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.
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.