The Geekly Guy

This blog contains information regarding all things Linux, although any computer technology subject matter fits within the realm of this blog.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Verizon - 2016 EWA

I usually don't discuss particulars about a current employer, but since I recently quit working for Verizon, I guess I'm free to share some things.

Some background:

I started working for Verizon back in 2005.  Technically, I was hired by NetSec, a small managed security services provider (MSSP), but around that time, they got bought by MCI, who soon got bought by Verizon.  I was hired as a security operation center (SOC) analyst and I was hired as a lead analyst (one of three).

I worked within the SOC environment from 2005 to 2010, and developed a focus for public sector (ie, federal) clients.

In 2011, I changed roles and became what's called a security services advisor (SSA).  I focused on ensuring my assigned clients were getting the services that they were paying for, ensuring the various projects stayed within scope, and ensuring that the SOC performed their work per standard operating procedure.  I was the bridge between the clients and their MSSP.

I quit in April of 2016.  That's not quite 11 years.  That's a bit longer than my stint in the U.S. Army, and I considered myself a career soldier back then.

Every 4 years, Verizon has a bit of upheaval with union workers and contract re-negotiations.  I was never affected until this year.  I'd always held a role that was considered mission-critical (ie, do not move).  Verizon typically shuffles people to fill the roles of those that are striking.  They send them to structured training with the idea that the training will suffice until the striking workers return to their jobs.

Last year, they sent me to training (last June, specifically) because of the approaching ending contract (1 August).  I went to a pole training class, a requirement to ensure safety, which typically lasts two days, then they sent me to a class on how to maintain copper lines (three days).  People who are hired to maintain the copper infrastructure are in class for a month.  Yes, three days in significantly inadequate.

So, I knew this was coming.  I knew it was coming six months out.  There are NO options to defer such assignments.  Refusing is basically asking for termination.  I could've resigned.  I actually contemplated it but my wife talked me into staying to see if the strike actually happened.  The unions did strike, but they waited eight months to do it.  In that eight months, I was supposed to always be ready to deploy (ie, vacation was frowned upon).

After 5-6 months, I decided to move on with my life because I got tired of having my life on hold.  The wife and I planned a cruise for May 2016.  The strike started in April 2016.  When I found that we'd be deployed, I asked numerous times how vacation that were previously planned would be handled.  I was told to submit the dates of the vacation and the reason why it couldn't be cancelled.  My reasoning was that the costs were not reimbursable.

I still had the option of not going (I know of at least one person that quit the day the strike occurred), but I stuck it out, thinking it wouldn't last long and that I'd at least give it a shot.

My deployment site was Roanoke, VA.  That wasn't bad, as I was three hours from home and I could drive home when I got a bit of time off.  I was also able to drive my personal vehicle.

I quit Verizon on the ninth day.  I'll explain why.

I quit because this was NOT my fight to fight.  I was neutral in all this.

I quit because I got tired of my feet hurting after working on them for 14-15 hours.

I got tired of trying to find the time to do my laundry or shopping.

I got tired of missing my family.

I got tired of trying to understand work that I was under-trained to do.

I got tired of trying to learn complicated skills that I'd never negotiated when I went through Verizon's hiring process back in 2005.

I got tired of working 80+ hour work weeks.

I got tired of not having a day off.

I got tired of waiting to see if Verizon would let me attend the cruise and not eat $4,000+ in costs.

I got tired of feeling inadequate for the job.  I got tired of seeing jobs that were half-assed done by engineers that were striking (I knew enough about the job to know when some things were wrong, such as terminal pair assignments and even CO assignments).

I got tired of hearing the union woes of, "they assign us to states and problem areas that are far from our families"...I was away from my family while they struck, doing their job.

I went through a very involved process of screening and hiring to perform skills that have nothing to do with copper infrastructure maintenance and everything to do with IT security, analytical thinking, security device troubleshooting, and firewall policy maintenance (as well as many other things specific to the role of security analysis and being a technical account manager.  If I wanted to climb poles and work with POTS (plain old telephone service), I'd have interviewed for such positions.  This goes well beyond telling someone they've a new additional duty.  I'm all for learning new things, but damn...letting a company dictate to me what my profession is?  Hell no.  Remember that I'm a combat veteran too.  In my tenure with the U.S. Army, I fully expected to be deployed at a moment's notice.  That comes with that sort of job.  That's fully explained and when people deploy, they're trained up and have confidence that they can do the job (its your life and your team's lives on the line if you can't).  Even so, our military doesn't typically re-purpose people already holding positions.  Why?  Because each (enlisted) service member has a contract that states the jobs they'd be qualified to perform.

The day I quit, I basically told Verizon, "YOU'VE NO POWER HERE".

