Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cultural Diversity In Silicon Valley Companies

In the present day, we often hear terms such as “global economy” and “diversified workforce”. A quick survey of my current company and workgroup provides some very strong evidence of this global scope and diversity.

Some facts about my current workgroup in Silicon Valley in 2009:
Industry: Technology Application Development and Support

52% of employees located out of state
28% of employees located in Silicon Valley
19% of employees located outside the country

30% of employees are not originally from the US
20% of employees have learned English as a second language
Most of the foreign born employees are from India, China, and the UK

What about the boss?
The Director of the workgroup is originally from the UK and the next two higher levels of management are also originally from the UK.

We use Instant Messenger, Email, Telephone, Video Conference
Phone conferences with accommodation to international time differences

Everyone has a cubical in a common area which our Human Resources group calls the Open Office Environment

Typical Workday:
Often starts early (6 or 7 am) from Silicon Valley perspective and ends late. (8 or 9 pm)
Long hours are another accommodation for international time differences.

Who do we work with?
Support the global operations of an international company. A person from virtually anywhere on earth may contact us directly to resolve an issue. Paradoxically, though we maintain physical presence in other countries, our actual operational support personnel are located only within the U.S.

What about “Cultural” diversity?
Although it is popular to think of our diversity as cultural, it is not truly so. Despite the diverse nationalities of employees in a typical Silicon Valley company, the only culture you are likely to see on close inspection is corporate culture.

Corporate culture is all about conformity, also known as team building. All through the day employees attend meetings, view presentations, and read email which is all presented in a common language which I’ll refer to here as “corporate speak” (i.e. rollout, alignment, resources, infrastructure, outsourcing, or just insert one of the common buzzwords here.)

You shouldn’t bother to look for cultural diversity in a Silicon Valley corporation any more than you would look for cultural diversity in the strip mall among the Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Home Depot stores. Welcome to Anywhere, USA. The next time you hear someone talking about cultural diversity in the corporate world, ask for some examples. Perhaps the only thing you’ll hear is that some people bring different kinds of meals from home to heat up in break room. It is still quite common to see groups of people huddled together and these groups are separated by race, ethnicity, nationality, or language. The existence of diverse culture apparently does not equal the opportunity for sharing among the diversity of cultures.

Once I heard a preacher extolling the congregation, saying “if you believe in God” (he reaches in his pocket for coins and holds up his hand), then “show me the change”. He wanted to know what would make such a “believer” any different from the average person, not by their appearance but by the way they live. Culture presents a similar opportunity. What does it mean to Chinese or Indian? Yes, these cultures are present in the Silicon Valley workforce but what do we know about them? What do theses cultures tell us about themselves? Day by day, we come to work together, a culturally diverse lot for sure but we’ve come to “work” and the blinders are purposely on when it comes to understanding the culture of people. Instead we invest the minimum energy it takes to blend with the corporate image and to conform to corporate standards of language and behavior.

At the end of day, we are all assimilated no matter if we were born in China or South Carolina. We each begin to echo the corporate-speak and we dutifully fall in line with the common vision. One company executive recently asked employees to wear bright colored rubber wristbands and memorize the company values and mission statement. The wristband signifies belief and solidarity with the corporate vision. Even more dulling to the senses, we begin to see the world from the point of view of a multi-national corporation. We speak corporate and we understand corporate. To live in this world for so many hours each week can become quite a challenge to one’s individuality and I’m sorry to say that we acquire very little knowledge of the cultural diversity of our fellow workers in compensation.
What was it like before the world became smaller?
Having thought about what it is like to work in the connected world, I decided to compare and contrast this situation and how it was when I first began working in the valley.

Some facts about my first workgroup in Silicon Valley circa 1978:
Industry: Technology Recruitment Advertising

Notes on the workforce:
Location: All of the employees are US nationals based in
Communications: Phone; Telecopier (no voicemail; no computers)
Meetings: Call the person or go to their desk
Workspace: Most people share offices, two to a room
Workday: Approximately 8 am to 6 pm Pacific Standard Time
Who do we work with? Besides the people in the office, it is mostly customers located within the valley or the people who work in the newspaper offices in San Jose, Palo Alto, and San Francisco

My Self Discovery Interview:

What do you like about the present day corporate world? Opportunity to make money abounds.

Any drawbacks? Well, you need to conform and be a good corporate citizen. It is very rare now to see individual expression and effort rewarded for anything but the most arcane technical creations.
How to survive? Learn how to think for only the short term and remain flexible and adaptable to constant change without question.

What do you miss about my first Silicon Valley job of long ago? Everything happened in one place. We ate lunch every day too, right around noon.

