The last decade… and why I look for a "job" with Trepidation.

From 1995-1998 I was a "stay at home dad" in Hawaii.  I was the Mayor of a community of a few thousand families, and I was first and foremost a Dad.  My daughter was 4 and my son was 6.  It was a wonderful time to be a stay at home dad. 

Now, years later, I have had custody of my kids for about 7 years.  My kids are now 19 and 17 – not much more "custodying" for me to do.

I don’t think that would have happened if it were not for those three years I "took off" while they were young.  First, I don’t think my ex would have ever let me get custody if she hadn’t learned that I could care for them.  And I don;t think I would have sought custody, and fought for it without knowing I could handle it.

When I moved back to San Antonio in 1998 (one of the dozen times I would move back to San Antonio) I went right to work with some old friends at a company that started as CHILD Systems, Inc.  We were bought and became part of Digital Ocean – building Wireless network hardware for the Apple Power Book and the Apple Newton.  By the time I got back to San Antonio the company was called CHOICE Microsystems – and it was focused on building a MAC controller IC for Wireless Networking – the first WiFi MAC chip.

I was initially hired based on an ad on my BBS I ran at the time (BIOS II, running Wildcat!).  I saw an ad for a "network manager for CHILD Systems".  I called.

I thought that I would be interviewing at the corporate offices of a Day Care Center.  The only reason I felt qualified was that CHILD Systems ran PowerLAN – which is the network OS I ran my BBS off of.  I had no training in networking (or in computers at all).

At the time I worked for a local computer store called Digitron – I was a Salesman.  A pretty good one, I think.  But the hours sucked as much as the pay did.

So I go to this interview.  Instead of a Child Care facility I find an Engineering Team – software, firmware, hardware designers – a small group, but a group doing some really amazing things.  In 1992 they had designed and were manufacturing a line of home networking products for Moses Computers (PromiseLAN, ChosenLAN).  They were working on medical telemetry equipment for Nellcor – a medical equipment manufacturer.

Needless to say, the interview was MUCH different than I thought it would be.  I thought I would dazzle a bunch of "kid lovers" with my knowledge of Networking an d computers – instead I am interviewing with people that literally invented networking and computing.

I did not think it went well.  And as Al Roth, the guy who brought me in for the interview told me afterwards – this is a tough crowd.  It probably comes down to if they like you or not.

They did – that night Michael Fischer, a scary smart guy and the CEO/Founder called me at home.  My now ex was in the other room, but I know she was listening.  Michael talked to me for over an hour (something I would later realize is just the way it is – every conversation with Michael lasts an hour).

At the end, Michael offered me a salary of $27,500 – and benefits.  I repeated it loudly enough that my now ex heard it.  Let’s just say that it was a LOT of money at the time – and I know it doesn’t seem that long ago – but it was.

The next few years were pretty amazing – in 1999 we were purchased by Harris Semiconductor – Harris had the radio, we had the MAC chip.  A few months later Harris Semiconductor was taken private and VERY quickly had an IPO and became Intersil Corporation.

By now, WiFi was taking off.  We went from zero dollars to 600 million dollars in sales in about 18 months.

And by now I was making $45,000/year.  My job at the time was to support the network/phone systems, keep the lights on, and to write software to help development.  I wrote PRISM Benchmark Pro, which for years was the standard people used when testing throughput on WiFi networks.  I also wrote Netspeed – which was also a throughput test app – but used internally.

rob I wrote a LOT of test apps.  Here is a screen shot of SOME of them running, all at once.

Many of my test apps were focused on Quality Assurance.  And once Intersil realized they were a software company, and not a hardware company, they decided they need a Software QA Department.

It ended up coming to me.  So I started hiring – first with a young student named Wayne Behrens who was only completing his second year of college as he worked full time at a WalMart distribution Center in New Braunfels.  Then a couple of contractors that I later brought on full time (and eventually I let them go in a RIF).

During this time (2001-2004) I ended up with about 50 employees in four states and three countries.  I ended up being the Program Manager for the first WiFi products shipped by Dell, MS, Compaq, HP, Cisco, Gateway, TiVo, and many others.

I was probably making 90K/year at this point – and I was working well over 100 hours a week.  With employees in five time zones, I didn’t have time to sleep.

Then Intersil sold their Wireless Division to GlobeSpanVirata.  The integration did NOT go very well – but I was paid handsomely by Intersil to stay with the company until the sale closed.  I was also paid handsomely by the company buying us to make sure I stuck around for a while AFTER the sale.  I made just a few dollars under $200K that year.

