I have never been a big fan of work. I have never understood people who can’t wait to get to work every morning. I don’t live to work. I work in order to have a life outside of work. Sure there have been periods in my career where I really enjoyed the work I had to do. But I never loved it enough to make it the focus of my life. No matter how enjoyable the job was, I found leaving for home at the end of the day even more enjoyable. Despite my dislike for most of my jobs I have always endeavored to do them the best I could. I show up, I do whatever it takes to get the job done. I work as long or in whatever capacity it takes to get the job done. I have tried to be pleasant, and friendly to work with. I have always tried to not make too many waves or to keep the waves I do make from capsizing the boat. I can only think of a couple instances as a kid where my bosses were not pleased with my work. Some of my bosses have not liked my attitude, but they never had cause to complain about my results. Even though my personal satisfaction with my career has never been that strong, I have always tried to perform to the best of my abilities. After all, that is what I was being paid to do.
My current situation at work has reached a new low for me. I was let go from my programmer job about 6 weeks ago. This doesn't mean that I am unemployed. I still get a paycheck I just don't have any work to do right now. Because of the way our work structure is organized these days this happens quite often. Most engineers, like myself, work for a specific technical program. But organizationally I belong to a different management structure. So when a program manager decides that he doesn't need my skills anymore he simply sends me back to my management branch to deal with. When this happens my management chain immediately jumps into action and starts nagging me about what I’m doing to find a new project to work for. My managers don't do anything to help me find a new program to work for. They don’t see that as their job. Their job is to harass and intimidate me until I find a new program to work for. They do this because until I do find a program to work for I am paid out of their overhead budget. Managers don't like this very much. They don't appreciate us working stiffs encroaching on their territory and spending their overhead money.
In the past when this has happened I have usually be able to land another program to work for in just a couple days. This time however I am having trouble finding work. The most frustrating part of this is according to the friends I have who are trying to help me find work there seems to be a lot of work out there that needs to be done. However I have not been able to get most of the managers who are in charge of that work to talk to me. I have noticed that the procedure for dealing with people looking for work these days is to ignore them. I send out e-mails and make phone calls and I get no response. It is reaching the point where I would love a manager to call me back or send me an e-mail telling me to "Drop Dead!" That would be a great improvement over no response at all. The most frustrating of the people ignoring me is my own branch and division heads. My branch head was warned two weeks before my last job ended that I would be looking for a new job. He ignored it until I actually called him to find out what overhead charge number I should start using. His response was to "encourage" me to find a job quickly and to send him a resume that he could circulate. So I sent him a second copy of my resume in case the first one I had sent him two weeks earlier wasn't sufficient. This situation prepared me so when he asked me for a resume again, three days later I wasn’t too surprised and I just sent him a third copy.
I guess his apathy to my situation shouldn't surprise me, I have sent two copies of my resume to my division head asking him for some leads on work. He hasn't managed to find the time in his busy schedule to respond to me either.
Then two weeks ago when I had been on "down time" for 4 weeks my Branch Head started getting desperate. In order to get me off his overhead he started lining up little jobs for me. So now instead of spending my time sending out e-mails and leaving phone messages that get ignored while looking for some long term work I spend my time doing little jobs that won't last and only accomplish two things. They keep me from charging my time to overhead and they keep me from spending time looking for other work.
So in order to stay away from overhead money I’m now in a situation that has me really pissed off. A little over a year ago the missile program I had spent most of my career working for let me go because they suffered some budget cuts. I understand that sometimes programs have to do this but in this case the program manager and his assistant, both men who I had considered friends of mine, passed on the duty of firing me to my branch head. I would have accepted my removal from that program without any hard feelings if either of them would have been man enough to just call me up and tell me in person. But sending my Branch Head to tell me to stop work on their program immediately with no advance warning and no opportunity to finish the projects I was working on left me feeling very betrayed.
Quickly, I found a programmers position with another project. This project turned out to be very frustrating to work for. They had a massive software project that interfaced several programs written in C, C++ and FORTRAN and operating across several networked computers. I was assigned several tasks and put to work with absolutely no training what so ever. Then after 15 months of working totally in the dark I was let go from this program because they needed to hire someone who knew ADA, which I don’t. In order to make room in the organization and the budget they had to get rid of an existing employee. I was the logical choice. I was the new guy and I knew less about the program than anyone else.
So I'm suddenly on downtime again. My branch head lined up some temporary work for me back on the missile program I was fired from over a year ago. They have some urgent tests that need to be run and they need another engineer to help with it. So I'm back working for them for a while. The ironic part is that since this isn't a long term commitment of employment, management considers me to still be on downtime. So while I'm being harassed daily by my managers about finding work, I'm putting in 12 to 13 hour long days helping to get a program that fired me after I worked for them for 19 years back on schedule so that once the tests are done they can fire me again.
Personally I think this entire situation sucks. But until I find a long term commitment for work, I’m stuck. My kids have gotten used to having a roof over their heads and food to eat. So I have to keep working.
To make matters worse the few job opportunities that I am hearing about are looking for Mechanical Engineers. I quit being a mechanical engineer about 15 years ago when the base management started telling all us mechanical engineers that they didn’t need us anymore. We were just not a part of their long term strategic plans. So I got myself some training, earned myself a master’s degree in Computer Science. While earning my degree I took jobs as computer support and network design and installations. Once I got my degree I went to work as a simulations analyst for the missile program that I had previously been a mechanical engineer, program manager and computer support.
Now most of the computer science related jobs are being contracted out. The only jobs for government employees that I’m hearing about are for mechanical engineers. Trouble is no one really wants a mechanical engineer whose skills and knowledge are 15 years out of date.
Now I know a lot of people who think I should stop complaining and just be glad that I have a job. But I don't think I am asking for much when I say I would like a job doing something useful. I would like something interesting to do but I can live with useful. An added plus would be a little consistancy and some long term prospects for employment. I have less than nine years to retirement and having something useful to do would make them go by much quicker.