Everything in one place seems rather confining. It’s true that there was not much in the way diversity in terms of nationality or culture, but we had a bit more of something that is missing in today’s world.

I’m intrigued. What did you have then that “missing” now? It is not so easy to get at but I think I want to call it “intellectual diversity”. To put it simply, I’m talking about diversity of opinion and diversity in the way reasoned things out and solved problems. We didn’t have as many rules to conform with then. The modern corporation has adapted itself to provide a common experience and expectation to both its customers and its employees. For intellectual diversity to truly exist and to maximize its potential, there cannot be a continuous pressure to conform. The fruits of intellectual diversity are the creative ideas and exchanges that keep life from growing stale. They help give meaning to life at work. I fear that too many people have settled for a life at work that is devoid of meaning.

But isn’t there a conflict here? You seem to be saying that modern corporations are subject to constant change, yet at the same time everything is about conforming to the corporate image. Well you have that right. Management of the modern corporation is all about assimilating change and then implementing conformity to keep things under control. Unfortunately, intellectual diversity has become a potential disrupter that must be carefully managed or maybe even looked upon as an enemy.

You seem to be looking at the modern corporation in the same terms and discourse one might observe in a totalitarian government. Is this any different than the kind of critique we are more used to seeing concerning communist, socialist, fascist, or theocratic governments? What the devil? This is getting uncomfortable. Shouldn’t we have a break? There’s a Starbucks just around the corner.

The intrepid interviewer is not dissuaded. His brow furrows and he leans forward intently.

Aren’t you trying to say that corporations have become dangerous to the American ideal? The free market system and rights of the individual are like two sides of a spinning coin that is only in balance while spinning. When the coin settles to the ground, it becomes a matter of “heads I win, tails you lose”. Both sides of the coin contain aspects of the “ideal” but when they are out of balance with one another, it can be a dangerous thing. The market pays to produce until you over produce and then penalizes you for having back inventories that no one wants. Unfortunately, we can’t always react fast enough to prevent the damages resulting from over production. We are at risk for producing too much junk and too much conformity too fast.

Great! Thanks for the simple explanation! Well, it remains the job of the free press to keep asking questions and stepping up to sound a warning, to say “the right thing” so to speak and convince people to “do the right thing”. Our founding fathers didn’t conceive that a journalist would exist only to entertain people by reporting news and emphasizing the extravagant, the weird, or the horrible! The free press is supposed to be one of the pillars of our society, a potential counter weight to an over controlling or out of balance corporation, government, religion or any group of people intent on imposing its will on others.

Any last thoughts? Back my younger days I wanted to become a journalist, thinking the day would come when I’d have something important to say and I would be in an established position with a good opportunity to say what needed to be said. What soured me on that career choice was that I began to see that print and television news had become formatted and predictable. Everything must conform in way that sponsors and advertisers would appreciate to serve the bottom line. The news corporation exists to make money and subject to the same pressures as a multi-national technology corporation to justify its existence in that way.

Any more hopeful last thoughts? Yes, maybe there is an opportunity for a free spirited person to make good use of this amazing global communications tool. To make an end run around the censors and encourage a free flow of information and let the effort live or die on its own merit.

Created by Bill Keys

Managing Your Child's Summer Break

Working parents struggle to manage summer break

For working parents, the challenge to fill their child’s daytime schedule in the summer can be a daunting one. My Wife and I have recently completed (mostly) this activity for our son for the summer of 2009 and I thought it might be interesting to share our formula for success.

You Are Probably Not Prepared You This

If you are new to the experience, there is almost most that can prepare the working parent for task of filling a child’s schedule in the summer for approximately ten weeks. From around 8 am to 5 pm every weekday give or take an hour either, you want to fill your child’s day with fun, interesting, and perhaps academically stimulating activities.

The only point of reference for most of us is the Winter and Spring week long breaks that come earlier in the school year. For Winter/Spring break, our school district does not time these breaks to coincide with the majority of other districts, thus leaving us without the option of the “one week camps” that are offered. (mostly sports or other type of entertainment camps) Instead, we have opted to each take vacation time from work and develop a customized day to day plan for our son. With ten weeks of summer break, this option could not work for us, so we decided to explore some other options. In the following sections, I’ve provided our detailed steps to organizing and executing your child’s summer camp plan.

PS: If you have more than one child, please keep in mind that you will most likely need to multiply the “steps” below times the number of children. Unfortunately, there are no real shortcuts to build a successful summer camp plan.

Step 1: Information Gathering

We are constantly on the lookout for summer camp options and sometime not much later than January 1, we begin to collect information. (websites, brochures, etc.) We find that most providers of the summer camp experience announce (plans, dates, prices) anywhere from the beginning of January through the middle of April.