I was so tired and pissed when I quit that I gave no notice.  I worked that day, but after simmering slowly through the day, when I finished, I went to the Roanoke area manager's office to quit.  I waited for almost an hour to quit and called him too...he wasn't there and he wasn't answering his phone.  I ended up quitting via text, believe it or not.  Then I called my normal manager to inform him that I quit.  He wasn't answering either (it was Friday night).  I sent him an "I QUIT" e-mail.  I was up until midnight because both of them finally got my text and e-mail and wanted to talk.  The Roanoke area manager is a nice guy and very easy to work with (and knows what he's doing since he used to be a POTS tech).  I felt like I was mistreating him, but I could no longer deal with the situation.  My normal manager wanted to know why and I told him that I was tired, could barely walk, and that I furiously resented the company for re-purposing me with no options.  I didn't bite my tongue with either of them.

I drove home the next day.  The next work day, I called my normal manager (or ex-manager) to arrange for me to return company property (laptop, mobile phone, corporate badge).  He told me that when he informed his management chain that I quit, they were already aware (this is the only case I've ever seen where shit rolled UPHILL).  He also said that his manager stated the upper managers minimized the issue.  My ex-boss said he told his manager that there was nothing trivial about the reasons why I quit.

I actually expected Verizon to minimize the situation.  I was not surprised at all.  That's the culture there.

My wife asked how Verizon could just hi-jack the lives of ten thousand employees to cover for picketers.  I told her that Verizon is one of those companies that have huge levels of clout.  Verizon has eaten a crap-ton of companies (pre-dating the Verizon name).  They don't get that big without knowing what they can (and can't) get away with.  The problem is, those ten thousand employees LET Verizon do this.  I've no doubt that there were others like me who quit and some of them probably quit the year prior to April 2016.  That's what I should've done.  I should've followed my instincts, but didn't.

This is one of the reasons why I left Northrop Grumman in 2005.  I felt I was just a number to them.  I left them and went to NetSec, only for NetSec to be bought.  Well, in all honesty, I could've left any time between 2005 and 2016 but didn't.

During these ten years, I've learned a lot.  I won't give Verizon 100% credit for that.  It's just work.  If it wasn't Verizon, it would be some other company.  I will give myself the credit because I'm the one that decided to stay there.

Verizon bullied people to participate in emergency work assignments.  I know of no one who was happy about their assignments...not a one.  Verizon did NOT handle this as well as some are saying.  I saw one person say in a press release that if someone didn't like heights, they could've requested a different assignment (maybe within a call center).  I'll call bullshit on that.  I don't like heights at all and had problems in pole climbing class.  No one told me I could get reassigned and there was NO information shared with employees that Verizon would do that.

Now, here's how I rationalized things.  Earlier, I'd stated that I wanted to give the assignment a try...I didn't want to quit.  I worked nine days of at LEAST 12 hour days, without a break in those days.  Many days I worked 15 hours.  My pay rate stayed the same ($55/hr), but I didn't normally work 12+ hour days.  Anything over 8 hours was considered overtime, as was anything out of my normal work period. Yes, my last two paychecks were extremely fat.  I'm not joking and I'm not bragging.  I figured every day that stayed was additional time and money I'd earn (and need) to return to the work force as quickly (or as leisurely) as possible.  I was using the salary potential to bolster my finances, even if I wanted to quit every day I was deployed.  I told my wife to not touch any of those two paychecks and to put them directly into our savings.  They would be used for essentials such as the house note.

Employees always have choices, believe it or not.  Employees always have the choice to stay or leave.  Never be afraid to quit if it violates a principle.  I chose to stay but I knew if the strike didn't end soon, I'd quit.  I used the overtime as a focus, knowing I'd need the money was a very quick way to earn a massive amount.  The thing was, I was burned out.  I don't think I could've stayed if I wanted to, but it worked out for me in the end.  Verizon made the conditions perfect for me to can blame them for that!  Verizon thought that they could lord it over me.  They did, but not for long.  I cashed out and left.

So, who burned the bridge?  I accepted the assignment (I was offered no choice).  I went through the training (I was offered no choice).  I went to Roanoke.  I worked 12-15 hour days.  I had no days off.  Some days I was covered in ticks.  Some days it was hard for me to walk.  In all that, I was offered no choice.  Verizon burned the bridge.  I just squirted a bit of fuel on it in not giving two weeks' notice, but I wasn't about to give them two additional weeks of POTS support.

My normal work requires a very specific set of skills that usually requires 8 months to fill for Verizon, and it may take longer if Verizon has problems finding someone that's qualified for that position.  I know for a fact that it's not exactly easy for companies to find people to fill vacant roles as they relate to IT security...I've participated in the hiring process in the past.  Why would you re-purpose people in those roles?  That's the dumbest move I've EVER seen.

Would I go back to Verizon?  No, not as long as they continue the practice of re-purposing people.  Once-learned-twice-burned and all that.  Maybe not even if they stopped the practice.  I don't like companies that have so much clout that they try to coerce you in doing things you do not want to do (work a job you're inadequately trained for, for example, without giving you any options beyond quitting).

Oh, and one last note.  I've had no problem explaining my Verizon exit situation with potential employers.  It doesn't take long to explain it to them and every single one of them were extremely sympathetic about the situation.  This is a bit different than a typical job loss situation.

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  • At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Very well written and accurate article. I was there also and agree totally with what you expressed in the blog.


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