Sunday, September 28, 2008

Finally a new post to this blog!!

Lately I have not been that active posting to this blog. It certainly has not been because I have not had much to write about. In fact just the opposite. I have actually lots to comment on and I have often written new posts in my head while out riding or commuting on the train but they never seem to make to My thoughts have still been expressed but mostly in emails and phone calls to friends.

Here is the list of topics that I could have written about late summer and early fall:

  • Lost a job
  • Found a job
  • The presidential election
  • The meltdown of the US Financial Services Industry which contributed to my loosing a job
  • The bailout of the US Mortgage Banking Industry
  • Bottlenose dolphins in the Navesink River
  • I could have wrote about various bike rides but almost everything has been covered by previous posts so the urge to describe the ride is just not there

2008 has been a rough year in the financial services industry. I was lucky enough to have a project for most of the year but I knew that things were getting bad. The project ended in the early part of the summer and I made it know that I would I work on just about anything. I even agreed to work in Hong Kong on a data center relocation. Since the Hong Kong project was scheduled to start August 1 I most of the time leading up to the start date working on small projects and business development. In July I started to get the feeling that the Hong Kong project was not as close to being signed as I thought. August 1 came and went. I started to get sent on interviews for roles at clients such as The Reserve and Lehman Brothers. Not a good sign. In mid August I found myself out looking for a new job.

Being let go from BusinessEdge was both a tragedy and a relief. It was a tragedy that caused a panic because I did not have anything lined up and I did not have much time to work with. It was a relief because I did not really have much of a future at BusinessEdge. I had lost confidence that they would be able to provide me with the kind of projects and career building that I required. It was obvious the the EMC merger was not working out as was expected. The week after I left the head of the Financial Services Industry Practice left as well. This was not the company that I wanted to travel to Hong Kong for six months or even longer.

I was actually laid off on a Monday but I knew it was coming on the previous Friday. The whole process only confirmed what I had long suspected. That I was as important to BusinessEdge as the laptops, chairs and desks. I had spent the week working on business development work and it looked like were getting close to landing a small project migrating an AS400 application. I was asked to take a couple of days off while a couple of projects were signed (one of which at Lehman Brothers). I was then asked go to Lehman and I had a meeting at RBS on Thursday so I agreed to take Friday off (consultants taking a vacation is a way to make the profits or lack off look better because the time gets booked differently). I had a bunch of errands to run on Friday and since it was a vacation day I was not sitting around monitoring my email and cell phone. I noticed that I had missed a call on my cell so when I listened to the message I knew that I was about to become an ex BusinessEdge employee. A meeting was schedule for 4 PM and then rescheduled for Monday at 11 AM.

Lossing a job brings all kinds of emotions. I wanted to be pissed off but who should I be pissed off at? The anger only brings frustration because there is really anything to be angry at. I could only blame myself. However, the BusinessEdge representative did provide me with something that I could use to vent. When I dialed into the meeting on Monday at 11 AM I was kept on hold for almost 15 minutes. I listened to music wondering if it was going to happen now. Had a project been found for me? Did I get a stay of execution? After about 10 minutes I get a call from one of the admins informing me that Alexis would be on the line in about 5 minutes. So at about 11:15 Alexis and the HR representative got on the line. The excuse for being late was that she was parking her car which really did not fly.

This call could have been handled so much better. The first part of the call was spent explaining the tough market place for consulting in the Financial Services Industry. Since this was from a company that was trying to sell to Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch right up to the end there was not really much they could say to me. I really wanted to get to the bottom line as soon as possible. They told me what the package was which was a little better than I expected but not even close to being what it should have been. I spent the next couple of minutes negotiating and making the call as uncomfortable as possible while remaining professional. I realized that I was not getting anywhere so I decided to end the conversation and move on to executing my strategy that I had put together over the weekend. They still have not paid me my outstanding expenses.