Remember what worked and what didn’t from the previous year.
Get on the mailing list of summer camp providers if the option is offered
Create a summer camp file and organize all this information
Make assumptions about whether you want all fun and games, all academic, or some combination of the two (aka nirvana)
Challenge those assumptions by talking to your child
Let your child know what options are being considered
Determine if there is some goal that you or your child wishes to accomplish
Is there something your child would like to learn? (academic, sport, music, dance, theater, etc.)
Another important consideration, do you want to go with one provider for the entire summer period? Some reasons you may want to do this include:
One provider provides stability in location, drop off/pick-up time
Only one place to sign up
May cost less since you are “buying” bulk
You have actually identified one place the covers all your needs
This is easiest choice there can be.
Determine what your maximum budget for summer camp can be.
Don’t forget meals including lunch and snacks. How are these provided? What do they cost?
Bay Area Parent usually has a special summer camp issue and also schedules an event with many camp providers who will be very happy to pitch their experience.
Search the internet, ask friends for recommendations.
It is normally not an option to “visit” a camp, since camps are looked at by the provider as an “event” and the staff is not in place until it needs to be. At most, you may be able to arrange an interview with an administrator or director.

Step 2: Choose The Best Alternatives

Having completed the information gathering, you need to figure out if you’ve covered the entire period. Here’s how we managed this activity:

Create a calendar for the entire summer period week by week (don’t forget to factor the family summer vacation into this)
List all of the choices with the drop off time and pick up time
Determine if there are any gaps in the schedule that cannot be accounted for in your normal commute routine. (i.e. drop off or pick up time is too early or too late)
Call up the providers and ask any questions or deal with any concerns that you have. Takes notes and put them in your summer camp file.
How to fill these “gaps”?
Ask Grandparents, other relatives, or friends for help
Hire someone you would trust to transport your child (professional, babysitter, etc.)
Attempt to negotiate with camp for “extended” hours
Rearrange your schedule to manage being “away from work”

We’ve found the only option that can consistently work for us to negotiate with our respective employers to get a very flexible schedule for the summer period. We offer to come in earlier, stay later, or work extra hous from home or if all else fails, take more bits of vacation to cover.

Finally, it is a very good idea to go over the proposed schedule one last time with your child to insure you’ve identified and dealt with any questions or concerns from the young person’s perspective. Remember, they are going to spend a good deal of time at these camps while you are spending a good deal of money! Ideas for discussion:
How/when the child will be transported to camp
Daily schedule of activities
If appropriate, the transition in certain weeks from one camp to another

Here are some examples of summer camp types that our son either attended or considered: Basketball, Theater, Tae Kwan Do, Tennis, Racquet Ball, Math, Story Writing, Golf, Explorers, and Science.

Step 3: Get Signed Up

Don’t leave anything to chance if you want to fulfill your dream schedule of camp activities. You need to sign up as soon as possible. Here are some reasons to sign up sooner rather than later:

Save your spot in case the camp should fill up. (you won’t have to scramble to replace a spot in the schedule)
Discounts offered for early registration
Show of interest in certain activity helps lessen the chance a camp might get cancelled
Piece of mind. You’ll have the feeling the things are under control

Step 4: Confirmation of Camps

The final step in the process is basically to insure that things are happening as planned. You won’t be sorry if you invest a bit of time to insure that you remain on the “same page” with your chosen camp provides on the with regard to schedule and activities.

Make sure you get an acknowledgement (email or written confirmation) of you payment
Call up the camp and tell them in a nice way that you’ve made an investment and are counting on them to fulfill an important part of your summer schedule.
Request to be notified immediately of any changes to schedule and/or check back on websites or write an email to confirm everything is happening according to plan.

Learn From The Experience:
Keep all the information (brochures, contact names, etc.) and put it away until next year. Chances are you’ll be managing this summer project for a few years to come. Make sure you find out what your child liked and didn’t like so you can start the discussion anew next year and help the young person remember.

