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I quit my job three years ago today

Monday, March 01, 2010

Time really does fly when you're having fun. It was three years ago today that I quit my job at semiconductor test equipment manufacturer Teradyne, Inc. in Southern California to head north and then head further north a couple years after that ... we still never really look back.

The job market must be pretty awful for U.S.-based engineers these days. As I understand it, the facility where I worked in Agoura Hills that, at the peak of the tech boom had over 2,000 employees, is now down to about 10 or 20 percent of that.

I'm glad I only think about thinks like this once a year - on the anniversary of my departure in 2007 when the following post was offered up. It 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: Still no position in TER or BRCM at time of writing.


Anonymous said...

Tim said: "The job market must be pretty awful for U.S.-based engineers these days. As I understand it, the facility where I worked in Agoura Hills that, at the peak of the tech boom had over 2,000 employees, is now down to about 10 or 20 percent of that."

But Microsoft, Intel, ... tell Congress there is a skills shortage - that the US need more engineers and software developers - and therefore need to import even more guest workers ... as if offshore outsourcing is not doing enough damage on its own to careers in these fields.

Anonymous said...

You don't work?

Tim said...

Not really... I don't really think of this as work - certainly not when you consider how it pays...

chwee said...

Kudos... though to be fair, there are still good jobs in technology that can't be outsourced - e.g. sales engineers. I put in a few good years as a software sales engineer and always enjoyed solving problems and helping clients. But left all that and high cost NoCal in 2004 to raise 4 kids in a more conducive environment... so I hear ya...

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