My First Resumé

Friday the 13th of January, 2012: Let’s back up the timeline slightly, to the day I realized that I would not be working to the end of the month. It was clear that I was going to need a resumé, and that my most recent one was 19 years old. What do job seekers do these days? And what is the proper way to spell resumé in English? Google search to the rescue!

Having learned some French in high school, I knew that the word was really résumé. But why did I rarely see it written that way in English? My quick research revealed that the second accent helps the reader distinguish the term from “resume” in a way that suggests the proper Anglicized pronunciation: Reh-zoo-may. So resumé it is.

With that out of the way, where should I compose it, how should it be structured, and what should it contain? I realized that my employer would repossess my PC, so the document would not live long there. A CNET review led me to a web site that got me started, so that’s where I put it. That was useful at the time, but turned out not to be such a good idea.

One of the most dreaded, productivity-sapping, yet wonderful exercises at Bell Labs was the annual performance review. Although the process changed with time, spinoffs, and a merger, the basic idea remained the same: you write down what you accomplished during the past year, your manager writes his (I never reported to a her) summary, and the system decides your rating and rewards. Besides the rewards part and its loose correlation with your actual contribution, the other wonderful result is that you had a detailed written record of everything worth including in your resumé. Cool.

The first 14 years of my career were already summarized in the resumé that I prepared in 1993. I had some fresh source material to cover the time up to early 2011, when I applied for elevation to IEEE Senior Member. All I had to add was the last year. That should be easy.

With 33 years of diverse experience, what should I leave out to keep the document under the recommended two pages? Or does the two-page limit even apply in this day of electronic applications? It took several weeks before I learned the correct answers to these fundamental questions, although at the time I had no idea that I was facing such a learning timeline. Most of this blog will detail that learning from my viewpoint.

My resulting First Resumé ran slightly longer than four pages. Comparing notes later with members of my cohort, mine was not even the longest draft around. We had some serious editing to do. But for my first few job applications, this four-page version would have to do. As you will read in a later post, it did suffice to get me to my first phone interview.

The Layoff

Week of January 9, 2012: The hallways and lunch tables were abuzz with rumors of an impending downsizing. We were only a week into the new year; how could this be possible so soon?

We were all survivors in the amazing, shrinking company, having weathered no fewer than 24 separate layoffs before (as calculated later by another member of our cohort). Our company had already trimmed divisions and divested businesses that lacked sufficient scale to compete, or that were not central to the mission of our remaining pillars of storage and networking. We were in the networking division, the growth engine of our company. We had an excellent five-year plan in place; we had customers who were eager for our products; we had a development team that worked well together, having long ago worked through the transitional phases of forming / storming / norming — we were performing! We had no debt; we had hundreds of millions of dollars in cash. The deadwood had been identified, snapped from the tree, and burned long ago. Those of us remaining were the best of the rest, and all of us were essential to our ongoing success. Or so we thought.

Reflecting on that week, I understand better why the rumors always swirled around me while I remained calm and centered.  I had never before been asked to leave during my 33 year career with Bell Labs and its successors, save for once in 1993 when a set of personal crises coincided with the demise of our internal venture. At that time my good friend and colleague hired me into his core Bell Labs team, which grew into the very organization in which I still worked in 2012. I was promoted within that organization in 2002 to the top rung of the technical ladder. (Later we added an even higher Principal / Fellow position, but there were but a handful of those.) I was in the top 2% of an already highly selected technical population. As one member of my cohort liked to tell me, I was a “made man.” How I wish I had not listened whenever he praised me in that way. (Sorry, S.— I really do love you, man.)

But why did others seem to know about a layoff before I did? Perhaps it’s only a rumor. Maybe it only affects the storage division, which was hit so hard by the recent flooding of the hard drive factories concentrated in Thailand. Only later through my career transition training did I learn about human networking and emotional intelligence. My colleagues had a better network than I did, so they picked up on the layoff signals long before I did.