Created by Bill Keys

The Way It Should Be

“There are 25 players with 500 or more home runs in their career. They’ve been playing professional baseball almost 150 years now. Have you ever thought about it? We’ve seen about 10 of those players play.” Darius reached for his calculator. “That’s 40% of the top home run hitters for all time! They’ve been playing during our time.” Jacob frowned at him. He seemed to be considering there must be something more to be said. They were only 11 year old boys, but they already had a good idea about things especially since they listened regularly to sports talk radio programs. “Jacob, I know what you want to say. So why don’t you?” Jacob walked over and took the Baseball Record book off the porch step where Darius had laid it aside. “The pitchers are tainted too, you know. There were a few of them mentioned in that Mitchell report” Jacob replied as he walked back across the porch and plopped the large book on the table and took a seat. “Yeah Jakee, they ought to cross reference all the records with the Mitchell report. Maybe we can just have an on-line version of this book with all players who’ve been identified as steroid users listed in bold red.” Jacob laughed but it was the kind of laugh that someone might use to hide uncomfortable feelings. Suddenly Jacob picked up the book and flung it over the porch railing and out into the garden. “The book isn’t worth 50 cents now. All this time we’ve spent going over these records, we could have done something more useful, you know?“ Darius couldn’t believe it, yet there were actually tears in his friend’s eyes. “It doesn’t matter who is going to break the record next time because there will always be a question mark. There’s always going to be someone who would say the record was created by cheaters. Now it turns out that your hero A-Roid is the biggest cheater! You know what I mean too. I’m talking about the kind of person who cheats and lies about it.” Darius smiled at this friend’s rant. He would agree it was worth taking seriously. “Jacob, give it up, there’s nothing a couple of boys can do about this.”

It had all started with McGwire. Jacob’s father had been obsessed with the subject. When McGwire broke the single season home run record in 1998, had been some talk about steroids, but nobody cared about it then. They just wanted to see Mr. Big Mac hit the long home runs and do the impossible. Ok, so one day that whole thing was over and McGwire’s name goes in the record book and nobody’s talking about steroids any more. In fact, they were saying the McGwire had saved the game. Attendance was up every where and baseball had become popular again. Everyone wanted to see what McGwire and his sidekick happy Sammy was going to do next. Jacob’s father was a Giants fan. “Barry Bonds is a complete player. He deserves that record more than McGwire!” Jacob’s father said that and there were other people saying that too. Barry Bonds must have felt it in his bones and it must have given him a headache to think about it. So Barry grew bigger and stronger, and he took that record back and then he took Ruth’s record for left-handed hitters and finally he took Aaron’s spot as the career leader in home runs. It was the kind of thing that seemed too good to be true and so the whole argument started up again once there were some allegations of steroids attaching to Barry. It was an unfortunate choice, but it seemed that one would have to accept steroids as part of the game or go against the home town hero Barry Bonds. Once the story broke wide open with charges filed against Bonds by the Federal Government and then the Mitchell report, it was all a done deal. We were all living in the Steroids Era and the home run records had suffered a major case of inflation.

“Ok then Jacob, lets just give up on it. We can still play ball ourselves. Forget about the major leagues.” Jacob came back across the porch and stood between Darius and his front door. “Nope, I’m not playing ball today. I feel more like throwing up than playing baseball right now. See you later.” Jacob went inside the house without saying another word and left his friend standing there. Darius looked at the door, which at this moment seemed more shut than a door could ever be. Jacob could be moody sometimes. Darius looked out in to the garden and saw the Baseball Record book. “Should I get it?” he thought. “When the sprinklers come on, it will get soaked.” Darius turned and walked down the porch steps. One last look at the book that had meant so much to them and then he turned walked toward home. He was thinking to himself about the incredible irony of how the book would get soaked and how those home run records in the book were totally useless any old way.

There was an old man standing across the street and partially hidden under the sycamore tree. He wore blue jean suspenders and floppy straw hat which hid his face from the sun and also from anyone who might have been curious. He looked sort of like a gardener or maybe something more heavy duty like a farmer perhaps? At any rate, the old man walked across the street and stepped carefully into the garden. He reached down and picked up the book. The pages which carried the home run records had been smashed into the dirt since Jacob had not even bothered to close the book before hurling it. “So this will be Grand Pa’s book for now” the old man mumbled. Grand Pa carefully smoothed the bent pages out as best he could and then he closed the book. He didn’t blame the kids for feeling the way they did but there was one thing they were wrong about. There was something to be done about it after all. It just takes patience and strong belief in something that is more important than these men who had tainted the game. The Black Sox had done the same thing in Grand Pa’s day. That was way back in 1919 and as with most things about baseball you could go to the records and look it up if you want to know more about it. Grand Pa was a 714 man, which meant that “The Great Bambino” was his hero. Babe Ruth had made everyone forget about the Black Sox and the gamblers who had tried to use the sport for their own personal gain. But he respected the 755 man too, especially now when the men who hold the important records are not made of the same flesh and blood like a normal person. These men too, they had been trying to use the sport for personal gain just like the shameful Black Sox. Ah, this was a quandary. At what point to go back? There could only be one chance to do this and he hoped it would get it right.

