On Wednesday, 17 April, I walked into my office at The MITRE Corporation in Orlando for the last time as a MITRE employee. That day, my division director, who I'd not seen before that day, dressed in a suit and tie, was sitting in the local office's main conference room waiting for me to arrive. Within five minutes I found out I'd been laid off due to sequestration. Or at least that was the official story. I was given a severance for my four years and 11 months as a MITRE employee, COBRA information, and a glossy brochure for Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH), a company that advertises themselves as "change management" and "career transition" experts to help me find another job. I turned in my various badges, signed several pieces of paper, and was back out of the office in about 45 minutes. I didn't bother to clean out my office (I'd do that a week later) as I was still in physical pain and in something of a mental state of shock. I went home and started to think about my options.
Over the next three weeks I put together a strong resume with the help of a personal friend who knew me and was herself an expert in these kinds of matters, and then began to work my network through personal links as well as through my entry on LinkedIn. I tried to use the resources of LHH but quickly found they weren't as in tune to what I needed or the kind of technical person I was. I knew I was basically on my own when, within a week, I received an email from an LHH employee about "career alternatives through franchise ownership." That just wasn't me. I realized then, more than ever, that I was on my own and I had to drive my own destiny. With my friend's help I put together a plan and a professional resume and began to work that plan.
During the last three weeks I also spent some time nearly every day at RDV Sportsplex in Maitland, FL, exercising and swimming. I manged to drop ten more pounds (I've lost 30 since my knee operation last November), and it helped me keep my mind and emotions on an even keel. That's not to say I wasn't on an emotional roller coaster form time to time, but if I hadn't taken time out for physical workouts, I would have been a complete basket case. Exercise gave me a mental break and allowed my to put my focus on something else besides being out of a job. When I got back "to work" looking for my next job I found I was mentally refreshed, in better emotional balance, and able to be fully focused. I also found out that I felt more confident in how I looked when I went out on interviews, which translated over that three week period into four solid leads towards possible jobs.
That past Wednesday, three weeks to the day after my layoff, the best of the four leads turned into a job offer, and I accepted. I'll be back to work Monday 20 May, doing more satisfying technical work that I was at MITRE and stretching out in an entrepreneurial direction as well. Frankly I'm going to be a lot more happy there than I was at MITRE.
The last three weeks was the culmination of a long drop into personal pain and depression and back out again that started November 2011 and ended November 2012 with my partial left knee replacement. While the MITRE insurance helped pay the majority of the medical bills through that period, MITRE the company showed how little it actually adhered to its corporate ethos concerning a caring work environment. While I had excellent reviews for the first four years of my employment, my performance suffered due to the pain, and that was used against me and helped lead to my layoff. It didn't matter that after the operation I was back to normal. I should note that the day before I was laid off I was in an emergency room again with severe sciatic pain in the same left leg, to the point I needed a week's worth of medications to bring the nerve swelling down and eliminate the pain. Those medications and the heightened exercise during the layoff period will help me in the long run, as the pain is now nearly gone.
At this point I'm truly happy to be away from MITRE and moving towards a new chapter in my life. I can now look back and realize that getting laid off was probably the best thing that could have happened. For whatever reason I was ready when I was laid off and I hit the ground running looking for my next job. I've broken several bad eating habits (which contributed to the remarkable further weight loss) and I intend to keep up with the good personal eating and exercise habits. My wife has remarked many times how I'm now a much happier person, even during the layoff. I strongly believe this happiness will continue for some time to come. Perhaps one day I'll write about why I was unhappy and what I was seeing internal to MITRE, but right now it's enough to be thankful to be out of there, and on the other side of this divide.
I'd also like to point out just how strong my network of friend are. My new job came about through a very strong recommendation from another engineer I'd worked with in the past, who is himself held in high regard. With his strong recommendation I was able to walk into an interview with my soon-to-be new bosses and sell myself as the right candidate to fill their open position. This would have never happened as fast as it did without my network and many good friends in the community where I work. I owe a lot of people a very great debt of gratitude.
But now it's time for me to move on, to focus on the future and the positive potentials. I don't know how it will effect my blogging or my photography but it will, and in positive ways I'm sure. I look forward to being more creative in all aspects of my life.