After 10 years I’ve decided to move on… Sitting in the Starbucks at by the Circular Quay in Sydney, I remember back to how much has changed since my first day at Compaq in early 2000, I remember the first day on the job vividly. My manager had quit the first week, the infighting was unbelievable, people were bitter and negative, and the desks were either empty or had junk piled on them – I couldn’t rely on or trust anyone. After my first week I came home to my wife and said “I made a mistake joining Compaq”.
Then came the HP/Compaq merger and resulting constant downsizing, 24 rounds of it to be exact that occurred over a 4 year period (it was painful) each quarter was like a tour of duty, you never knew who would return (Get axed). I watched the consulting group in Canada go from 300 strong to a dozen on a good day (I watched the same happen in the US) – the company waffled terribly and was so lean it couldn’t execute. So lean in fact that in 2007 I was assigned two full time projects, one in LA and the other Miami because there were no SharePoint consultants (were all let go or quit) – what was my manager thinking?
The constant downsizing and job loss fear had major impacts on culture. I remember having drinks with an HP Services Executive and while chatting with her she broke down, cried and said she hated her job, her boss and the company. An executive in the Software group based out of Toronto that purposely sabotaged a project because he didn’t like the services group and its US based manager. Also remember getting calls from colleagues telling me that managers were attacking them, yelling at them and making threatening comments. At that point I realized this once great company was in trouble, its employees miserable, the culture self-destructing and its customers pissed!
For me HP was a life lesson (reinforcement of what I believed in), staying focused on my clients and team and by doing so, success will follow. Also to not act like the managers I worked with, they were not leaders, not involved, didn’t add value, didn’t facilitate or lead at all. Also to the people that always had an opinion or after the fact advice or comments that didn’t help. Being a non accountable useless bystander was common – the danger of large organizations.
Today, I look back with no regrets since I was able to travel the world, meet and work with many great people. The most memorable moments are my trips to Sydney, Los Angeles, Munich, Miami and London. Being in Australia for a month before Christmas in 2005 (and again in 2010) and staying at the Marriott down by the Quay was an amazing experience – if I was a few years younger, I would have accepted the job offer to work there. In Los Angeles in 2006 (and Burbank) we hung out at the Whiskey among other places on Sunset Blvd and in Burbank at PF Changs and Gordon Biersch. In Germany, both Munich (2008) and Stuttgart (2009) were fantastic trips, the scenery food and beer were great. In Miami (2005/06) hanging out with the Microsoft team on Lincoln Road and down by the beach (Mangos specifically). Working with some major companies and publishing several articles. Being a member of the Microsoft alliance team was a great experience since it gave me the international and corporate experience that was a key stepping stone in my career.
Key lessons learned:
- Working hard, being committed and knowing your space doesn’t mean you’ll get ahead.
- Hardware and services models conflict with each other – sales cycle, acumen and staffing to name a few.
- Don’t expect a solid strategy or plan for management, most got their positions because they knew somebody.
- Software and consulting models conflict with each other – there are services beyond product installation.
- Managers that made their name selling servers are not effective managers in the services industry – different skill set and experience.
- Just because someone is in a manager or in a leadership position it doesn’t mean they know what they are doing.
- Threatening and yelling at your staff won’t improve sales or consulting quality.
- Not investing in your people, products and services will lead to ruin – competition will catch up and surpass you.
- Not having a strategy that aligns your offerings will result in a commodity sales model.
- Telling your clients your committed while you axe your consulting teams is a lie and they see right through you.
- Organizations can grow to a point where they can no longer execute effectively.
- Constant downsizing depletes your IP and ability to execute.
- I must be in control of my career and not rely on a manager or company I presently work for.
With HP exiting consulting back in 2008, the Microsoft business back in 2007, no longer investing in its employees, pay and holiday cuts, excessive infighting, toxic politics and having passed up several opportunities in the past to move etc. I decided this opportunity was the right one for me. For those HP staff who I accidentally omitted from my “Moving on…” email, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and if you’re ever in town look me up, there is a cold pint waiting for you and extra seat at the bar for us to chat and catch up on things. I wish my HP colleagues the best of luck in their future endeavors.