That night the wind was blowing hard. It was early spring in California and sometimes the April winds blew hard and cold. It was really just perception and expectation of spring warmth unfulfilled. Grand Pa could never get used to California. That’s why he hadn’t come out to this part of the world until now. To his mind, major league baseball didn’t even belong in California. But this where Barry hit number 762 and Jacob was there to see the whole thing. The poor boy had been bewildered by the whole thing with accusations flying around and denials flying around the accusations. Well Grand Pa was no longer real either but he’d seen their anguish and now he was worried that they boys might give up on the game that had been handed down with love through the generations. Grand Pa had been conjured to California and he was called into being by the abandoned hopes and dreams that had nowhere else to turn. Think about it. These dreams were the stuff that made boys run and stretch out their gloves and dive in the dirt or across the tall grass. These dreams made a boy reach back for something extra on a fastball or cock their bat with determination to drill the next pitch. Without these dreams to feed them, the magic of baseball would surely be starved out of existence.

Grand Pa seemed confused of purpose and with the wind blow hard around him, it seemed that he might be swept away. He could since that time was running short. It was midnight in the garden and Grand Pa was thinking, reaching back across time, trying to discover the source. “California, Giants, 1989, the Earthquake: 1989! Of course, that was it!” That was the very year when Grand Pa had ceased to exist. He was 99 years old when he died and he’d dreamed of living to 100 and hoped to see the San Francisco Giants win a World Series. He’d followed the Giants every since the days they were in New York and McGraw was their manager. In 1989, an earthquake occurred right before the start of Game 3 in San Francisco. This was it! Ground zero for the Steroid Era. Those two men, McGwire and Canseco, the ones called the Bash Brothers, they were there that night. These mean with impossibly large forearms, they stood out in a way that should have provoked questions. Weren’t body builders supposed to be too tightly wound up to swing at 90+ an hour pitches? Batters achieved power with quick wrists, coordinated body movement, and sharp eyes. Home runs could not come from muscles alone. Otherwise someone Arnold Schwarzenegger would hold the home run record instead going in to politics.

Suddenly the wind stopped blowing and everything became quiet. Grand Pa carried the book to the porch and placed it on the table. He opened the Baseball Record book and began working. On page 432, he found the 1989 World Series box scores and he carefully erased games 3 and 4. With that, the book quickly began to change itself. In a moment, history was changed. Now the sun was rising and a boy was walking downstairs to check for the morning paper. The paperboy was coming down Garrett Ranch Court and lazily weaving from house to house and throwing newspapers. There wasn’t time left for Grand Pa to find out what had happened in Game 3 of the 1989 World Series. The tragic winds that had brought him were now dissipated and once again Grand Pa ceased to exist. But there on the porch was the gift he left. It was the Base Ball Record book with the Steroids Era completely erased, and now the dawn of new and better world. The way it should be.

The End

Created by Bill Keys

Coyote's Way


Walking through my California,
Away from traffic,
Off the roadway,
On the dirt path,
Through the hills,
To the redwood country.

I stopped along the way beside a creek and listened to the incessant hollering of a blue jay. Further off a squirrel screaming as though his issue trumped anyone else’s. The squirrel had a commanding position on solid redwood branch about a quarter of the way up the tree. The blue jay, however, was never content. He skipped from bush to tree and back again and sometimes over to the little bridge where the path led across the creek. “Hello my friends” I addressed them. “You are very amusing noise makers, but I fear you’ve missed your mark. Weren’t you trying to annoy me? Instead you’ve become my entertainment!”

I began to think of Coyote. I’d seen him running across the roadway in my neighborhood and disappeared inside someone’s backyard, the one with the persimmon tree. Coyote the survivor, refusing to be displaced. The cats have learned to fear him and the dogs pant uncontrollably to know the existence of such a worthy enemy. From the little neighborhoods in the valley to this forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Coyote will come and go where he will when he wants. What must he think of all this?

I wonder if I could channel the Old Man Coyote, the one the natives say was here at the beginning of the world. What new perspective on this nanosecond paced world today?

Now the squirrel and the blue jay have become quiet. “My friends” I addressed them respectively. “Fellow travelers, what do you think? What if I want to follow the path of Coyote Old Man and know his way?

Blue Jay: “We must know everything about you in order to offer advice.”
Squirrel: “I agree with Blue Jay this time.”
Me: “OK then, you can know everything about me!”

Blue Jay: “It is dangerous to follow the path of Coyote! You will find trouble there.”
Squirrel: “It is dangerous not to follow the path of Coyote, especially for one who is getting older and doesn’t stray from the city sidewalk very often.”

Blue Jay: “You are too old to follow Coyote’s way. Not strong enough!”
Squirrel: “Coyote is a very old man, so it should be easy for you to follow him.”

Blue Jay: “They will think you are trying to create a new religion substituting Coyote for God.”
Squirrel: “They will realize Coyote is not perfect and that is power comes mostly from surprise and trickery. No one will mistake him for a God.”

