Friday, October 30, 2009

Ten Things to Do When You Leave Corporate America

What’s the best part about not having to get dressed up and go to work every day? Time.

When you leave Corporate America, what are you going to do with all that time? Or – if you’ve already left, what are you doing with all that time?

Here’s my top ten list for things to do when you leave Corporate America (in no particular order):

1. Go to the gym. I understand (really, I do) – when you’re working you just don’t have the time. My first inclination was to make up for lost time by cramming years of workouts into one month while making believe that I can still do what I did in my twenties. But that resulted in one trip to the emergency room and four stitches. Now I’m approaching my workouts more like a thirty-something (a-hem).

2. Cook. It’s always been my job to make dinner. But let’s face it – making dinner is not quite the same thing as cooking. I’ve known this for a long time even though I did my best to convince my family I was actually cooking. My new approach is causing some disruption though when my husband comes home expecting that I’ll pull something together in twenty minutes or less.

3. Read. Admit it – you all have that pile of books that you’ve been collecting from Amazon to read some day. They have been collecting dust and consuming precious shelf space. When you leave Corporate America you just might have time to read those books while simultaneously encouraging the pile to grow larger.

4. Master the laundry process. I used to spend all weekend mass processing the laundry. It was the only time I had to do it, and with kids playing messy sports there was quite a bit to do. I have discovered that it is far more efficient to spread the loads across the week. And the weekends remain free for other things like:

5. Pay attention to what your kids are doing. Your kids won’t like this. It will disrupt the normal order of things. They aren’t likely to give you full facebook friend status, but there are covert methods that work quite well (which can’t be divulged here for fear that I will lose my sources).

6. Annoy your spouse. When you have time to clean and organize you start to realize that you have collected enormous amounts of junk over the years. So when that yellow t-shirt disappears – and your spouse is annoyed – well, just think of it as getting even.

7. Learn what a savasana is. Don’t think about, just do it.

8. Write a book. Everyone has a book in them, right? You know all that stuff that’s been cluttering up your brain? Now you can write about it. If you’re lucky someone might even read it.

9. Get some Vitamin D – from the sun. Some of you may not know this because you never see the sun, but the sun does actually shine – at least a little – on most days. And ten minutes (without sunscreen) is equal to 10000 international units of vitamin D.

10. Watch Mad Men. I can’t be the only person on the planet who had no idea this AMC TV show existed until a few weeks ago. If you’ve worked in Corporate America this might become your new favorite show. You get bonus points if you were born in the fifties or sixties.

And if none of those work for you well then, you could start a blog. (See how much fun this is?)

What’s on your list?

And if you are obsessed with watching what is going on in the Galleon insider trading scandal, check out this week’s double feature.

The Latest Scoop on the Galleon Insider Trading Scandal

Judging from the response to last week’s post, it seems that most of you – the readers of this blog – are as interested in the Galleon insider trading scandal as I am. I will continue to watch and report the latest developments on this blog, so you don’t have to. And this week – lucky you – you get a double feature!

Here are the highlights of the insider trading scandal to date:

Friday October 16th – Raj Rajaratnam (Galleon Group), Anil Kumar (McKinsey), Rajiv Goel (Intel), Danielle Chiesi (New Castle Partners), Robert Moffat (IBM), and Mark Kurland (New Castle Partners) were arrested in what is being called the largest insider trading scheme involving a hedge fund. The FBI press release, the New York Times, CNN and other news sources detailed the alleged charges which include securities fraud and conspiracy involving illegal trades of Akamei, Hilton Hotels, Google, Sun, AMD, and others.

Sunday October 18th – Rajaratnam was released on $100 million bail according to US News Today.

Monday October 19th – USA Today reported that more arrests might be coming. Moffat was released on $2 million bail according to the Poughkeepsie Journal. IBM announced that Bob Moffat has been placed on leave, and that Rod Adkins will be acting as senior vice president of systems and technology. (A terrific choice in my opinion.)

Wednesday October 21st – Galleon Group announced to investors and employees that it will wind down operations. This Reuters article outlines the success the Galleon funds have had. The New York Times reported that Roomy Khan (a former Galleon employee) is the informant (aka cooperating witness) in the case.

Thursday October 22nd – eWeek reported that the Alliance@IBM is asking the SEC to investigate all IBM executives. (Does anyone else think that’s overkill?)