The next year I joined the Staff of the VP of Engineering.  I had "made it".  I was officially a "big wig".  I now managed Global Customer Support, Third Party Developers, Software QA, Competitive Analysis, and Conformance (making sure our products passed WHQL, WiFi, USB, PCI, etc tests).

Yep – I was a very important guy!

Important enough that in 2004 my managers in FL wanted me to move from San Antonio to Palm Bay, FL – 20 miles south of Cape Canaveral.  As a single parent of two young teenagers this wasn’t an easy decision – no support structure in FL, moving them away from their mom, changing schools for my son in the middle of High School – difficult.

But the company made it worth my while.  I was now making well over 120K/year and my stock options and bonuses were piling up.  Certainly I had made it.  I was important, mostly well liked, I had a lot of interesting work to do, and interesting people to work with – and I just moved to Florida where I would be going to the offices of the "Mother Ship" each day. 

But we were also going through yet another merger – GlobeSpanVirata was "buying" Conexant Systems and the new company would be called Conexant Systems.

Conexant had their own Wireless LAN group in California.

My kids and I lived in FL for 8 months – 3 months in a company supplied apartment (nice – fully furnished in a gated community – I *was* a big-wig, right?)

I bought a house.  In 6 weeks we were hit by four hurricanes.  For weeks at a time we had no power.  Our offices were quite damaged.  It was a disruptive time, and our new company took advantage of our struggles (my opinion) to replace my boss AND his boss with their own people from California.

Chee Kwan took over the wireless business.  The new VP of Engineering was Hooman Kashef, reporting to Chee.  I reported to Hooman.

Hooman never engaged me at all.  For three months he barely spoke to me.  Finally, I could tell something bad was going on – other Senior Manager’s were on Hooman’s schedule for meetings I was not invited to.  Since the "common people" like me and not Chee or Hooman, they told me a lot.  What they told me wasn’t good.

So I set up a meeting with Hooman to discuss the future on by teams.  He told me they were "too busy focused on engineering" to worry about my groups right now, and not to worry.  Everything was fine.  I didn’t trust him, and I didn’t believe him.  So I made an appointment with his boss, Chee Kwan.

I asked Chee point blank if they were making changed to my team and he told me no.  He said, "Absolutely not."  I told him that if there was a RIF, it was my responsibility to tell my employees.  He assured me my groups were safe, and he rushed outside to watch a Saturn V launch from Cape Canaveral.

A few days later I was called into Hooman’s office at 7:30 am and he had a stack of folders on his desk.  "Just give me mine – I don;t need the speech".   I had just been let go – 8 months after moving to FL, a few weeks after dealing with four hurricanes and seeing both my bosses forced out.

I was being let go by someone that had no clue what I did – except he thought he could do it cheaper in India.  Indian labor could not replace me talking to customers like Dell, MS, HP, etc.

Later in the day I learned that my entire team – every software QA person, every Customer Support person, and every support person that took care of customers was let go.

Suddenly I wasn’t important.

Here’s a chart of the CNXT stock over the last few years:


I am not sure you can see the details – CNXT went from $108/share to it’s current 49 cents/share.  MOST of that crash occurred after they brought in their "expert managers" to "save" wireless.

At one time the PRISM chipset was the best designed, best performing, best tested, and best supported WiFi chipset on the market.  Now CNXT has killed the product line.

This took just a few years for Chee Kwan and Hooman Kashef (and other inept CNXT Managers) to accomplish.

Imagine what they could do for your company!

Oh – but wait… they didn’t get fired!  They are both still with CNXT.

And my stocks and options?  Something for the bottom of my birdcage.

Yes – once I was a big-wig.

Then management changed.

Was I suddenly stupid or ineffective?  Or were my managers?

And once they let me go – even though my pre-existing relocation contract promised they would move me back to San Antonio if I lost my job within a year for anything "but cause" (basically stealing, or raping someone in the office) they told me the only way they would pay for me to move back is if I signed a document swearing I would not sue them.

I signed the document, got my severance, and got the hell away from them, and from Florida (which, by the way, is currently burning very close to my old house).

I should have sued.  Perhaps I still should.  The year I was let go I was the highest rated employee in the entire WLAN business unit.  I earned bonuses and was nominated for awards by both Development and Sales.