Blue Jay: “They will think you are a bumbling thief. Someone who would adopt Coyote only to discover he’s a bastard who belongs only to the first people who lived here long ago.”
Squirrel: “Oh yes, maybe you are not an Indian. Your Great-Grandfather was a full-blooded Indian born in the days when the land still belonged to the first people. It will remain a two-sided argument whether you are a thief or an Indian. Regardless whatever you do, there will still be someone to call you out. Remember the irony about your Great-Grandfather. The man was both a cowboy and an Indian. So it won’t be too much burden for you to carry to be both a thief and an Indian. Perfectly legitimate, after all! ”

Blue Jay: “Coyote Old Man is very slippery and tricky. He will use you for whatever random purpose comes to mind.”
Squirrel: “I agree with Blue Jay once more.”
Me: “Then it sounds like I will need a great deal of luck in this adventure. ”

Blue Jay: “Seven is the lucky number. Choose something with a seven.”
Squirrel: “Seven is lucky, but there are three of us here. So multiply seven times three to get the kind of luck you’ll need!”
Me: “Then it is settled; I will follow Coyote’s Way and tell people twenty-one things I have learned about Coyote. But listen, I’m not afraid of failure. Some clever person might use my lesson to help understand what Coyote is not and so put them that much closer to getting to the real essence. Thank you for your time!”

The Blue Jay left his perch and flew across the clearing and circled back to land in a new spot. The squirrel took up again his perch on the redwood branch and began screaming. The Blue Jay mocked him and flittered from the bush to the tree branch and back again. “What a crazy pair you two make!” I told them and then I took my leave to go on down the trail.

One: Coyote Tells the Truth

The beginning of wisdom is to understand you cannot already know everything. It is no sign of weakness when you acknowledge there is something you need to learn. Likewise, Coyote will tell you at least one true thing up front which is that he sometimes tells lies. It is a strong beginning to know there is something you can believe in like this. With even one piece of solid ground to cling to, you may avoid slipping off the trail.

Two: Coyote Welcomes the Green Revolution

Coyote rides a bike to work. This helps to save the environment and keeps him healthy but the reason he rides a bike is because it is easier to break the rules of traffic. He doesn’t stop at every Red Light or Stop sign or wait for people to finish crossing the street. Also, it is easier to enter the back roads along the railroad track or cut through the parking lot and use the sidewalk to make a shortcut. Coyote believes in diagonal crossing and backtracking. Riding a bike to work is the best way.

There is also a second best way. Coyote drives a Prius. This helps to save the environment and also helps him save money on gas but the reason he drives a Prius is so he can enter the commuter lane and wave his middle finger to annoy other drivers who are stuck in traffic. Coyote has plenty of fake stickers, licenses, passports, logon credentials, or whatever else it may take to negotiate through the modern world. It is fun to live and play in the open and also less circumspect.

Three: Coyote Likes Younger Women

Coyote sees that younger women are cute but the reason he likes them is because they have not learned all his tricks. A young woman will listen to the many things Coyote has to say without making value judgments. She does not know the difference between a promise and a saying made for expediency’s sake. She has not seen the one before or noticed the one after. She admires how Coyote has made trivial the need to study and work hard yet still behaves as though he owns the whole world. The younger woman has not yet learned that she is inherently right about everything under the sun and Coyote’s ideas often conceived in haste.

Coyote desires love and values that more than “being in love” which is so full of flirting and delirious notions. Time consuming! Therefore when Coyote desires love, he returns to the older woman who is his more intelligent and worthy adversary.

Four: Coyote Prefers Mac’s over PC’s

Coyote is a master of malware and malicious code, so he knows that there are thousands of viruses targeting the PC. Besides, everyone knows that Mac’s are Cool and Coyote was cool before Elvis. For a frequent traveler like Coyote, nothing says Cool like the MacBook Air.

Five: Coyote Prefers Dogs over Cats

Coyote likes dogs because they are feisty and more direct dealing creatures. He dislikes cats because he cannot abide their insistent air of superiority. Coyote knows that people refer to him as “God’s Dog” and he mixed this saying up to where it comes out that he is the God of Dogs.

Six: Coyote Makes Mistakes

Coyote believes the clever one can make the same mistake twice and get away it. He sometimes admits his mistakes because he knows this will make people think he is vulnerable and may allow him to catch them off guard. Coyote believes that mistakes are guideposts in the process of elimination. One of Coyote’s great strengths is that he is never embarrassed by a mistake. Coyote believes that mistakes open new doors and it is always possible to turn a mistake into a purpose. “I meant to do that!” is one of Coyote’s favorite sayings.

