Wikinvest Wire

I quit my job two years ago today

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Wow. Time really does fly when you're having fun. It was two years ago today 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.

Little did we know we'd be moving again in two years - oh well.

Still no regrets - life couldn't be better.

With time comes perspective and this perspective is still very good.

The idea of being completely removed from today's labor market is probably one of the most under-appreciated aspects of our lives right now. The axe is swinging everywhere these days, including at my former employer. Some consideration was given to trying to endure another year or two there in order "volunteer" to be laid off (that worked successfully once before) but, alas, two years would have been far too long to wait.

This post from that last day as a cubicle dweller exactly two years ago is one of the few items 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. The only thing that has changed is the chart of stock prices.

* * *

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: Still no position in TER or BRCM at time of writing.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your move to a place you like. If everyone who complained about socal left, we would all be better off. Everyone is different.

Anonymous said...

Where did you decide to move to ?

Tim said...

That will be revealed this week...

Anonymous said...

Really looking forward to your "big unveil" next week! Hope you can give some details on why you picked OR instead of WA (or even NV), they're all looking better than CA at 10% unemployment and rapidly increasing taxes!

sk said...

well done and I'm part of the club - after 30 years in the biz, changing with the times, from scientific computng, thru process control, process management then as a DBA, then Office systems, then EIS systems, then Health Care EDI systems, and finally in decision support/Business Intelligence/Analytics with roles from systems programmer to director I finally had quits call on me ( laid off ) in Nov 2006.

Man was I glad - the last 10 years as the wage went from not just stagnant by in decline - I used to earn 160/hr in 1996 and I was down to 120/hr by 2006 - because of course of the pressure from Indian outsourcing which has been unrelenting ( btw, I'm tri-national and one of the nationalities is Indian ).

So, the last two years "out-of-work" has been wonderful. I trade for a living, always have taken it as seriously as I take everything else, have put in the hours and honestly the two years have been great - obviously financially(if one is short, it has been ridiculously easy to make money, to quote my Indian sailplaning CFI in Pune - you can throw a stone in the air and it will fly.

But, long term, there are profound consequences for the USA and the kids(15-35). Given how disconnected I feel with the governmental apparatus I simply say - "Not my problem".

Well done again for taking the plunge and lots of luck for the next two years.


Anonymous said...

In 1991, at the age of 45, I quit the working world. The Rat Race was over; the Rats Won. I never made boodles of $$$ but I made enough and saved enough. My wife saw my happiness and three years later, retired at the age of 38.

I never thought of this as retirement but that I had saved enough to purchase my freedom.

I live in a rural area in Nova Scotia, close by the sea where I sail my sailboat each summer. No crowds here. No Rats either.

Thanks, Hank, for writing WALDEN.

marku said...

Same story here.. My last job was at an HP printer division. I was lead systems troubleshooter for a massive printer project--weighed 680 lbs, had 22 motors and servos, 2 million + lines of code. Really interesting things could and did go wrong with it.

But in may of 07, HP offered early retirement and cash out of pensions to as many people as the payout would support. I barely scraped in under the requirements (age + YOS >= 65) but got in at the tail end. I was not really ready to retire, but figured it might be my last chance to get out the door with $$ instead of a boot in the butt.

That turned out to be wise. Thanks to stupid management over-promising results from the product, now the division is shut down with 90% layoffs.

I'm a good EE with excellent mechanical skills, and am sorry that as our country goes down the tubes, I am not contributing as I am capable of, but hey, management was so sure that overseas development was the way to go and they made me an offer I couldn't refuse.

I could hope that in the future I might help make something more useful than machines that turn douglas firs into corporate memos....

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