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Hello, and happy Monday on an Independence Day holiday weekend.
If you've been paying attention, you know I recounted the luckiest moments in my life last Monday and Wednesday. Today is different - very different. But hopefully no less entertaining, and maybe even helpful, if you ever must confront what I did, or anything like it.
It's also very long. Like holy shit long. So at least there's that.
A necessity, because today, I am blowing the cover off of my experience at the commercial technology engineering firm TEECOM in this blog for the first - and last - time.
Sure, I've made plenty of inferences previously to my "unfortunate" and "premature" departure. But how did I get there and why exactly did I "depart"? And why am I retired now?
Here is the end of Lottery Winner.
14. Turning a No to a Yes
My epic TEECOM tale really began with the end of Casa Integration. I had tired of the whole thing, and I did not raise enough money in my attempt at its re-invention. So by early 2018, I had shut it down completely and was out of work. At age 54, and having been away from corporate or anything like the real world for 17 years. Scary!
I was thus genuinely happy having an opportunity with a company that did/does for commercial buildings what I did for residential ones: design and engineer their technology, typically from soup-to-nuts. That company was TEECOM.
I nailed the screening interview, and was told so by the interviewer. But then I was rejected literally the next day, via a form letter from an HR functionary. There must be some mistake? The fit seemed too perfect.
The screening interviewer was kind enough to take my call and tell me why I was told "no": TEECOM senior management had had bad experiences when they'd hired either entrepreneurs or residential technology integrators in the past. I was both, so they decided to pass on me.
This time, I simply wrote my own winning lottery ticket. I reached out to an industry contact and learned he had a relationship with the CEO of TEECOM, Smootho Marx. Unintroduced, I sent him this email.
It somehow made it through to him, he righted the whole thing, and after a fairly grueling interview process, I was offered a job as a Project Coordinator, working for a Program Manager. The job didn't even pay six figures.
My first reaction was therefore "Project coordinate this! Do they know who I am?" But luckily, I was with both my wife and Dr. Shelly Murphy, as we were in Houston for rodeo. Thankfully, they talked me in to my senses.
And Grand Entrance: here we are, literally the night I received the offer from TEECOM on Friday, March 2, 2018. Thanks to Shelly, we were participants in the opening parade that evening - how appropriate.
To this day, I consider being able to land a great corporate job 17 years after my last one to be a career highlight. Especially after having initially drawn a losing ticket.
Have you ever heard of the #MeToo movement? I bet you have, and today, I hope this, the longest chapter in Lottery Winner, will educate you on its dark side. Because believe (instead of the more reasonable listen to) all women really, really has a bad part. I lived it.
Here's the story, beginning with some context.
By now, it's early 2019, and I am leading a program at TEECOM that engineers the fiber optic networks for Facebook's ginormous data centers. Our group had approximately 25 people, in Oakland, Portland, Dallas, and London, and consisted of good or better engineers and CAD people.
Late in 2018, I had begun replacing the guy that hired me, as his complete and total incompetence on every non-engineering level became increasingly apparent. The fact that Miguel Shannon, Cardi A, and others of their stature on my team were screaming the same in my ear also helped. All of it was a reflection of just how truly awful a manager this person was. Let's call him Ed Holster.
Don't believe me? Of his many transgressions, his worst was a failure to issue contracts and change orders to Facebook for work already performed by our team. No big deal? What if I told you the contracts and change orders not issued totaled $5.7 million dollars?
At the same time, Holster was signing the bi-weekly timecards of a pal on his staff at TEECOM, Reeves Gradenko. You see, Reeves was not an engineer nor CAD pro, but was still somehow able to bill Facebook 16-18 hour days, and get paid overtime for it. For months on end. That is no exaggeration and Reeves was fired for this when I took over.
We cleaned all of that up, and it must be noted that the smart kid Kevin Monza deserves a lot of the credit here. During my tenure, we established workflow management standards with my beloved Asana that transformed our group and which were later applied across the firm. Heck, Facebook themselves eventually adopted some of our practices.
