The year is 1999.
At 50 years of age, it wasn’t the best time for the layoff to happen. I had already been experiencing signs that age was more than a little factor when looking for work in the software field.
Fortunately, a twenty year history in the software field also generates a pretty good network of friends and associates that can be relied upon to mention your name when the managers are looking to fill a software position in the department.
As a result of one such connection (thanks again, Nels!), I found myself assigned to a well equipped cubicle in what was to be, though I didn’t know it at the time, my last “professional” employment assignment.
It was there that I met a fellow cube dweller. John was also considered one of the “old dudes” even though he was less than a half dozen years younger than me. While we grew up in entirely opposite environments (the streets of Compton, Calif .vs. the sleepy pre-Silicone Valley days of San Jose), we discovered shared interests in books, lunch spots, chess, investing strategies and world views (mostly).
We had adjoining cubes with short walls. While we were assigned different aspects of the same project, it wasn’t long before we got to know and like each other while trading ideas and advice about many aspects of life on and off the job.
It was during the hi-tech bursting bubble days of 2002 that John was selected in one of a continuing series of layoffs (…my turn would come two years later).
John and I kept in touch often via email and phone. Even more so when it was my turn to hit the streets. At first, we would email each other possible leads and contacts for possible jobs. Even after I decided to retire, we would check in with each other and arrange to meet for lunch to trade bags of paperback books and catch up on the latest intel in the programming job search world.
Always optimistic, John never gave up the hope that the economy would turn and he’d be able to catch up on the mounting debts that were accruing. John would do anything he could to get back into a programming position. He even started working part time for a start-up company for the “experience” and a promise of a paycheck “someday”. After the start-up went belly-up last year, a mutual friend was able to get him an interview and a paying job in computer tech. After several long and difficult years, John was optimistic about his future again.
So it was an absolute shock when I got a call from a mutual friend last week to hear that John had a heart attack and died at work on November 4, 2008.
I’ll attend his memorial tomorrow afternoon. I will send a condolence card to the family but I don’t know what else to write that fits on one tiny card.
“I sorry for your loss. He will be missed.” just doesn’t seem to cover it.