This morning I gave my badge back to the Boeing FSO. Lots of smiles and hand shakes, but a sad day all the same. Leaving anything you have been with for 3 years is difficult. In the spirit of my fellow techs (see Ray Ozzie or Lars) I wanted to write a letter to the world. I think as geeks we equate our passion as art and wether or not the world agrees, code is a thing of beauty. Putting this to paper will help me evaluate this decision in the coming months to see if it really was a good one :)
People usually leave a manager or team, not a company. I hear that often when communicating with HR to the importance of being a good lead. I may be just the odd man out in that I am actually leaving the company. The culture is not conducive to my future growth for the 3 reasons listed below:
1 – Attitude and Aptitude diminish in returns as positions go higher
My career has always included the phrases “You are great” and “You need a degree.” I have been fortunate that throughout my tenure at the Boeing Company to have managers and leaders allowing me to excel and tear down those barriers. As I have progressed higher up the chain though, my life is a constant battle of titles and ratings. At some point in my psyche I imagined this would fade away as I continued to hit home-runs. That has not been the case. The degree means everything at this level and I am not willing to tie my career to a sheet of paper. My decision to earn a education will be strictly because I feel the desire to do so. I accept that I will never make as much as my colleagues who have devoted their time to collegial pursuits. Their perseverance and desire earns them that right. I expect though not to be put on hold or held back when my performance at work is stellar. College opens the doors, but it should not determine advancement. Let my attitude and aptitude do that.
2 – Benefits are disappearing
3+ years ago when I signed up for Boeing it was amazing what I was offered. My pay did not match those of other defense contractors, but I was given many benefits that augmented that discrepancy. In today’s world those benefits are falling quickly. Time off, health care, education for certifications, and pensions are bargaining chips for our shareholders. We are failing to attract or retain good talent because we aren’t competitive with our peers. I imagine this to be encyclical and I am watching this on a dip, but it angers me to see multiple acquisitions and expenditures at the sake of loosing good folks. I have a great manager who’s tagline sticks with me “Keep it Sold.” Boeing is just as much beholden to the people as they are to it. Boeings ability to “keep it sold” is quickly falling.
3 – We no longer build or innovate. We provide “solutions”
We do not make widgets anymore. Instead we build solutions and in the traditional world of the Cold War that made a lot of sense. Today our customers do not want 10 year solutions or technological marvels. Instead they desire simply to have a working solution. I do not fault Boeing as much as I fault our customers also, but as leadership we should standup and change that. Instead the same tactics are deployed and contract negotiations engaged. Products that are groundbreaking are quickly laden with unnecessary capabilities or stamped with a Boeing logo and sold twice market value. The morale of the troops dealing with the churn of RFI/RFP only to loose is daunting. There is something to be said for designing and building the better mouse trap, but we will never know. It occurred to me this evening that Legos have a lot to say about our solutions. Boeing has turned into automatic Lego-kit builders. We take building blocks engineered by others and put them together for the total package. Frankly we do a damn fine job too. Our customer though is being more engaged and involved to where they want small pieces for which they will put together. In the end it comes down to the problem of not knowing what the end result is. Countless programs I have been on start with no requirements since the customer really has no clue what they want to build. The days of the Moon and Polaris are behind us.
In the end I count my blessings for the things Boeing has afforded to me. The company has given just as much as I have given her. The words that will describe Boeing in my conversations will never be negative or dismissive. I am proud to have worked with the people and ecstatic to see the things we have accomplished. Its time to try something new and give either Boeing (or myself) time to course correct. I am moving to Wyle Labs to work on projects in-line with my Information Assurance and IT background. They are affording me the opportunity to excel without the degree and opening up some doors that were closed for me at Boeing. They impressed the heck out of me in the interview and their pursuit of my skills was bar none. I felt professionally refreshed hearing them talk about their work and views. I am not moving from DC and will be working near a metro finally! I can’t wait to do good things there
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- Nick Schmidt lives passionately in the digital world advising and advancing technology everywhere he goes. He has served in the US Air Force, been a self-employed consultant, a senior manager and chief engineer at Boeing, and now co-founding and running Spec Ops Technology. Decorated in his military and professional career you can find his work in the nations networks and across the web.