Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Three stars in the sunset

Yesterday was my last day at my job at Samsung.  As per my usual policy here, I guess I haven’t mentioned that I actually worked at Samsung for the last year and a half, although a simple google search or look at LinkedIn would have told you that.  But I’ve been looking for new work since the start of the year or so, and got an offer at a new place two weeks ago.  So I gave notice, did two weeks of short-timer duty, and finished yesterday.

The big joke with some of my former coworkers is the length of the statute of limitations before I write a book about all of the crazy antics that ensued at the place.  I think everyone at every one of my jobs says this, and I have yet to write a sort of tell-all book about any one given workplace.  I guess Summer Rain hinted at that with my days at UCS.  But I never did the whole “working at a startup in Silicon Valley/Silicon Alley/Silicon Prairie” thing, and who knows if I will.  But it’s true that I do have conflicted feelings about cutting loose on my former workplace.  I mean, there’s some choice material there, but there’s also the issue that I would feel bad about striking out and getting catty about it.  And there’s also the fact that it might not be that interesting to people who weren’t there with me.

I thought I would have no second thoughts about leaving the place.  The truth is, when I got this job back in October of 08, I jumped in quick, and backed out of a potential offer situation with another tech company.  And after a week or two of the new job, I had serious reservations about continuing, because of the work and the culture and the hours and the commute.  And every day, about halfway through the hour-some drive down 101 to the office in San Jose, I’d pass the office of this other company, and kick myself that I could be working at a much more sane place and have half the commute every day.  And maybe the other place would have had its own brand of crazy, but it’s one of those grass is always greener things.

And then right after I started, the sky fell economy-wise, and pretty much everyone else in Silicon Valley got laid off, and there were absolutely no jobs available.  And my job was still paying, and still matching 401K, and still cutting bonus checks.  So I stuck with it, although I always hoped some magic startup would show up, looking for a doc wizard to head up their tech pubs department.

So a lot of things happened.  Nothing bad, I mean I wasn’t beaten and raped and left for dead in the desert.  But we weren’t changing the world or creating great things or helping society or anything like that.  And I was doing very little as far as technical writing.  And morale on my team went from bad to worse.  But the paychecks kept coming, and I paid off my land, and I paid off my car, and I bought a house, and I kept driving two or three hours a day and working on my TPS reports and hoping the dow would crack 10,000 again some day.

And it did.  And I got another job.  And I went through the ten thousand messages in my Outlook inbox, and hit the D key 10,000 times and realized that the last 18 months involved a lot of temporal bullshit and status reports on status reports reporting the status of reports that discussed what status reports we’d do next status report.  I spent most of the last two weeks deleting files and shredding paper like I was working for the Stasi in late 1989.  It’s not that I was working in a missile silo with tons of top secret blueprints; it’s just that even a doodle of a stick figure getting fucked by another stick figure drawn out of boredom in a meeting is still technically Eyes Only material at our R&D lab, and had to get cross-cut into dust.

My boss was on vacation for the first of my two weeks, and then had to miss 4 of the 5 days of the second week due to crazy scheduling and some family medical stuff.  And my boss’s boss, who used to be my boss and heads up the lab had a last-second appearance in Korea and was also gone when I had to leave.  There were a couple of lunches and goodbyes.  And I took some time to get some dental appointments squared away and get a stupid re-inspection by PG&E done on the condo (long story) and took my damn time getting to work and left at five and did a whole lot of nothing, since there wasn’t much for me to do.  At one time, I thought there was no way I could leave, I was so intertwined with so many projects, but when it came down to transitioning out, there was a lot of “well, they’ll figure it out, or they won’t.”

On my last day, the drive in was sunny and I actually made damn good time, listening to the Husker Du song “New Day Rising” a thousand times on repeat.  And then the sky turned grey and it started pouring rain.  And I walked through the halls of our R&D lab and realized I would miss the place in some strange way.  I mean, it was my first job in Silicon Valley, and I only worked there 18 months, but those were dog year months, lots of long hours, lots of late nights.  A year ago today, we had to work a 24-hour overnight shift to launch our first web site.  (And yeah, we didn’t need to be there, the same way the Egyptians could have built those pyramids a lot faster with a couple of bulldozers instead of ten million slaves.)  Our building was like this weird time capsule to late 70s/early 80s valley-chic, with this “high tech” look that resembled something you’d see on the old Apple campus circa the Apple II era, except it had never been updated.  And the rain and the gloom brought out the chipped paint and the moldy ceiling tiles and the stained carpets and the faded wood trim and made me realize I’d never work in a place that looked like this again.  I did my victory lap and said my goodbyes, handed in my laptop and gear, then went to HR to hand over my badge and get the last of my paperwork.  They asked me to sign some paper saying I wouldn’t tell anyone anything, but according to California law, you can’t be forced to sign one of those, and I didn’t.  (I won’t be spilling the beans about all of the intricacies of Windows Mobile 7, which was our biggest secret, but I don’t think anyone gives a shit.)

This place was a must-wear-badge-at-all-times place (they love their door locks), and it was strangely sad to hand over that piece of plastic that was forever tethered to my hip, with that digital snapshot of my face circa October 2008.  I guess part of it is that the picture, and in a greater sense the job, signified the end of the summer of 2008, and I’m now so nostalgic about that era: about living in Playa Del Rey; walking to Subway every day for lunch; the weight loss journey, the walks to the waterfront; the time spent bumming around Santa Monica; the days hacking away a living at home, looking at the palm trees and listening to the Rockies in their 08 freefall.  I miss Denver, and I miss LA, and when I took this job, it was one of those huge “I must set aside everything and turn and burn and get my shit straight and go whole-hog on this”.  And I did.  And now it’s done, and even if I hated many aspects of it, I’ll miss it.

But yeah, new job.  New people.  I will, as always, avoid mentioning this one here, to protect the innocent and keep that life-work barrier going strong.  But it looks good, and I’ll be getting back to my roots as a tech writer and doing some new cool stuff.  It’s still a drive, and it’s not sitting at home and listening to baseball games all day and chipping away at short stories, but it should be cool.

I got escorted out after the final exchange, and got to my car and the pouring rain not long after 2:00, to face a horrible sea of taillights on the 880.  I stopped at the bank, I stopped at a gas station, and I dropped in a Nordstrom’s to get Sarah’s birthday present.  And by the time I got back to Oakland, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and it was all over.  So now it’s a sunny Saturday, and here’s to whatever the next big era will bring.


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