I understand why companies feel the need to cut resources (otherwise known as people) during economic downturns but in many ways it is the wrong strategy. What actually happens is that it causes a downward spiral. It is not just one company cutting but whole industries. The feeling is that profits can be boosted by less people but in an economy that has been driven by consumer spending the opposite actually happens. Cuts are followed by further cuts. Some companies survive and make to to the next up cycle but many more make the long march to bankruptcy and mergers. I actually think the best strategy is make better hiring decisions on during the good times and hold on to your staff during the down times. Profits will suffer but the death spiral might be avoided because more people are working.

By the end of the first week I had my first face to face interview. At this point I would have taken anything but knew the job was probably not right for me. It was another consulting company that was dedicated to working in the Financial Services Industry. While I was told that they had plenty of work (this seems to be a theme) I suspected that they were starting to see the downturn in the market place as well. In any case I was happy to get an interview under my belt and I made some new contacts.

I spent most of the job search reaching out to contacts. I found this to be the most useful. The recruiters that troll the job boards do not seem to be as useful these days. I started to pick out the ones that I would use. It was not uncommon for me to be hit up for the same position by 6 or 7 recruiters. There was one job that I got recruited for at least twice a week and yet I never got an interview with the client. The fact that I was drawing so many recruiters meant that I was a good fit on paper so I could not understand why I was not getting an interview.

As time went by I started to develop a strategy. Since I did not have much of a severance to fall back on and unemployment was not going to cut it I decided I would try and find an contract as an independent consultant in the short term and look for something more permanent in the long term. I had created an LLC a couple of years ago and I was thinking that this might be a good time to use it. Being let go from BusinessEdge had created an opportunity because I did not have to make the decision to quit a steady paycheck to take on the risk of running my own consulting company. The decision had been made for me. I was now able to be in control of my own destiny.

I had a phone interview with an IBM reseller who was looking for a technical salesman to sell into the financial service area concentrating on Hedge Funds. The product looked interesting and it would have been a great opportunity for me. The interview went well and I was told that I would get an offer the next week when we met face to face. I left next Tuesday open for this. However, on the Monday I was contacted by one of my contacts that had moved to the health care (Life Sciences) industry and he had a role he was looking to fill. He wanted to meet ASAP. So I schedule a meeting for 4 PM on Tuesday with my contact and a 1 PM lunch meeting with the recruiter with the IBM reseller. At the lunch meeting I found out that an offer would not be coming from the IBM reseller due to budget reasons. At least I got a free lunch out if it.

I thought the 4 PM meeting was going to be an interview. However, the offer was made I accepted and we setup a start date. It turns out the project is perfect for me. The company is outside of the Financial Services Industry and the office is close to New York's Penn Station which makes for an easy commute. While I am not completely out of the woods yet things are looking up. For the most part this is a happy ending.

I definitely have an opinion on the Presidential Election. I have not decided who I am going to vote for. I have agreements and disagreements with both candidates. I do feel that each would be an improvement over the current administration. I am not sure why either candidate would want the job but I am glad that at least some one does because it is not going to be easy and there is a good chance that the next president could be a one term president because it is going to require do some very unpopular things to fix the country.

The meltdown of the US economy. I have heard the statement "we never saw this coming" used a lot. I think there are lots of people who saw this coming. I do think that no one has an idea how it will end. The crisis will pass but will it be a complete fix or just some that tides us over until next crisis.

I am finding myself agreeing with the Republican Right Wing on the bailout proposal. I think it is very telling that the Republicans are breaking ranks with the White House. I am not sure of the reasoning for this. However, I think that the bailout will end up not helping anything beyond cleaning up the balance sheets of some badly managed banks. I actually think the money would be better spent buying up the underlying real estate rather than the mortgage obligations themselves. This would most likely help everyone and might turn a profit as well. It would put the US government in the Real Estate business but it is much better than being in the derivative securities business. At least they would understand the assets.

I saw the dolphins in the Navesink River for the first time on last Sunday's 52 mile ride. There is a group that has been hanging out by the Oceanic Bridge. I stopped on the bridge as I was heading over to Atlantic Highlands. It is cool to see them swimming in the river. There were 3 of them in lock with each other. I drove by yesterday and I could see them from my car. Today I parked at the Post Office in Rumson and walked across the bridge. Of course since I had my camera with me they were not around. This week one of the younger ones was found dead on the shore of the Navesink. There are a lot of people pushing for intervention to move them out to the Atlantic before the cold weather arrives. I am not sure this needed. However, the construction that is happening on the Highlands bridge could be trapping them in the river. However, they are swimming close to all the fishing boats so there is no reason that they could not swim under the bridge and out to see in the evening or early morning. My vote would be to leave them alone. They are wild animals that can make there own decisions. Not any different that the wild deer we have running all over.