The affected employees would learn their fate on Thursday, January 12, as the rumor went. So I was not caught totally off guard when on that day my manager entered my office and closed the door. I imagined that he would explain the situation, and tell me where the management team had found a safe place for me where I could continue to apply my skills to projects within the company. This had happened a few times before; why would it not be the same now?

Yet this time the message was different. I felt calm — much more calm than when I was displaced in 1993. I listened as best I could. What I heard was that affected employees would receive notice next Tuesday, and that I should not be surprised if I am among that group. I asked a few questions, but it was all hypothetical, since after all, I did not know for a fact that I would be laid off. I tried to make the meeting as easy as possible for my young manager.

I called home to deliver the unusual “news” (in quotes because I did not yet know it to be a fact), and asked her not to worry. Then I turned back to my desk, reviewed my always-too-long To Do List, and selected the tasks that were most urgent. I plowed into the first item with unusual focus, since there might be an absolute deadline (my separation) at the end of the month. In hindsight, there was no reason to do any more work for the company, but I really didn’t get it yet.

After talking with colleagues late on Thursday and after sleeping on the news, I requested another meeting with my manager on Friday morning to ask more directly what I should expect on Tuesday. That was when it sunk in: I would be laid off for the first time in my career. Wow.

So on Tuesday, January 17, 2012, about 200 of us worldwide packed our personal effects; handed in our badges, equipment, and keys; and left the building for the last time. Thus begins the story of my career transition.

I’ve Landed!

If you read nothing else on this site, this post is the one that I want my friends, family, and extended network to read.

I haven’t slept for more than 4 hours continuously in over a week. I’m that wired with excitement. That’s why I need to get it out in the blog—even if I’m only writing it for myself. If I can say things well in one place, then I won’t need to write multiple inadequate email messages, and I won’t bore people in conversation if they have had enough of me. My objective is for this blog to be a net time saver for me.

Enough process—now for the product.

On Friday afternoon April 20 I shook hands to accept a position as a software engineer at Pivitec, LLC. Immediately after that, I called to decline a second job offer that was open at the same time. The decision was easy for me to make, but you might not understand my reasoning until I complete this blog’s historical timeline. Of course, Pivitec will keep me so busy that it might take some time to write all that. Please be patient.

How did I learn of the opportunity at Pivitec? If you are a member of the LinkedIn Group called Connected in the Lehigh Valley, click here to see the Discussion that I noticed on Sunday, April 15. If you can’t see the item, don’t worry—it’s just where Pivitec’s CEO posted the job description.

I sent my resumé; we exchanged some email messages; I had a phone interview with the VP Engineering. That all happened on Sunday. On Tuesday morning I visited Pivitec, and met with the team. Further discussion led to the phone offer on Friday morning. I returned on Friday afternoon to learn more about the job specifics, after which we had the acceptance handshake. I’m typing this on Sunday morning 4/22, less than a week after my initial awareness. Startups work fast.

Blog Overview and Organization

Here’s how I envision this blog unfolding. Imagine two timelines:

  • A retrospective, historical view. Historical posts describe what I was doing, thinking, and feeling during this career transition journey during early 2012, in roughly time order. Read this timeline by clicking on the Job Search category on the right-hand ribbon of the Home page.
  • A current status update from the point of accepting my new position on April 20, 2012. Once the historical timeline catches up with April 20, it will end, leaving only future status updates. Read this timeline by clicking on the On the New Job category on the right-hand ribbon of the Home page.

I expect to interleave the job search story with status updates as they occur. With this explanation and consistent tagging, you should be able to follow along without much confusion. Thanks in advance for your comments.

Ed’s Job Search Story: Feb – Apr 2012

This is where I plan to capture my thoughts about my three-month job search, which just ended. Many of my friends have inquired about my status, and there is so much that I want to say. Perhaps recording my experiences and ideas here will prove cathartic. Or not. We’ll see!

If my posts can help at least one person land their next job, then it will have been worth writing.

Comments are welcome.

– Ed