Mixsonian Larry


Laid Off

By October of ’93 work at ICL had taken a downturn. The rift between Julie and Cynthia deepened but it wasn’t only Julie that had issues with Cynthia, there were quite a few others complaining about how they were treated by Cynthia.  It actually got so bad that the VP sent Cynthia off to a two-week course on how to better communicate with people.  When she came back from the course, she did seem to try harder to “be nice” but it seemed superficial to me.  I got a “promotion” to a project manager and a new guy, Tim, was given my job as teamICL card lead for the PowerWindows team.  I had mixed feelings about it, as project manager I would manage the schedules of not only Power Windows, but several other development projects. This proved to be difficult as the team leads of the projects didn’t report to me and I had difficulty getting them to provide, much less keep, a schedule. I would report to Cynthia the schedule and plan for the PowerWindows team only to have her tell me that Tim had told her something different.   I wasn’t sure I liked project management.  

WordPerfect and Microsoft Word running on PC’s had become the word processing programs of choice throughout industry. ICL’s host based OfficePower was becoming outdated and PowerWindows as a bridge between OfficePower and WordPerfect wasn’t working all that well.  ICL upper management realized this.

Julie and arrived at the office a bit after eight in the morning as usual and settled into work when I received an email sent to all employees that said there would be a “all hands” meeting at 10:00am in the auditorium that was in the building. Julie got the same email and immediately called me and asked if I knew what it was about and I said no, probably an announcement about some new product.  At a quarter to ten everyone, about sixty employees, headed downstairs to the conference room, everyone asking others if we knew what the meeting was about.  No one knew.  As we filled into the conference room and found seats, up on the stage was Steve, our Vice President, and several other men in suits which no one recognized. 

A few minutes after ten when it looked like everyone had arrived and was seated, Steve went to the podium, the crowd quickly quieted and Steve said, “I have some unfortunate news. Due to business conditions and sales forecast, ICL has determined that OfficePower was no longer a supportable product.”  This did not sound good. After giving more details about how poorly OfficePower was doing, came the announcement, “As such, ICL had decided to shut down the Office Systems group and discontinue sales of OfficePower. What this means all but a few, are being laid off.” 

WOW! I didn’t see that coming. A murmur rippled through the auditorium as all the employees expressed their shock to whomever was sitting near them. Julie sitting next to me griped my arm and about squeezed in in half.  Steve went on for a few more minutes, giving more details, explaining that there would be severance packages based on how long we had been with the company.  The company would also provide free job-hunting services and introduces one of the men on the stage who then takes the podium and tells about the services, resume writing, interview training, etc. I, and probably most everyone, was in too much in shock to hear much of what he said.  Steve then took the stage and asked if there were any questions which there were a few and then ended saying each of our managers would provide us with a severance package which would include a termination letter and our specific severance details.

With the meeting over, everyone left the auditorium quiet and downtrodden, no one saw that coming.  We returned to our offices where there was a scurry of activity as everyone talked others about what happened and what were they going to do.  Cynthia called each of us into her office individually and gave us our termination package which we had until the next day to sign and return in order to get the package. I got three weeks and Julie got two weeks of severance pay.  There were about three or four that weren’t laid off, they were the computer operators who the company needed to run the computers for a while longer.  I imagine they all got laid off later.  By noon everyone had left the building for the day.

When Julie and I got home we talked late into the night about what we were going to do.  We both just got laid off and had only a few weeks of salary left. We had some savings, there was the money we got from selling the house in Florida, which could get us by for a couple of months if we were careful, but I really needed to find a job.  Julie, well she said she found she really didn’t want to work in the computer industry but wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.  She did have a business degree which gave her some options.  Me, well I wasn’t too worried about finding a job, the Sunday employment section of the Washington Post was at least a half inch thick, I felt confident I could find another job.  

We went into the office the next day, collected our personal belongings, and said our goodbyes. A group of us went out for lunch and then we returned home. Except for a few, most didn’t have to go to work those final severance weeks.  I spent the time sending out my resume to company ads that I was interested in.

I found another job before my three-week severance hadCBIS card run out.  I responded to a dozen or so employment ads, all companies in the DC area. After three or four interviews and a couple of offers, I chose CBIS Federal who had a contract to develop a computer automated court management system that was all PC based. CBIS stood for Cincinnati Bell Information Systems, whose Federal division in Fairfax Virginia worked mainly on government contracts. The position was as a Program Manager, a step up from a project manager, I would not only have technical staff working for me, I would have project managers too.  Interestingly enough, the project I was to work on was for the courts in Cincinnati, where the company’s headquarters was.     

With me finding a job so quickly, and getting a raise too, Julie decided not to go back to work but would rather go back to school and get a master’s degree in social work to then become a therapist.  Although the loss of her salary would be missed, we looked at expenses and decided we could manage on my salary alone even with both her and Anne in college.

Updated: 02-25-2024

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