Seven: Coyote Makes Excuses

For Coyote excuses are like variety, meaning he considers them to be the spice of life. Coyote is very creative and there has never been a more creative endeavor than the act of making up excuses. Coyote believes that excuses are good for the environment, since they are often reusable. Excuses stand for something! Or they should if they were built with good and long lasting quality. Coyote believes that one man’s excuses are another’s perfect and reasonable explanation for why things happened.

Eight: Why Coyote is often Unreasonable

Coyote believes that reason is a trap built to insure obedience. To be reasonable takes a lot of time and effort and Coyote is often in a hurry to be somewhere.

Nine: Why Coyote is not a Team Player

Coyote knows about the worst case scenario, so he’d rather follow his own stupid idea than to risk getting caught following someone else’s stupid idea.

Ten: Is Coyote Immortal?

Coyote is an immortal because he does not surround himself with logic. He refuses to be put inside a box. Coyote’s existence is not related to time and space but instead to the force of life and all possibility. The Star People know about Coyote and of course the first people tell the story of Coyote’s Bones. You need to do some research to find out more about this but we will consider it out of scope for this exercise.

Eleven: Who Are Coyote’s Favorite People?

Coyote admires Indians (they should come first, no?) and Cowboys because they exist on the edges of society and often prefer to slip through the cracks. Coyote loves fry bread and beans and biscuits. Coyote’s experience with alcohol has been strange and uneven, not always for the better. Coyote knows the trees (he’s marked his favorites) and the stars of which he sometimes speaks of roping with his lariat on a good night. Coyote sometimes gets mixed up and will speak of a night when he enjoyed the music of a wild fiddler as he stomp danced around a fire.

Twelve: Coyote’s Brand

Before Oprah, Coke, McDonalds or Nike, Coyote realized the importance of branding. This is why he remains consistent in plotting mischief through the years and this is the thing he is best known for. He is always on the public enemy list and wouldn’t care to have things any another way. Coyote stays relevant.

Thirteen: The Unlucky Number

Coyote believes that thirteen is an unlucky number and has requested not to assign any topic for this space. Peace!

Fourteen: Does Coyote Believe in Extraterrestrial beings?

They say Coyote Old Man was here before the earth was formed back when the air was full of clouds and mist. There were others with him but all the animals will argue about who was there and what important things happened at that time. Coyote himself remembers Turtle, Bear, Eagle, Wolf, and Snake. He remembers the terrible Loon Woman. Who’s to say that with all these creatures, there should not be other worlds stranger than this? Propose the existence of Star People and then you create plenty of room. The wide open spaces of the universe are ready to contain more stories and doings of Coyote.

Fifteen: What One Thing Would Coyote Change About Himself?

Coyote’s specialty is to disguise himself or disguise his intentions. But his past deeds have been talked about by the fire and made in to legends. It is a burden to be famous, so the one thing Coyote would change about himself is his history. This he would change so that anyone who tried to Google Coyote would be dealing with “the page cannot be displayed” dialogue.

Sixteen: Where Did Coyote Come From?

Coyote Old Man came from the shadows. He was present in the dreams of the first people and if something went wrong, they always blamed him for it. All their bad ideas came directly from Coyote. Coyote enjoys a reputation for being greedy and never happy enough to keep things the way he found them. Once Coyote was arrested and throw in jail down in Bakersfield. It was all a big misunderstanding, but in the course of trial Coyote produced a birth certificate alleging that he born in Carmel Valley. Did you ask me where an earthquake or a flood comes from? Coyote is like that; an unstoppable force of nature.

Seventeen: Where Does Coyote Live?

Coyote lives in the four directions and comes and goes at will. There is always someone looking for him. The rent is late. The mailbox is full of past due notices. . A woman is pregnant. A promise has been broken. A cat has disappeared. The police were here yesterday. Coyote can never settle down and live in some particular place.

Eighteen: Coyote Enjoys Road Trips

Coyote is the original wandering spirit. The spur of the moment is always kicking his butt. There are certain mystical places you are apt to find him like that bar in Bolinas or a Bed and Breakfast in McCloud. He lies to the women about how many fish he caught and he lies to the men about how many women he has slept with. Coyote blends in with the locals to disguise himself, but you may recognize him as the one at the end of the table, loudly boasting about things he has done and will do.

Nineteen: Coyote Offers Financial Advice

People are waiting to fit you in the model they’ve built, you know, the one that will help them become rich. If you are willing to risk everything, make sure the idea came from your own dream. If you are going to dream, dream big because the world is big and small dreams are easy to get lost in it. Pray that one day Coyote will come to your dream with a big plan. The experience will be very insightful, just like this walk along Coyote’s path. You may take it as something to get mixed up with and use your time to work it out. Or else you may take it as a warning of something you should not get mixed up with.