It is not a massive overstatement to say I introduced modern program management to TEECOM, and I even wrote a monograph about it. Then, as now, I couldn't feel better about what was accomplished there.
Indeed, all of that and more led me to being nominated for 3 company awards and winning 1 on the evening that would lead to my downfall. The evening was Saturday, February 2, 2019 and it was TEECOM's Winter Celebration bash, and here we were.
Fun Fact: the event was held at a venue - Bimbos 365 in SF - owned by a former Casa Integration client, Michael Cerchiai. Bimbos is one of SF's finest nightclubs, and they helped TEECOM live up to its well-deserved reputation for wild bacchanals. It was easily one of the best and biggest parties either Julie or I had ever attended, before or since.
Here I am later that night, with one of my direct reports, the somewhat eccentric young engineer Raul Picasso, at the Absinthe bar. No joke, and we may have tried one or two.
Watch how quickly I can tell this now. Do you remember how I said in my past Lottery Winner posts my cheek kissing was an omen?
The night of the TEECOM party, I did a lot of cheek kissing. No doubt I gave Raul above a peck on the cheek. I kissed the CEO, the COO (my boss), and any number of others, men and women, that did and didn't work for me. It's what I do.
A typical encounter: "Get over here, Sylvia. You are a fucking rock star and you kick ass." And then smack, right on the cheek. Here's another example of what it looks like.
In all cases that night, Julie was either on my arm or close enough, and to my knowledge, it was big laughs and great vibes each time. Because it was/is/always will be beyond innocent.
On the way out to our car service I kissed the-then Carolyn Kimbro, amongst others, on the cheek. She was on my team, and even very buzzed, I knew she was no rock star, so I probably said something like "You're great! Goodnight!"
Here is Carolyn, although she now goes by Caro, and identifies as "they". This is from TEECOM's website.
A month after the TEECOM party and all of the fun cheek kissing and nice vibes, Carolyn told TEECOM I had put my tongue in her mouth and assaulted her that night. My first reaction was laughter when the CEO told me, but holy shit, was this no joke.
Because this person - whatever her gender or hair style - played me, TEECOM and the system like a fucking piano. While I understand unwanted physical contact is unwanted physical contact, no matter how benign the action or intent, accepting what happened next remains difficult.
When TEECOM's attorney informed Kimbro's attorney their own investigation showed zero evidence - shocker - of me assaulting anyone before, during, or after the party or ever, she produced a letter from a doctor. The very next day. The letter said Carolyn needed 90 days away from work under the Family Medical Leave Act. To recover from the trauma of an assault that didn't occur.
When she returned 3 months later, her clever invocation of the FMLA meant she had to be returned to my team and was essentially bullet-proof going forward. I was told to warmly welcome a person back who had attempted to destroy my career. I was also told it was most important to be silent about the sham of her leave and its supposed cause.
Upon her return, I was not mean or disrespectful to her in any way. But I also couldn't force myself to do the "Welcome back, Carolyn!" bit, or keep my mouth shut to my friends at work about what a clusterfuck it all was.
Because woke I am, but Psycho Woke, I am not.
Probably to my detriment in this case, as I was fired by the sulfuric TEECOM COO, Ben Corleoné, on October 2, 2019.
While there were other circumstances - among other minor ruffled feathers, I pissed off TEECOM's flaccid CIO (who I'll dub Alec Insincere) when I asked for better workstations for our CAD people, and I bore several scars from forcing through our program's implementation of Asana - my departure largely originated from a really, really, really bad person making up a lie.
That's the dark side of the #MeToo movement.
Do I own any of this? Absolutely. For one, I am a general pain in the ass.
Next, I drank too much at a company party, and JFC, I should have known better at my age. I also was extraordinarily rusty in the ways of the modern work environment - I had last been in corporate in the fall of 2001, and it was now 18 years later. The idea that expressing benevolent affection could be twisted in this way never dawned on me. I still must own it.
