Thursday, March 27, 2008

I Don't Want to Work at HP


"Soporte" does not translate directly to "Support" in a technical sense. It can have meanings about propping up or holding in place, but in this context it is much closer to translating to "Tolerate". This marketing image may be more honest than HP intended.

Anyway, the local HP office apparently freaked out recently and demanded that a bunch of different agencies find someone immediately to fix some of their broken . . . something. I don't know.

These recruiters have then been calling me and going into some speech about "an exciting opportunity at a leading computer manufacturer in the Houston area".

But I don't want to work at HP. I've got a list of places I won't go to work. The list has grown over time, but once a company makes that list there is no getting off it.  

Long, long ago, I worked there. It was so long ago it wasn't HP at the time, it was Compaq. HP still produces Compaq-branded computers, but that acquisition merger was all about picking up the "Proliant" name for servers.

HP, pre-Compaq, made a decent server with very little market share, and the name "Compaq Proliant" was associated already with a good server that was already in most of the data centers in the US. That re-branding into "HP Proliant" has kept the HP server unit afloat.

Probably afloat in black printer ink ($2,701.52 per gallon, by the way) but afloat no less. Also, human blood is $1,514.79 per gallon, so it may be more economical to print out emails using human blood.

I like to put little budget tips for geeks in here every once in a while.

Anyway, I worked in a building in the center of the complex with a great manager and a fun group of technicians. I don't remember what we did, exactly. I think it involved web pages.

The work itself was unimportant, since most of my time there (exactly one week) was spent discussing who had just been fired laid-off and listening to my manager plan his annual team cook-out.

On Friday of my first and last week there, the entire floor was "invited" to lunch with the business planning committee. It was delightful. They had transformed a common conference room into a common conference room with Subway sandwiches in it and a laptop connected to a projector thrilled us all with an exciting display of the shooting stars screen saver.

I know. But this was long ago, as I said, and people still used that screen saver because it looked "like hyperspace". At the time, we were still reeling as a people from the inexplicable popularity nosedive Hootie and the Blowfish had taken, so we grabbed our amusement where we could find it.

This meeting lunch was my first in-person experience with an official corporate cheerleader. He scared me more than a little, to be honest.

His Vaseline-coated smile was seemingly endless, though my team was split over whether this was a standard pep talk or a catered "pack up your stuff and leave" speech. We all knew that HP would be buying the company at any moment, so tensions were high. It was not a good sign that all of the sandwiches were turkey or chicken.

As he moused over and de-activated the screensaver, we were shown a standard Power Point header page with the date on it and giant text reading "STATUS".

He launched into a talk about how great Compaq's web sales were in the previous quarter and paged to a graph of multiple vertical lines. The graph was labeled "Web Sales Growth". The bar on the far left, broken in the middle because it didn't fit on the page, was marked "Dell". Next to that, half height and not in need of a break to fit on the page was "Compaq". After that, the bars became smaller and smaller. "Gateway". "E-Machines". "IBM". "Toshiba". And on and on.

"As you can see," he raved,"Our sales were ahead of estimates last quarter and we are on target to beat projections for next quarter as well."


He pressed on,"So if everyone keeps up the good work, Compaq will remain a market leader."

Silence again.

"Keep in mind, these figures are for growth, an indication of future marketability and long-term job satisfaction for everyone."

I thought, for a second, I heard crickets.

Then someone behind me asked the cheerleader what the tiny bar on the far right said, because the bar was so small it required a smaller font. And that bar was small. Like a tiny line of dark blue, which made reading the text even harder.

The poor guy made a show of looking and not squinting and for the briefest instant his smile fell before he answered:

"It says 'HP'".

Instantly, the silence was replaced with wailing and cursing and the still air was split with (and I'm not kidding here) with flying turkey and chicken Subway sandwiches in every direction. No one was spared. No mercy was asked, and none was offered. Every person in the room was both a food-flinging weapon and a target.

I thank God every day someone decided against the hot meatball subs.

I managed to make it into the hallway with only a tiny bit of mayo on my shirt and I went back to my desk, gathered my belongings, and called my recruiter on the way out to let them know that I would not be back.        

So, these past couple of weeks when I get calls offering half of market rate to work at HP I have no hesitation in telling them that I am in no way interested in working for HP. And offering an extra couple of dollars an hour is not worth the time for either of us.

The calls have been frequent enough that I'm answering them at my desk in front of people.

But between the thought of blue screens of death and "Hit F1 to continue" endless boot loops and the possibility that I could get more mayo on my shirt, I'm not willing to take the chance.

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