Saturday, July 22, 2006

Tom's Graduation Party (also publishing Hail to the Chief)

Err, I had a post that I have been mulling over since May 23, 2006, and here it is:

Hail to the chief, he's the chief and he needs hailing...

I almost wrote, "It's always bittersweet when a co-worker leaves." Cliches are the moldy bread and stale butter of bad writers everywhere, I read once. Let me try that again: every time someone leaves, the entire office craps their collective pants. We rely on each other, and when a good worker goes, regardless of the reason, your guts start to churn.

They're good at their job, sure, and they're also good friends. We work hard, we play hard, we drink hard, blah blah blah. Everyone's got a nickname. My co-worker Tom's nickname is "Chief."

In our office, it's traditional to bring in donuts on your last day. Send an email around, gather your peeps, and shake hands goodbye. It takes about a year for people to get up to speed, and more than half the people hired are gone in six months. I've been there 4 1/2 years, so I've seen people come and go.

Today, "the Chief" brought in his donuts. He had been with the company for over 12 years, and had been getting his Masters in Accounting over at our mutual alma mater, the University of Houston, on the sly. I'm still reeling. We lose people to graduate programs a lot, but this is different. This isn't a 24-year-old single woman straight out of college who needs a year of business experience before heading back to get her MBA or a 25-year-old single workaholic alcoholic who wants to take the Bar exam.

The Chief is 47, happily married for 18 years, with 3 kids. If we can't keep a family man who is basically a lifer around, what hope do we have of keeping the young turks? They're gone. They're gone out the door, gone like Gondwanaland, and gone down the American river, which rolls eternally but is never the same water twice.

My department is full of computer consultants who travel nationally and internationally to install our company's business management software. The Chief supervised teams of installers in Mexico for years. That's YEARS, people. He had 6 people reporting directly to him on launches with International clients going up on totally unfamiliar software including extensive data conversion. Seriously, the Chief had a decade of experience doing that and is going to break even with a position that's basically entry level accounting, with good chances of making crazy money in the future.

We have 9 open full-time jobs and 6 open part-time jobs. Where are those people? They're not getting killed by an axe murderer between the front door and the recruiting office, are they?

A momentary pause in demand has more of my peers back from the road and stuck in the office. They're using this time to ramp up their efforts to get interviews and jump ship. If they all bring in donuts at the same time, it's going to be a rough autumn. Heck, it'll be a rough winter -- remember, it takes a year to make someone competent to do their job here. Anyone we hire today is useless until Thanksgiving at best.

The Chief and I are staying in touch. Heck, I've given and loaned his family a stack of board games and card games. I hope whatever I decide to do, whenever I decide to do it, I make the transition as smooth as he did.

Great work, Chief. We'll miss you, and thanks for the donuts."


As it developed, we did hire more people. I referred fellow Thursday-game-nighter R.J. but after some grueling interviews, he ended up getting another job instead.

Today Lee and I took the girls over to Tom's house, ate snacks, and celebrated his graduation. Tom, his wife Oma, and their kids Chris, Amanda, and Sara were there. Also present were lots of his friends, and I ended up talking to a nice lady named Trisha, who owned Ticket To Ride. As it developed, her daughter took classes at school from one of my old Houston Gamers buddies.

Tom's son Chris and I finally got to get in a couple of games of Magic: The Gathering. I had pointed Chris at a free tutorial available online, and provided him with stacks of commons that I wasn't using at the moment. He built some test decks, and was actually playing with a friend he had taught when I arrived. As Lee and I got our plates of snacks, they finished up, and his friend built a new deck on the fly and started playing.

His friend had to go, and so I finished out that game with Chris. After that, I broke out one of my own decks... which is goofy and only moderately degenerate. It involves Future Sight, Tolarian Academy, and a lot of wizards. Chris shows good judgment, and I'm impressed by how much of the game he's researched on his own.

I ended up calling the positions for a few pre-teen girls and my wife playing Twister as Cori roamed on the floor, and Alex spun the spinner in a rousing game of Don't Wake Daddy. Meanwhile, Oma and Trisha finished out a game of Scrabble...

I gave Chris another Magic card to add to the cards he already got from me: a Treasure Trove... woo-hoo an uncommon that gives reuseable drawing power.

We headed back and the girls went to bed almost immediately.

Gamecount: Individual game sessions played for the year = 127, New game titles played for the year = 20.


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