Friday October 23rd – The New York Times reported that senior Polycom executive, Sunil K. Bhalla, was placed on leave.

Wednesday October 28th – Bloomberg reported that Hector Ruiz, former CEO of AMD, is the unnamed AMD executive who allegedly disclosed information to Chiesi.

Check back periodically for updates on the insider trading scandal and don’t forget to check out this week’s regular post also!

Friday, October 23, 2009

When a Senior Leader is Charged With a Crime

I found myself in shock last week when the New York Times, CNN, and other news organizations reported arrests for insider trading in what is being called the biggest ever hedge fund insider trading scheme.

One of those charged was a Senior Vice President at the corporation I worked for, and was in fact the leader of the division I worked for. He was one of just a handful of people who reported directly to the CEO. He had been a top leader in many organizations of the company. He had risen fast and was relatively young to reach the position he had. He was considered a contender for the top job.

The point is – by all measures he was wildly successful.

So what’s it like when a former big boss – a top leader in your company – is accused of being a crook?

I suspect that the tens of thousands of others who worked under this man at some point in their career and I feel the same way. We are shocked. We are outraged. We are angry. And that’s putting it mildly.

While this might not be quite the same as the feelings of the families of politicians who are accused of scandals, there are similarities. We were taken by surprise. We feel betrayed.

This is not supposed to happen in our family.

Now I’m not sure employees actually liked the man in question. He had a reputation as a hatchet man – the word on the street was that he would go into a new organization, streamline, cut budgets, and lay off employees – and that proved true in my organization. In fact, he may have been more feared than liked as a leader. But undoubtedly he had the authority, and the power.

I have no idea whether he truly committed a crime. The courts will decide. According to the FBI press release the allegations include that inside information was shared based on potential confidential deals between companies. And whether or not he committed a crime, it sure does look like he violated company policy.

My company was extremely careful whenever a deal with another company was discussed. Only people who truly had a need to be involved were included – this was usually a very small number of people. These people had to sign a special agreement – essentially it was a reminder (in case they forgot the business conduct guidelines) that they could discuss it with no one else – not others in the company, not their friends or family, not their boss, their spouse, their pastor, or their mother. You get the idea. No one.

What the heck was he thinking???

It wasn’t enough that he was head of a critical division at a top corporation? It wasn’t enough that he reported to the CEO of the company and was responsible for a multi-billion dollar business? Surely he didn’t need the money – at least not by any reasonable standard. Surely he didn’t need to worry about paying the mortgage, or the college bills, or buying a new car. I have long held the opinion that senior executives do not do what they do (at least not for very long) for the money.

So what was it then? Power? Excitement? The need to be part of a special club where he alone held a key piece of information? An overwhelming need to make the Forbes 400 Richest Americans list? A feeling that he was untouchable or invincible?

I think last Friday was a sad day for Corporate America. What do you think?

Friday, October 16, 2009

To All the Bosses Out There

Happy Boss's Day!

Yes indeed, October 16th is Boss's Day.

In the 25 years I was a boss, I don't believe any of my employees ever acknowledged Boss's Day. Even my ultra-organized assistant who always knew when the special days were never mentioned it. If any of my ex-employees are thinking about it now – well, it’s a bit late.

But I didn’t feel neglected. Really. I will admit that I never even consciously knew when it was. I was under the mistaken impression that it was a relatively new ‘holiday’. Not so.

Boss's Day was first registered with the US Chamber of Commerce in 1958. The governor of Illinois officially recognized it in 1962. Hallmark started making cards for the occasion in 1979.

So – this is for all of you bosses out there – good bosses and bad bosses – big bosses and not-so-big bosses – happy bosses and frustrated bosses…

And yes – it is indeed Friday!

Leave a message for your favorite boss here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What's Better Than Chocolate?

I can hear you guessing now – a great bottle of wine! Cotton candy! Cheesecake! A terrific movie!

And although I have been known to savor a glass of cabernet sauvignon, and consume large amounts of dark chocolate (in just about any form), while watching a fabulous (or even not so fabulous) movie, none of these are the correct answer today.

Come on – those of you who have spent time in Corporate America know the answer. The correct answer is: recognition.

