. My friend Ben (college roommate, who's worked at Cray for years) pointed out: it's not often a company will pay for your time to learn a new skill - if they want me coding in C, and are willing to bring me up to speed, well, that's not a bad thing. Also, unless I know for sure that development isn't what I want to do, there's not much reason to fight it.

Okay, with a month's perspective on this: at the get-go I heard I'd be working on some important up and coming project related to one of out batch vendors. Well, it's been a month, and I've yet to hear anything about that. So while I'm not exactly twiddling my thumbs, I definitely have spare cycles. Which is frustrating, when I know my old group is still understaffed. I've approached my manager and asked him for more work; I think he's asking around to see what can get added to my plate, but this is really, really frustrating: why was he so adamant I not continue in the old group for a transition period (again, when they're so understaffed), when he doesn't even have anything for me to be doing? Doesn't seem like the best use of resources. Also not the first time we've been down this road, but at least in the past, I had my team lead who could give me direction and projects. Now she's in that other group :(

One month later, and I'm still angsty. However, my manager did say he was trying to get me hired full time, so right now I'm just biding my time and waiting to see what'll happen. (you need to understand how huge this is - coworker after coworker has said how they hope the company will hire me as a real employee, but last week was the first time I heard my manager actually express his intent for that!)

Perspective: these are first-world problems, and I acknowledge that. However, they are still real problems, and I'm tired of telling myself that my problems aren't big enough or third-world enough to be legitimate.

1 comment:

Jeremy Gustafson said...


A few hours after I posted this, purely coincidentally, one of Test group guys came up to me, asked politely if he could stick his nose in my business, and then asked if I'd known about some [real-employee] openings in his group (because he knows I'm a contractor). I was kind of caught off guard, because up until now I'd thought this particular coworker didn't care for me all that much. He offered to ask his manager about the openings (and presumably also ask if she thought I'd be a good fit), and then lastly he said something about how others in the group view me as competent and they want to retain people like that. In a good way, I was floored, humbled, and flattered, all at once.

Time will tell what happens - part of it also is I'm not sure where I want to end up within Cray, because there are a lot of areas, and probably a lot of them I'd enjoy. But between Bob's offer, my and Wendy's discussions with her new manager (my old group), and a not-too-serious conversation I had with friends in the support group about working over there, I'm feeling optimistic about my future here.