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Excite@Home
Catharsis

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By SheNasty
September 27, 2001

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I'm struggling with two things in making this post. First, I too was RIF'd (i.e. optimized) today and have a number of observations about the company. As you may guess, my opinion may be somewhat tainted at this particular moment, but I do believe it to be more objectively based than subjective. Second, this is my first post and I have *A LOT* of ground that I'd like to cover. Once I better get the hang of this thing, I'll see about a second or third post. Also, why not provide some insight to those hardcore stockholders who still visit the boards? I'd love to give everybody the low-down (no pun intended) on what I saw and experienced over the past three years of my life.

The Average Worker on the Broadband Side - I worked on the broadband side of the house where the diversity of the common worker varies widely. There you'll find people from all corners of the world--India, China, Greece, Canada, Norway, Japan, England, Australia, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Germany, and the rest of the continental U.S.--of all different ages and backgrounds. Some have bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees. Some don't. Some are morning people, and some are night-owls. For the most part, they are just a regular group of folks with a great international flavor.

If I had to make a generalization, most everybody works very hard. In a lot of cases, there are those who are always thinking about work. Whether it's the drive to/from work, at dinner, during the movie, on a date, working out at the now closed gym, on vacation, or relaxing on the weekend, work is constantly on the mind. How could things be better? Why do it this way when we can leverage a pre-existing solution? How can we make things better for Operations or the 1st tier support crew or the guys & gals sitting in the operations centers working outages or the surfer at home? What if I made some tweaks to my code? Why does our browser suck and everybody know it but us? How does this impact the bottom line and our customers? Yes, customers are internal, as well as the MSO's, and finally, the end-user surfing at home.

In addition to thinking at all hours of the day, people certainly work all hours of the day, too. I'm so glad that I went in to work on my project this weekend. ;-) Of course, upper-management was parked there...a dead giveaway... but I digress. So, I have a simply story from just two weekends ago that illustrates my point. Early Saturday morning (3am-ish), a coworker of mine received a page about a problem on one of the systems this person "owns". Logging in remotely to take a look at the problem, they see that there is a mail from another employee or internal customer inquiring about the problem just minutes before! My coworker identifies and resolves the problem and decides to provide a resolution e-mail to the internal customer. Five minutes later, at approximately 3:30am, the person responds with a thank-you note. Yes, people work all hours of the day without question and without fanfare. Those types are typically the ones who love their job and who are committed to excellence.

Since I've watched in total angst over the months as people have posted about insane and simply preposterous employee benefits, I feel very strongly inclined to voice my opinion at this point in time. No, there have never been free massages and steam baths or carwashes. It sounds as ludicrous now as it did then. Nothing in life is free, and Silicon Valley is no exception. Perhaps the early parties were extravagant, but the average employee was not and has never been lavished upon with free services. Soft-drinks are probably the closest thing that comes to mind, but I take issue with people who would define soft-drinks as lavish. The same rule that applies to people who work in dessert shops applies to free Coke. You can only drink so much before you give it up completely. Finally, I didn't know whether to choke or to laugh when I asked the on-site car detail people about pricing. $150 for a wash and wax job? Dry-cleaning costs? Forget it. To anybody who thinks employees had/have it easy, think again. I can only try to sympathize with the poor lost soul who would make such baseless and ill-founded statements. Otherwise, it would have to be considered an insult. Realistically, the only thing any of these sorts of perks do is help make the work environment easier and what does that mean to the paranoid employee? You get more time and productivity out of your salaried workforce. Who knows if that was the original intent...

As promised, I have written quite a bit and have not even scratched the surface. For some reason, I felt like the employees have always gotten the raw deal whether it be at work or here on the boards and wanted to address them first. Some of the negative posts stick out in my mind and have been bottled up for a while, and so I'm doing the cathartic thing: writing. As W says, "Make no mistake", the employees have contributed very little if any to the plight and demise of Excite@Home. Quite the opposite. The problem has always been management. Patti inherited a mess, my friends, and I'm impressed with what's been accomplished to date. Really, I am. If she and her new team of management can pull this thing out, it would be phenomenal and a true testament to her value. Yeah, the $1 million bonus is a bitter pill, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to past management figureheads. If she does indeed have her day, most of the remaining long-term investors will think it was worth the coin.

That said, I got RIF'd today and feel it was an extremely poor decision. Was it a surprise? You bet your ass it was. My former coworkers are still trying to make sense of it. Was I really part of a corporate RIF? No, I wasn't. Management continues to cull out people all across the organization. I don't care what the press release says, today's layoffs were not just organizational decisions.

Personal feelings aside, what did I observe today? I observed the same management structure that has always existed executing on poor decisions. They continue to exist because Patti's new circle of management can only observe and assess so much in a short time period. Throw in the greater stress of dealing with cash-flow problems and financial surprises that continue to arise, and perhaps it's not all that difficult to understand that they've had to make a decision to put some good faith in their direct reports. Only time will reveal if that faith was properly directed. Chris Hjelm and Matt Jones look good so far. Don't be hasty in your assessments. They've only been there a minute.

Should people desire, I can continue to share. After all, I've got time and opinion. Future subjects include: Hossein. The Hero Phenom. You've Got Mail.

Peace...

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