I generally don’t get too personal here, but I thought I’d chat a little about why I’ve been so absent lately. As this will likely be of interest to only a few of you, I’ll hide it after the jump.
The past five years I’ve had a day job at Thomson Reuters. Typesetting (which is essentially using the copy –> paste function all day) and copyediting boring accounting guidebooks. It was easy, it paid enough to get by (sort of), and I made a lot of great friends, including the members of Writer’s Ink, without whom my writing would be, well, nonexistent as opposed to mediocre. One of them occasionally hands me a baby, which can be taken as either a sign of trust or an attempt on my life, I’m not sure which.
It was downtown, which I loved, and this particular wholly owned subsidiary had a lot of little perks like free drinks, flexible scheduling, and monthly parties and what not that made it a genuine pleasure to work there. Thanks to the nature of the work and the laid back atmosphere, I had a lot of opportunity to write, of which I regularly took advantage. I would guess that most of my published stories (and many of the posts here) had their genesis at my little windowed cubicle on the 13th floor of Burnett Plaza. I would sum it up as “comfortable.”
Corporations being what they are, a lot of the perks were gradually trimmed. Bonuses were stripped away, reduced from significant quarterly cash dispersal to “hey, take the afternoon off.” Of course, while they are doing this, various higher ups and memos touted the massive amounts of money the company was making and how many new little companies they were gobbling up.
Then the layoffs began. First they stop replenishing natural attrition, then trim the temporary employees (who, by the way, were generally treated like second-class citizens, though I imagine that’s not unique to Thomson), and then they start picking off a few employees here and there.
As this is going on, we kept getting more memos about how successful the company is, and some free swag like Thomson Reuters bags or water bottles or whatever. Big heavy full-color brochures that tell us about how great we are. An executive flew into town for a big pep talk meeting in which he cracks jokes about his hotel, which happens to be the nicest, most expensive hotel in the city. After a professionally produced 20-minute video about how great we are. At this meeting was at least one person who’d just been told this was her last week. This was back in November or December.
Then a few months ago (five, maybe?) the bomb hits: they’re moving some operations to India. It’s all very vague, and there are no hints as to how many will be laid off, or when, or what the ultimate goal is. There would be jobs lost, and we were supposed to be training our Indian replacements despite having fewer resources to even do our regular jobs. There are implications that plans are still being made, etc, etc. This is all bullshit. There were layoffs within a month or so. An executive showed up to (not) answer questions in person, implying that layoffs would be in a couple of months. Two weeks later there were more layoffs.
I should say our particular department was not hit as hard as some of the others. We lost only a few when others were gutted. We hear all this second-hand, of course, because the company is still being absolutely tight-lipped about everything. I also don’t expect there would be more people let go before the end of the year – like any publishing company Thomson has a crush at the end of the year as it pushes out the bulk of its products to make the fourth quarter revenue.
However, pretty much the day of the original announcement, I updated my resume and started sniffing around for a new job. The way the job environment is, I expected there wouldn’t be much available and that it would take me ages to actually get anything. I figured I’d still be looking in January when the company made its money and decided to trash the rest of our department, but at least I’d have a jump on things and be prepared.
Then a few weeks ago I was contacted by a law firm here in Fort Worth and they quickly offered me a position. It lacks some of the perks and benefits, but it pays more and, more importantly, it’s stable. This is a company that’s growing, has local interests, and isn’t subject to the whims of a global conglomerate.
(Well, it sort of is, but that’s another story. There is a photo to illustrate this that I want to take in the new building, but haven’t had a chance. The caption will read, “Monument to Human Folly.”)
At any rate, these aren’t people who are going to shuttle my job off to a country ruined by centuries of Imperialism and call it an “opportunity for a global community.”
So I have taken this new job, and am in the midst of the second week there. It’s less copyediting so much as double-checking lawyers’ work, which I suppose makes me a paralegal now. This is a pretty significant shift for me; I’ve been in the publishing business for a good seven or so years now, and I liked the idea of that. I can’t think of myself as working in publishing anymore, at least not professionally. It’ll take some adjustment. Aside from all the usual hectic stress of adjusting to a new job, it’s one that requires more attention and focus, and thus my contributions here may be limited for a while. I’ll have to adjust my whole schedule and start making more time for writing outside of the office.
I don’t hold anything against the people I worked with at Thomson Reuters, and it was far from an easy decision. I wish them the best of luck. In a way I kind of wish I’d been able to stick around to see the dissolution. I’m sure a non-fiction book about outsourcing, written by someone in the middle of it, training his or her replacements and coping with all the fear and paranoia and despair in the resulting atmosphere, would make for a best-seller.