But suddenly, I was of no value to this company I had worked for 7 days a week, 100+ hours a week for years.

And that’s why I haven’t worked for anyone but myself in four years.

And why I am not really sure if I want to go back.


  1. I had to Google for this. Michael told me a bit about the story over lunch a couple of Saturdays ago, and he was obviously not pleased with what Conexant did to the remains of his company. It takes a lot of really smart people working very hard to build anything worthwhile, but it doesn’t take much at all to destroy it. I’ve seen it multiple times, including at the company Michael and I have in common: Datapoint.

  2. you don’t even know your own mocket! (inside joke)

  3. Paul Claessen says:

    “it WAS a BIG son-of-a-bitch though!”

    We’re talking about the rocket now, right?

  4. Paul Claessen says:

    What difference it makes? Come ON!
    A Saturn V launch?
    The last one was in 1973!

    • I am sure you can do a search and find exactly what rocket it was, based on the timeline – it WAS a BIG son-of-a-bitch though!

      And Chee did run out to see it 🙂


  5. What diff does it make? The guy was a tool. And a fool.


  6. Paul Claessen says:

    Ah, another in accuracy … can’t believe I didn’t catch it earlier .. about Chee: “He assured me my groups were safe, and he rushed outside to watch a Saturn V launch from Cape Canaveral.”

    No, he didn’t rush outside to watch that rocket launch!

  7. Of course hindsight is always sharper and it’s always easier when you’re on the outside, but my wife & I have witnessed some very similar situations – to lesser severe degrees – and the underlying driver very often tends to be people falling prey to the wrong motivation: money.

    A few years back, at a time when many of our friends would have (and many did or have since) sold their souls for any extra buck or two an hour – and landed in a job that would’ve required lots more time and piled on lots more responsibilities – my wife actually took a sizable pay cut to make a somewhat lateral move within the company. But she did so to get out of a bad situation and into a job that was more suited to her skills and would require almost no after-hours extra work. Primarily though, she made the move – and sacrificed real money – for the sake of job satisfaction. And I supported this choice 100% even though the loss of income was not exactly trivial.

    Fast-forwarding to now, she’s turned that lower-paying job into a mid-level management position with an employee underneath her and a fair bit of say in what goes on in her department. Oh, she’s made up for that loss in pay. And she’s still in a job position that she loves.

    Meanwhile, we’ve seen good people all but shoot themselves in the foot for a few extra bucks, only to become disgusted, bored, or even more greedy and move onto other jobs at other companies. Often, these folks will relocate to bigger metropolitan areas to accept “big deal” jobs with “big deal” pay only to discover that they eat up 3-4 extra hours of their day in dense commute and have a fraction of the free personal they used to. And these folks rarely comsider fully the differences in cost of living and such, so they end up jumping through hoops for little or no real net financial gain. A great buddy of mine who got married 2 weeks after me fell into this kind of trap and has lived in 10 different homes in as many years. He typically earns 2 to 4 times my annual salary yet hasn’t had a vacation in years. He’s in debt up to his eyelids. He spends maybe an hour a day with his wife & little boy due to excessive job responsibilities & extended commute-times. I earn less, have no real outstanding debt, and make it home before 6 p.m. consistently. We take frequent mini-vacations and have been on several international trips.

    Money is fleeting. Don’t let it be the greatest driving force behind your career or life choices or you’re setting yourself up for repeated falls and likely a fair bit of unhappiness.

    By the way, my aforementioned wife gets the lion’s share of the credit for having the financial savvy, ingenuity, and strength of character to make income a lesser priority for our family. My biggest credit is being lucky enough to snag a tiger by the tail and hold on tight…

  8. @David – good question about the $11.00 – I am getting that info from my portfolio software (actually, $10.83). I can’t recall the transaction history that got me to this point.

    And the Wikipedia suggestion is a good one as well!

