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I quit my job one year ago today

Friday, February 29, 2008

Time really flies when you're having fun. It was one year ago today (kind of, depending on how you account for the leap year) that I quit my job at Teradyne, Inc. in Southern California to move away from five-lane freeways and a "less-than-ideal" work environment.

No regrets - life couldn't be better.

With time comes perspective and this perspective is very good.

Fittingly, another 40-something ex-Teradyner will be visiting in a few days. Erik, the inspiration for the original Hummer post, left TER about six months before I did and now lives in New Zealand.

He's visiting the states for a bit and we'll have plenty of time to catch up.

We used to talk about the housing craziness a few years back while still confined to cubicles as we both pondered and then began selling California real estate as everyone else lost their senses. More than once we'd have a good chuckle when learning of another co-worker who bought near the peak or began a $100K home improvement project.

This post from that last day one year ago is one of the few that I go back and read from time to time, usually after a glass of wine or two. It's worth revisiting today and is reproduced in its entirety below.

* * *

After more than seven years, today is my last day at Teradyne, Inc. (NYSE: TER), a major manufacturer of test equipment for the semiconductor industry.

I'd like to thank all the great people I've worked with over the years and I wish you all the best of luck in the future.

Since joining the company in January of 2000, time spent here has been mostly enjoyable - writing software for a world-class semiconductor test platform has had more than its share of excitement and challenges.

I can't say that the last year or two have been as enjoyable as some of the earlier ones. Maybe it was because I was distracted by other interests.

Maybe too it was because "perpetual fire drill" is no way to live and there's been a steady stream of talented engineers out the front door. Despite assurances heard by employees, the attrition rate doesn't look normal to me.

Yes, I know things are changing - good luck with that.

I really can't complain - Teradyne has been pretty good to me. I'm just tired of software and tired of Southern California - it's time to move on.

No, Not Alan Greenspan

Retirement in 2007 had been planned for many years. Sometime early last year I started counting down the days. I think the countdown started after we were shown a presentation from Broadcom (NYSE: BRCM) about how we software engineers need to be more productive. This would enable Broadcom to be more productive and the bottom line for both companies would swell and some of the profits would trickle down and the stock price would go up and we'd all live happily ever after.

With more irony than could be appreciated at the time, Alan Greenspan's picture was on the opening and closing slides and at first I was waiting for everyone to say, "Surprise!", but it never came.

Everyone was so serious.

Alan Greenspan's mug was there alongside a quote extolling the virtues of increased productivity and how we could play a larger role. That's when I started crossing off days on a calendar.

It seems that, along with many other engineers, I've been just a little cog in a big wheel that has contributed to the great borrow-and-spend consumption binge that characterizes our era. Being more productive to enable more businesses to profit from the manufacturing and sale of more consumer electronics that most people don't really need and have to borrow money to pay for, well, this just doesn't sound as good as it did a couple years ago.

And if I'd learned that Teradyne equipment tested chips that go into those ridiculous BlueTooth ear dongles that people wear like they're on the set of a Star Trek movie, I may have been long gone by now.

Stock Options, Stock Purchase, Stock Grants, Stock Buybacks

Coming from a mostly staid aerospace company in 1999, I was at first taken aback by all the stock trading that went on in cubicles up and down the aisles of the engineering department. That changed rather quickly as 2000 drew to a close.

Not surprisingly, the stock options I received when joining the company expired worthless, however, there were a few other opportunities to profit in company stock during my stay. But not too many.

A big part of the reason why my wife and I are able to retire now is shown in the chart below. The natural resource sector is the new bull market, though I continue to be surprised at how few people realize this. It's been going on for five years now and shows little sign of slowing down, though the ride can get pretty bumpy from time to time.


The stock purchase plan was pretty good at Teradyne in 2003, but aside from that, it's been many disappointing years in a row. I can't believe some people got laid off a few years back and had never sold any of their stock - rode it all the way up and all the way back down.

Technology is so last century.

No More SoCal, No More Software

We will be leaving the crowded environs of Southern California this spring, not likely to return soon or often. I can't imagine what driving on these freeways will be like in five or ten years - so many angry young drivers that seem to get more reckless every year. The young men in big pickup trucks are sure to get angrier as their career prospects dim along with the housing industry.