Last Friday, Jane Friedman – publisher and editor extraordinaire at Writer’s Digest (no she didn’t pay me to say that) and writer of the blog There Are No Rules – noted my blog as one of “15 Worthy Blogs (she) Just Discovered.”

For Jane to put When Fridays Were Fridays on her list means that she not only reads it, but she actually likes it!

Okay, now I'm gushing – but just had to share the good news.

Good things really do happen on Fridays!

You may notice that I am no longer using the pseudonym Firefly for signing my posts. Since I started this blog three months ago I have learned that real names rule in the blogosphere, and I can no longer think of a good reason to stay behind the scenes.

Happy reading, Colette (aka Firefly)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Where's Your Office?

Remember when the words, “I’m going to the office,” meant that you were actually going to an office?

Last week we talked about how often you see your colleagues. You weighed in, and while most of you said you see your colleagues infrequently (if you missed it cast your vote here), many of you were quite happy with that arrangement. This week, let’s talk about your office – if you still have one.

When you tell people that you work for a large corporation, chances are that most of them assume that you work in a traditional office building, with nice furniture, windows, and a great cafeteria. This was certainly true for me for many years. Well, close to true – at times my office was in a plant site, and the furniture was well used, and I didn’t always have windows. And the cafeteria – we’ll save that for another time. But the point is I had an office that I went to every day – with a desk and a door.

In the early years I shared the space with one or two others, but it was reasonably private. Even the colleagues I knew who worked in the “field” as sales reps or field engineers, had a place they called the office. For some this was a branch office, and for others it was an office in a customer location.

My best office was the first office I had all to myself. It was small, but in a new building, and I had a window!

My worst office? That one is easy – it was a cubicle with 4-foot high walls in a large open area. The noise is what got to me – a constant drone of conversations. It was like clutter (and anyone who knows me knows I hate clutter). If the doctor’s office called, everyone knew about it. If you were having a bad day, everyone knew about it. If you were desperate enough for privacy you could sign up to use a tiny windowless walled in cell – not for the cluster phobic. I hated that office so much that when I learned we were moving back to traditional space I took my phone and my computer to my new office and worked on the floor for a week while waiting for my furniture and boxes to arrive.

Today’s workspaces come in so many shapes and sizes that it may be hard to poll, but let’s try. Please pick the answer that is closest – for the majority of your workdays. If you are no longer working in Corporate America, pick the answer that represents your last workspace before escaping.

Where do you work most often?

Share your best or worst office space stories with a comment.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Where Have All Your Colleagues Gone?

Do you remember when the people that you worked with every day sat in the offices near you?

When I first started working in Corporate America, my entire department was located in the same site, in the same building, and on the same aisle. If someone transferred from one department to another, they moved into an office to be near their team.

My corporation was even a bit famous for moving employees from one location to another when they took a new job. And the company paid for the move.

“Work from home”, and “mobile workforce” became popular in the late 90’s. It was really tough for remote employees during that period; many of their colleagues still shared the same work location and the remote employees might be one of a few who were on the phone while everyone else was in the same conference room. They had to become really skilled at telepathically reading the white board while staring at their phone. If they were really lucky – and there wasn’t a freeze on travel – they might get to see their teammates once or twice a year.

By 2005, I was working with colleagues that I had never met in person. My boss was in one location, my peers were in multiple locations across the US, and teams that I worked with were spread across all geographies.

I interviewed and hired (and sometimes even fired) employees over the phone. If they didn’t post a picture in the online directory, I conjured up an image of what they might look like – which was invariably wrong. But we were all very good at recognizing voices. After all, we talked to each other every day – just not around the water-cooler, or in the hallway.

One day it occurred to me that I was getting dressed in work clothes, rushing to the office, closing my door, and hopping on conference calls, never seeing another person all day long. I came out of my office only to go the restroom. I realized that if I worked from home I would save at least an hour a day – an extra hour that I could spend working even longer.

I’m not complaining. I liked working at home. I could wear sweat pants and bunny slippers. I could walk across the room and make myself a cup of tea without ever leaving the conference call. I even got out of the house at least once a day – to check the mail around 2pm.

Sound familiar? Or maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who still sit on the same aisle with your team. You tell me:

How often do you see your colleagues?

A note to those following regularly: I have added a topic category for polls in the sidebar to the right. Feel free to add your vote to open polls, or check on the results of prior polls.