  9. @David, The decision to pass on .11g was, in hindsight, a horrible mistake. Unfortunately, the lesson was ignored. It was more or less repeated with .11n.
    At the day of closure, we STILL didn’t have a full .11n product. During my 3 years in Palm Bay/Melbourne .11n products have been cancelled VARIOUS times. And this time it wasn’t that Decker didn’t want it, he INSISTED we did .11n. I’m afraid it was a combination of lack of wireless management’s ‘faith’ in .11n and (and I’m sorry to say so) technical incompetence (by that time a lot of technical talent had already left the company, and design tasks had been moved to India). Apart from .11n, I have worked on numerous products that never made it to market .. some made it to production, and were then ‘canceled’. The name Partagas comes to mind. Not a very stimulating work environment. To some extent there was an attitude of “if you don’t like what you’re doing, just wait a week, and priorities will automatically be changed”. There was a sense of lack of focus and direction fueled by panic…. we weren’t selling much! And probably for a reason .. while we started out with world class products, at the end we had way too many design and hardware shortcomings that were extremely tough to work around in firmware. (And that USB host i/f data corruption issue you and I worked on was one of the simpler things!): in the end we simply had a bunch of inferior, buggy, under-designed products. In that sense it’s not a surprise we didn’t do .11n: we were too busy fixing ‘old’ stuff. What the hundreds of people in India were doing at that time… I do not know (well.. at the end we knew: most of them were interviewing with better paying employers…). And while I have worked with quite a few very smart, very knowledgable, very talented Indian folks, I’m afraid their focus was mis-directed (we didn’t need yet another, designed from scratch, MAC architecture!). All in all .. a sad story of stacked mistakes and a failure to learn from them.

  10. David L. says:


    I’m not knocking the damage that CNXT did to PRISM but my view was that the initial, most critical damage that set the tragectory was done before Intersil sold the unit by the bad decisions of certain executive management of the division.

    How did you pay $11 for the stock? At the time of the merger, the stock was around $5 and a couple of months later it peaked to $8? Was this priced in from a Globespan purchase?

    (p.s. I dumped all my CNXT stock)

    (p.p.s. we should start updating the PRISM section of wikipedia)

  11. @David, Paul, et al. No doubt this post was a mistake, based on the number of hits I am getting from people from CNXT though they either are interested in the story, or hating on me right now.

    But the post was fundamentally true, and I can’t undo truth.

    And to all of you CNXT people reading this, Godspeed. I still own stock. I paid about $11.00 a share for it.

    I want you to win as much as you want to win.

  12. David L. says:

    Interesting read (particularly since I was part of most of it). Although I do believe Conexant munged a bunch of this, I think the decline of PRISM really got started when we made a bad choice on not fully supporting 802.11g letting BRCM get into the market before us. Remember that we actually won the 802.11 IEEE standards “war” for 802.11g only to have executive management focusing on the “future” 802.11a. This all happened before the unit was sold to Globespan by the management that was in place at the time.

    My view is that Intersil was fairly smart in moving the PRISM unit when they did. The market was turning into a commodity, we were late on 11g, we couldn’t make enough of the PRISM III, customers where bailing. Difficult to comeback from.

    Also, at the time of the acquisition/merger of Conexant and Globespan, CNXT was already down around 5-7 dollars. I think Decker had a lot to do with that.

    Also, Hooman is no longer with Conexant (and he came from the Globespan side of things). He is at a startup in the LA area (he called me recently).

    In any event, it was a long, painfull fall.

    Good luck in your new job!

  13. Paul Claessen says:

    @Kevin .. it being perfectly fine in everyday conversation doesn’t make it grammatically correct!

    I’m trying to teach the Lagesse kid some fundamentals of the English language here! (even though I don’t speak it natively myself).
    Don’t make my job harder than it already is…

    And how can you refer to ANYTHING coming from New England, language-wise, as an example of ‘okay’ use?
    I have a friend who’s from Maine! Don’t get me started! And yes, she does indeed think of herself as WICKED good in English. The rest of us know better!

    (And yes, I know, language is a ‘living’ thing: if enough people make the same mistake for a long enough time, that ‘mistake’ will eventually become proper grammar).

  14. Sorry for interjecting here, but @Paul, while I wouldn’t use this definition of scary in a formal paper, it’s perfectly fine in everyday conversation. If someone is “scary smart”, it doesn’t mean their intelligence is genuinely frightening, it simply means they are highly intelligent. It’s used in the same way wicked is used in New England, as in “The New England Patriots are wicked good this year; I think they can win the Super Bowl.”

  15. Paul Claessen says:

    Re: Michael: … then that would be ‘scarily’ smart.

    I’m also not sure I would characterize the verbal encounters with Michael as ‘conversations’. ‘Monologues’ is probably a better characterization.

    (Just kidding of course, Michael IS a very smart man, but not (to me at least) in a frightening way, and you CAN have very interesting two-way conversations with him (but be prepared to defend your claims with well founded arguments!))

