My Work Journal


On August 8th, 2002, I joined the staff of Bankruptcy Services, LLC, as an employee.  This was my first job in years, perhaps 15 or more years.   All my adult life I have worked as an applications software developer, first as a Programmer, then as a Systems Analyst, then as a PC guru, then as a database applications developer for PCs, then as a PC Consultant. 

I received no job title at BSI, nor did I have a clear idea what my duties would be (more "operational than technical", but I didn't know what that meant until it was too late).  But pretty soon it became apparent to me that I was disappointing my boss.  He wanted me to become able to substitute for the head technical honcho and to take over for him or my boss as needed.

On February 10th, the first day after I had spent six months at BSI, on my way to keep my Physical Therapy appt, I was stopped and asked to stop a while.  I was presented with a Warning Notice.  Failure to improve may even result in Termination.  Boy was I not pleasing my boss.  While the Bill of Particulars was for the most part right on, it was made up of rather tiny elements in the scheme of things at BSI (that people who got bonuses were as guilty of as I).

On Thursday, February 27th, the IT Dept. was alerted to the arrival the next day of a BIG job that would require late Friday evening and all weekend-long work, one day for each of us.  Mid-day Friday, 3 CD-ROM's of data were delivered to us to massage into our internal format.  I cancelled a date I had made early in the week as soon as it appeared.  By 5:00pm, we had begun to work on them.  By 11:00pm, I began to leave.  Before doing so, we had discussed the possibility that Sunday might not be necessary.  So we agreed, my technical manager and I, that he would call me Saturday evening or Sunday morning, either way.  I made sure he had my home phone (in addition, I'm listed in the phone book under my real name).  By Sunday morning at 10:00 there was still no call.  At 10:30am or 11:00 I called him twice leaving a message on his pager and on his cell-phone to call me back and let me know what was going on.  I heard nothing all day long.  But I had a sinking feeling that I was being set up.  The next day I was greeted with, "where were you?"  I explained the phone connection.  All day long I waited to be called into a meeting to be told "you're not working out, we have to let you go."  Nothing happened.  It was ignored.  I can only imagine that it will be added to my list of liabilities chronicled in the Warning Notice.  To be honest, ever since the surprising Warning Notice, I have secretly wished to be fired as it would give me time and energy to look for different work.  But I have done nothing to give anyone cause, not even taken an hour lunch away from my desk.

Which doesn't mean that I didn't want to get fired.  I could not afford to quit but I sure would welcome getting fired!

After having worked at this voluntary slave labor camp for six months, I stopped being nice.  I stopped making an effort to avoid being fired.  So, one day, after having worked the previous day until after midnight, I called in at 8:30 that I'd be in late that day.  When I arrived at 11:00, boy were they pissed.  I had not come in early to finish the job!  Independent of the fact that I left instructions for someone to take it over.

In front of everyone, my boss said to me: so, what are you going to do about it (work 24 hours if the job called for it).  I retorted, just as arrogantly: what are YOU going to do about it!  Boy, did he nearly split a gut!  So he stormed into the Operations manager's office.  I was called in, asked again what I intended to do.  I don't recall if I was responsive or not.  But within a few minutes I was officially fired!  Hallelujah!  Free at last, free at last, thank god almighty I am free at last.  As part of a generous one month's severance package, I had to sign a paper that included my promise not to say anything bad about them to anyone, now or in the future.  I had it rewritten, to make no untrue remarks about them, effectively nullifying their absurd attempt to muzzle me.

One time, as I crossed the street on my way to a dental appointment which I scheduled for lunch time, one of the three owners, Ron Jacobs, crossing the street headed back to work, asked me, in a serious if not accusatory manner: "where are YOU going?"  As though "I'm paying you for a full day's work; it begins before 9:00am and it ends sometime between 6:30 and 1:00am.  Lunch? have it at your desk."  My interpretation, of course.

The nominal head of the IT department is Herb Baer.  He is, last I saw, 100 lbs overweight (his assertion, probably an exaggeration).  He is married to the daughter of one of the owners.  IOW, he's working for his father-in-law, and one suspects he may expect to inherit, etc.  But the company was bought out by Epiq Systems of Kansas City.  I don't know what this will do to his dreams.  He claims always to have been a "successful"  manager in all of his jobs.  He repeated this to me at least four or five times.  I never asked him: "why, then, work for your father-in-law?"  To be honest, I don't know which connection came first: his wife or his father-in-law.  Herb does not smile, he does not laugh.  He tried a few times to crack some jokes but it didn't last.  Easier to stay dour and sour.  Before his wife gave birth to their second child, he still stayed late; I believe work was his life.  For a while, he left at 5:00; I think, and that's all it is is a guess, that his wife threatened him, get home for your new child or else.  He surely wasn't happy at work, but I think he was happier being unhappy and spreading his bad vibes.  Herb has a big inferiority complex; he's a natural at belittling.  Do I have anything good to say about Herb?  Yeah, he's smart, he's technically sharp, he has a good looking face if you cut 10 pounds off of it and slap a smile on it, and you can learn something from him if you don't mind being treated with contempt in the process.  He works long hours, but as I have said, I think he enjoys more being unhappy at work than being with his family (just a thought, suggested by his actions).

The technical head of the IT department is Scott Sussman.  He reminds me of Mad magazine's Alfred E Newman, what me worry?  And he wears a fanny-pack.  OK, this is my problem, but I was never able to get over how he presented himself.  He was a typing whiz, but he wrote spaghetti code and ignored every standard I ever encountered for writing readable code.  He was smart, indispensable too (he had written single-handedly the system the company depended upon), but his communication skills were something less than poor.  When he had something negative to say, he'd email us one long sentence of complaint.  Well, it wasn't really one sentence but it had no Capital letters and no periods (no commas, apostrophes, end of line or paragraph either).  When he wanted to say: you goofed, he'd say "whats the deal," never bothering to clarify what he was suggesting.  And rare it was that he had time to discuss his comments.  In addition, he gave classes on how to do our jobs.  These classes began at 5:30.

Maybe I'm a prima donna, I have always had jobs that were 9:00 to 5:00 with occasional over-time (never compensated) (never abused until BSI, either).  I once interviewed for a job with a Big Eight Accounting firm: their hours were 8:30 to 5:30.  I didn't allow the interview to go all the way.

If you have interviewed at Bankruptcy Services, you'd best go in with your eyes open: you will not like it, unless you don't mind being treated like someone owned.

If you're considering working at BSI, perhaps these warnings will prepare you for what you'll discover: no surprise no disappointment.  On the other hand, should you want more details please feel free to contact me.  Mail me.