Web Log Entry #0082, Tuesday, September 16, 2003: Day 302
Anchorage Sunrise: 7:27am Sunset: 8:20pm High Temp: 58° Low Temp: 48°
Just as I was mentally preparing to wind down my work here and head home, it happened. The Governmental Agency canceled their contract with the Client. You may have seen the headlines in the news, except in those markets where it got bumped by Hurricane Isabel or the discovery of a 9-foot-long fossilized rodent. (Talk about ROUS!*. Can you imagine dealing with 9' rodents? I bet the Cave Persons had to use a whole sheet of plywood for the traps. I suppose some got a smilodon for a pet, which would take care of the giant rodents, but I'm sure problems arose when all the rodents were gone. Lesson: Never have a pet that's above you on the food chain.)
Where was I? Yes, the contract was canceled, so instead of being almost done, now there's a pile of work UNDOING all that has been carefully assembled over the last two years. It's not like they can flip a switch and turn everything off. It's more like buying a new house, financing a mortgage, arranging for utilities, and telling all your friends and family your new address, then at the last minute, deciding NOT to move! You wouldn't just ignore all those arrangements, and go back to your apartment. No, you'd have to do them again in reverse, but maybe have to find a NEW apartment and have to file ANOTHER change of address, but this analogy is breaking down, so I'm going to bail on it and go back to what I was talking about. Right now, the Client's management is scrambling to come up with a Plan. This Plan will define what parts will be undone, what parts will stay, and who will do the work.
Until they announce The Plan, we're in Contractor Limbo. We've been told to continue with what we were doing, although it's quite possible that most of what we're doing (and have done for the last year) will end up being scrapped. This is not the first time in my career that this has happened. In fact, many of the systems I've supported or projects I've worked on have ended up being thown away. Sometimes this does makes sense, such as old applications being maintained while their replacement applications are being developed. But a bunch of projects I've done have been canceled mid-stream and all the work written off. I've been on a process-improvement project that carefully documented a huge, dysfunctional process and developed a new, streamlined process recommendation, and the resulting documentation was boxed up and put "on hold," which is the project-management term for "never to be seen again." I've also worked on a quality-management team for a company that was sold before we could really do anything. It seems the company was more saleable if it had a quality-management program, even without actual quality improvements. I wish I had known that was the case earlier; wouldn't it be great to have a job without performance expectations? (Well, I think so.)
Don't think that I'm complaining; it's not my software accomplishments that I want to be remembered for. Right now, I'm really more concerned about WHERE I'm going to work. I'm bound by the Sacred Consultant's Code of Ethics not to bail on a project before it's done (Ha ha! I'm kidding; consultants don't have ethics!). Actually, it's my sacred Personal Desire for Food and Shelter that makes me unwilling to leave a paying job without another one to segue into. If they keep offering me money to stay here, it may outweigh the cold and oncoming winter. I've just passed ten months on a six-month contract, how much longer will it go on? Will the economy improve in Portland? Can I continue to avoid being eaten?
For the next few weeks, I'll go in to work, keep doing what I've been doing, and remember to be grateful that:
*Rodents of Unusual Size, but surely you remember that from "Princess Bride"?
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© 2003 Evan M. Nichols