  16. @Paul – about the employment status of Hooman and Chee – I was going by the last I heard, or saw through LinkedIn. So I stand corrected.

    And I said Michael was “scary smart” – and he is!

    As for me taking this “personally” – I haven’t shared all the gory details with you – but what really pissed me off was the way they lied right to my face. I wouldn’t do that to anyone. In fact, once when I knew there was going to be a RIF an employee came to me and asked if he was going to be affected (rumor mill was fully engaged). I told him that I wasn’t sure (true at the moment) but that I wouldn’t run out and buy a new truck if I was him. Two weeks later he bought a new truck. A week after that I let him go in a large RIF. He didn’t listen to me, but I didn’t lie to him. I am sorry – but as one of my other ex-employees described Chee and Hooman – “One is a liar and one is a bully. And they are interchangeable”.

    That, I cannot forgive. The arrogance they displayed, I cannot forgive. The short-sightedness the entire Management Team had in thinking they could simply replace us all with low paid Indian Workers, I won’t forgive. This company destroyed millions and millions (billions?) of dollars worth of shareholder assets. Including mine.

  17. Paul Claessen says:

    Allow me to make a few corrections. Not relevant to your story, but people may get the wrong idea about certain things.

    The least important one: Globespan didn’t “buy” Conexant: the whole deal was officially structured as a merger. But when you looked under the hood, it was Conexant buying Globespan! Not the other way around. And one doesn’t even have to look under the hood to realize this, noting that the new company kept the name Conexant, not Globespan, that Conexant provided 7 board members and Globespan 5, and that the Globespan-originating CEO got kicked to the curb REAL fast after the merger was a fact. To that effect, it was more of a simple take-over than a merger or a sale.

    Also not too important, but your TWO new bosses didn’t come from California. Only Chee (Conexant) did. Hooman was Globespan and came from Redbank.

    But the thing that I really wanted to correct was the fact that you have those two bosses completely wreck the wireless division all by themselves (a notion I object to) and are now still with the company.
    That is simply incorrect!
    Both Chee and Hooman lost their jobs the same day everyone else did!
    They may have had a different severance package, but they are outa there!
    Hooman works for a small startup doing Ultra Wide band ( and Chee is the new CEO at

    And btw, the last year newly appointed Conexant CEO Dan Artusi, who made the decision (or was MADE to make the decision) to close the wireless division, apparently has done what he was hired to do, and got kicked to the curb as well. The cold dismissal of people occurs at all levels! It’s just about the money. Always has been, always will be.

    Oh, and Michael Fisher is NOT scary, but I mentioned that already 😉

  18. Even though I have witnessed parts of it, it’s an interesting story … despite the inaccuracies.
    Nice timing too: last Friday was my last paid day with Conexant’s wireless division.
    We appear to differ in the way we dealt with the situation. I get the impression you’re taking all this a bit too personal.
    I was laid off (twice!) by the same man who laid you off. I signed the papers, pocketed the sizeable bonus and we shook hands. Business as usual. These things happen.
    What’s missing, IMHO, in your story is Decker’s (CEO) role in all this! (Especially with regards to the India-strategy!)
    As for the ‘early’ part of the story: I totally disagree that Michael Fischer is scary! (you may want to change that word to “scarily” 😉

  19. Iesu Christu. Nonsense like this almost makes me glad I did a six year stint in the military instead of going into IT/Software Engineering. At least there when a bunch of morons came in above you, they could make your life a living Hell, but for the most part, they couldn’t fire you. Thankfully I now do public utilities work. I don’t think I could survive 100 hour weeks for very long.

  20. Ha ha, I was sugar coating. You really got screwed over. And yeah, not just you, but your team.

    For what it’s worth, I think you did what you had to. Hope I’m never put in the same situation.

  21. @Stu – “Banged Up” is one way to put it. Anally Assaulted is another. And I wasn’t even allowed to inform my employees – that, probably more than anything else, pisses me off. Oh – and the lying straight to my face. That was a pisser as well!

    But thanks, man!


  22. So of course I had to come and read this. All I can say is wow. I knew only part of the story, and I knew it wasn’t good, but this is a story that needs to be told because it is happening to so many others as well.

  23. Rob,

    That’s a very honest piece of writing. Sounds like you got pretty hurt and banged about. I’m glad to see you’ve survived and flourished despite it. Kudos!


  1. […] Still, you have freedom, and that is pretty liberating. It would be pretty hard to go back. […]