But did I mention Ed Holster, Reeves Gradenko and Caro Kimbro all worked together previously (at the trick modular home builder BluHomes) and were friends away from work? It's certainly a coincidence that this all occurred after I replaced Ed and had Reeves fired. Right?
Oh, and isn't this funny? CEO Smootho Marx and COO Ben Corleoné kicked off a meeting with me prior to her return from leave with Corleoné announcing "Carolyn is pregnant, and we know you're the father!"
While Smootho and Ben found it hilarious, I was still fired just a few weeks later when I didn't play the game.
OK, enough. How can I possibly consider this humiliation a winning lottery ticket?
I never will.
But I'm beginning to accept I'm better for not having won this one. I have learned a valuable lesson, beyond the obvious.
Because over time (and some bevs with Andy Jones in Oceanside recently), I came to realize that losing a job and career in the way I did is very similar to a death. But instead of a death in my family, it was a death in my personality - my professional personality.
As such, I've had to pass through - wait for it - Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's famous 5 stages of grief. Anyone that knows me knows I hate this kind of pap, but it's true. I absolutely went through:
- Denial (I flew to Seattle and visited a TEECOM competitor a few days after, thinking I could easily get hired there)
- Anger ("I am going to destroy TEECOM and Kimbro if it's the last thing I do")
- Bargaining ("Everything will be fine if I can just land something - anything - with The Presidio Trust")
- Depression (ongoing, but with me that means I've never shut up about all of this)
- Acceptance (now)
So at Independence Day, I (over)share this fucked-up mess of a story as a sign of acceptance and yes, closure. For me, my extraordinarily patient wife, and the many friends that have put up with me going on about this. For almost 4 years.
But it did take that long and if nothing else, I hope my experience can guide others through a metaphorical death they themselves might experience. Or maybe even a real one.
16. You Always Get What You Want
"He's lost it - more than usual. He's said too much. He's really done it this time - he's put this out in public and now he's burned every bridge. No one will ever hire him now! Heck, he could even get sued!"
If those and other similar thoughts are running through your mind, I have some observations.
First, TEECOM offered me a pitiful one month's severance if I signed an NDA the day they fired me (some have said that means I wasn't technically fired!). While I did not sign it, I did laugh out loud.
And, well, after almost 4 years looking, 400+ resumes sent, and a whole bunch of oh-so-closes with The Presidio Trust, Amazon Music, and Amazon Web Services, I can tell you, the job bridge is gone. Barring some major surprise, I am good and truly done and I had a relatively incredible professional career.
Or did you miss the previous two Lottery Winner posts?
Because whereas the sad Caro lies to herself and others, I have and do not. Indeed, I won life's lottery - big time. I have exactly what I always have dreamed, and it's not just my wonderful wife and friends, or living in SF.
Ask anyone that's known me for any length of time and they'll tell you I've always talked about not wanting to work.
So I can do whatever I want, all of the time.
Read my books, magazines, and websites. Putter away in my Man Cave on my N scale model railroad layout. Take naps. Listen to music, preferably in said Man Cave, and using my turntable. Day baseball. Write these numbingly long blogs. Cocktail hours and nice dinners with Julie, friends, or alone. Long walks and even longer vacations. And volunteering.
I had dreamed of all of that - my whole life - and it happened. I am one of the luckiest people you know, especially if the TEECOM nonsense remains the worst event of my life.
And that's not bragging or lottery bullshit.
I wish to thank you again for your indulgence throughout Lottery Winner. And no more so than today.
But maybe now I won't bring this crap up again? One can always hope . . .
And, coming up next: Portico Darwin buys a mirror factory!
FROM THE UNWASHED MASSES
Speaking of bridge burning, don't miss the always-fascinating Portico Darwin AI Art Gallery!
Thank you to any one that is reading this newsletter.
Here is George Harrison and "What is Life".
All Diamond Certified and all perfect for this madness in their own way.
But do you know what? If I'm going to put all of this shit out there, I might as well see it through to the very end. So this is the song and I don't care how cliché or maudlin or goofy it (or this whole thing) may be.
Here is Tame Impala and "Be Above It".
Thank you, again.