We'll be settling in an area where a quick mid-day break might result in a view such as this, rather than the sights and sounds of the 101 freeway with cars buzzing by at 80 miles an hour.

We'll be renting for a year. There's no hurry to buy any real estate anywhere in California this year.

My software programming career officially ends today. I'd complain about having to train Rammohan, Rajasekar, and Vijayakannan last year, but I'm mostly over that now.

That last thousand lines of code I wrote might require a little attention in the year ahead. I can't say that it received my undivided attention as this day drew closer, but it should be pretty good.

I learned a little more about maps (yes, Wikipedia has an entry for this too) and the multi-headed PinInfo hydra. I'm proud to say that I completed my entire career at Teradyne without having to understand what upside-down inheritance is. At yesterday's going-away luncheon, word came that I'm better off for it.

Anyway, this missive has gone on far too long already. I have to make that drive in one last time to do an "exit interview" and then it's official.

Goodbye Teradyne.

Full Disclosure: No position in TER or BRCM at time of writing.

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9 comments:

Hardwinterwheat said...

Congratulations, Tim !

teknoaxe said...

I can sort of understand your venom against corporations of techno-toys and maybe some of the uselessness behind it all, but surely you don't think that technology is all just trinkets, do you?

I'm going to admit that as a new engineer, my viewpoint is going to be biased, but in my view, the chips that your company tests probably reaches a full spectrum of applications, and not just the latest cell-phone. Up here in Pullman, WA, there is at least one company here (http://www.selinc.com) that has revolutionized the power protection industry and seeks to minimize damage due to blackouts such as the florida incident this week or the 2003 blackout.

That can't be all that bad, can it?

Matt

ApacheTrout said...

congratulations,Tim. I also quit my job last year on this date and founded my own company (www.vermontwetlandplants.com). Quitting the rat race working for a consulting firm was the best thing I did, and it sounds like you've accomplished the same. Good for you, and nice job explaining the economy to a simple aquatic ecologist.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Tim. All the best for your future plans and activities. Having worked for a US company here in Australia, I think I understand your statements about 'talent drift'. I could feel the life force being sucked from my veins every day I spent with EDS. I also experienced the exit interview - an then novel experience here. At the time, Australian firms knew why you were leaving because your supervisors actually knew you. Now we have aimless HR departments like the US. I have two years to go before I 'officially' retire, but am certainly contemplating my next move. Thanks for the inspiration.

Tim said...

hardwinterwheat and anon,
Thanks.

Matt,
No it's not all bad - after twenty-some years it's easy to become jaded after taking it all in for so long.

I kind of feel sorry for young engineers with their entire career ahead of them because it is completely different than when I started out in the 1980s. There's lots more global competition now for everything.

Just keep your eyes and ears open and don't believe everything the suits tell you.

apachetrout,
Good for you too - best of luck in your new endeavor.

donna said...

There will be new opportunities for new engineers - I hope the future will be good to them, kinder than right now.

Change will surely bring some good stuff soon. It just can't come soon enough. Those of us in this business for a while are quite fed up with the status quo, and, like Tim, quite eager to just step aside for now.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tim, congrats on your first year of freedom. I just started mine, having sold a company 6 months ago but only now free at last.

Like you, I am in my mid-40's, and have managed to amass a mid-7 figure retirement fund. Now I just have to try and hang on to it. Infattion is running wild, and even a 'real' return could be quite difficult.

I have been enjoying your blog now for at least the past 6 months. And after having watched commodities run up over the last few years, I am finally becoming a convert to the process as well. Jim Rogers helped convert me. And now, even though I think the thought as an investment is ridiculous, I own quite a bit of it.

Your post of February 11 was a real eye opener. When I saw the grains gains YTD, I jumped into a few of the ETF's you listed, and get 6+% returns in no time. It won;t always be this quick and easy, but it sure is fun!

Keep up the great work. I hope to meet you some day.

-d

Anonymous said...

Bill Gates has asked the following question in LinkedIn.com:

How can we do more to encourage young people to pursue careers in science and technology?

There are 2280 answers.

http://www.linkedin.com/answers/technology/information-technology/computers-software/TCH_ITS_CMP/179866-21879399?goback=%2Esrp_1_1204330946472_in

The Real Lizzy said...

Congratulations on your retirement and keep on posting on this great blog.

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