No bike rides this weekend. The weather was crappy both days. Today was the Twin Lights ride that starts in Highlands. Part of the ride comes through Holmdel. Inspite of the weather there are quite a few riders. They are making me feel like a wimp.

I think this post gets me caught up. I wish I had some pictures to add but it has not worked out.

One last thing. As I was waiting to pick up my dog from the groomers in Red Bank I saw a flier for a fund raiser for the prevention of Breast Cancer called Bowling 4 Boobs. The pink paper and cute title caught my eyes. It sounds like a fun event for a good cause. If you have the opportunity check it out.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ended the Summer the same way I started it. Riding the Langster

My Specialized Tarmac Comp has not come back from the repair shop since I busted a spoke on a ride last weekend. It seems that the spokes on the stock Shimano wheels are hard to get. Unfortunately, I do not have a spare set of wheels. What I do have is a spare bike but it is a 2007 Specialized Langster single speed road bike.

Once the Tarmac came into my life the Langster was sentenced to spend most to the summer in the garage. The first day I took the Lanster out this past week was on Tuesday. I went out around 4:30 PM and I rode about 25 miles. I swung by Holmdel Park to hook with the Tuesday Evening regulars. I was not sure if I was going to ride. I was not in the mood to be dropped. However, I decided to go for it. I did get dropped once because I was not paying attention and I got myself on the back of pack when we went over the RT 18 Bridge. Everyone picked up speed on the downhill after the bridge and by the time I realised what had happened they were too far away and I was spinning out. They let me catch up at the next hill and I made sure to stay with them for the rest of the ride.

I had forgot how much I like riding the Langster. So far I have rode every day but Wednesday and Saturday. Wednesday was a rest day and Saturday we had tropical storm Hanna blow through.

Today I got a 52 mile ride to Long Branch in. I wanted to see the ocean. Turned out it was great day for surfers. The waves were the largest I have ever seen. They were almost freakish.

I will have the Tarmac back by the middle of the week. The Langster will probably be back in its spot in the back of the garage. Then again maybe not.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Spoke Blow Out

Since it is a holiday weekend I am feeling the pressure to be family oriented so I decided to forgo the group ride for a quick 40 miler in the area. Started out by riding some of the hills in the area and then heading out on the Tuesday Evening ride route. I added a couple of miles to the end of the route.

As I as making my way back along Middletown Road I broke a spoke on my rear wheel. I thought that I had picked up some junk from the road. This is one of the things I am not prepared to handle on the road. I was not that far from home but it would have been a long walk in road shoes. I made the call home to get a ride back. I still got 38 miles in for the day. It could have been worse and I could have been much further away. I have been carrying enough money to call a cab if I ever do need a ride back. I have to add the phone numbers for some of the local cab companies to my cell phone.

While I was waiting for my ride I made some calls around to the usual bike shops. Since I am unemployed I do not have enough money to buy a new set of wheels. I am a little concerned since I am afraid that some of the other spokes are ready to go as well.

I ended up taking my bike to Bike Haven. It looks like the Tarmac is going to be out of commission all week and I am going to be riding the Langster which has not seen the light of day since late spring.

The hilliest roads in the area are a little rough and I hit a pot hole hard last week so that may have been the root case. Cliff at Bike Haven as me how much I weighed. When I told him 180 lbs he said that I am about 10 lbs too heavy for bike riding. I have actually dropped some weight over the summer. I have been living on Muscle Milk and I am now consistently below 180. I am going to see if I can get below 170 but I am not sure if I can.

All the hurricane activity in the southern part of the US is creating some of the best weather we have had all summer. I should get the Langster out for a couple of good rides. I am even thinking of riding with the Tuesday night group on the single speed.