Twenty: Coyote Talks about How Stupid People Become Managers

Coyote was displeased with how something came out, so he walked right out of the council meeting and back into the street. On the street corner there was a coffee house, a bar, and bank. It was still early, so Coyote walked into the coffee house. Once he got inside and got served, he started complaining about things that had happened to him that day and even in the last week or two. Coyote was actually very irritated but to the other people he had begun to sound reasonable. So somebody asked Coyote to explain how stupid people are able to become managers. There are always a few clever people somewhere who need to control everyone else. The easiest people to control are the stupid people, so these are made to become the managers who give orders to everyone else. They serve the purpose of wearing everyone down and keeping the true identify of the power monger hidden. Many sane and decent people are tricked into becoming stupid once they desire to become managers. Wait! Yes, there was an inconsistency in this tale. So Coyote amended things such to say that some people have a carrot dangled in front of their eyes and then the chase it for so long that they become stupid.

Twenty-one: Coyote Gives One Last Piece of Advice

Always remember to set a limit to the amount of bullshit you are willing to put up with.

The End

Created by Bill Keys


Chapter 1: The Educated Ballplayer
Billy was a ballplayer for sure and it would be interesting to know if the game had somehow shaped his personality or if perhaps he was just made for the role. Billy’s basic strategy for dealing with everything that happened in his life was to try and anticipate what might happen next. The most consistent baseball players always seem to be in the right place at the right time in the field or you count on them to produce a big hit in a clutch situation. This didn’t happen by accident! Baseball is a slow paced game and it rewards the athlete who thinks. Sure catching and hitting a ball is reflex and finely honed neural impulse, but before each pitch there a series of possibilities to think through and the opportunity to make an educated guess that will increase the player’s chancing of making that important play.
What if the ball comes to me with runners on second and third with less than two out? What if the ball were hit toward the gap in right? What did this batter do last time up? Does he usually pull the ball? What if the pitcher throws a curve? A fastball? A change-up? What if I decide to take this pitch? Correct answers for these questions did not always equate with success but it certainly improved the percentages for making a play in the field and of course everyone knows that the mark of a good hitter is a batting average of at least .300, which translates to failure 70% of the time.
When Billy first began playing he couldn’t manage to make solid contact as a hitter. Even his Mom or Dad would consistently strike him out in practice. Billy willed himself to become the player he wanted to be with a lot of hard work. Just think about all those hours he spent firing a rubber ball at the house to develop his reflexes as a fielder and then his constant requests to his friends to pitch the same ball to him at close range so that he could learn to turn his bat quicker and hit the ball hard consistently.
If you asked him, Billy never thought of himself as a born ballplayer but his commitment to the sport was such that at an early age he already conceived that he would die a ballplayer. When Billy was ten years old, he made an oath to himself that the last word it would utter in this life would be Baseball. A short time later this curious way of looking life and death was put to the test. He was riding his bike down a rural road when suddenly a car appeared racing around the curve and heading toward him. The car seemed to lose control and swerved toward the shoulder of the road. Billy immediately attempted to evade by turning to his left in an attempt to cross in front of the car but cut it too sharp and bike skidded and tipped over on top of him. In the next second Billy lay there in the middle of the road unable to move and heard the screech of the tires on the roadway as the driver attempted to brake. He had fallen such that he was facing the opposite direction of the car and could no longer see the car. “Baseball” he said aloud and then braced himself for impact. Another second or two went by and still he lay there but now with the realization that it was over. He lifted the bike away from his body and stood up. The car has stopped a full twenty yards away. Billy walked the bike to the side of the road and the driver waved at him. He was embarrassed by the mistake and anxious to it over with, so he smiled as best he could and waved the driver on. As he rode home, he thought that perhaps no one that ever lived could be said to have taken the game and more seriously. He vowed that when his chance came, it would play the game with passion and think of every game as the rubber match of a three series of Giants-Dodgers or Yankees-Red Sox. Billy was a ballplayer for sure.
Chapter 2: The High School Dropout
Five Years Later
Billy was anxious to play ball again. He had always known that the “for real” days of a ballplayer began in high school. Here is where the player will have the first opportunity to play in front of professional scouts or to amass a resume of outstanding stats that would result in an offer of a collegiate baseball scholarship. Unfortunately for Billy, there had been some difficulty to deal with that he could never have anticipated. His Dad had lost a job that he had been working for many years and the family was forced to move to a new location in order to make ends meet. The first move proved to be short-lived when his Father found a job in another city and the family had to pack and move again after just two months. Billy’s life had suddenly become a whirlwind of packing and unpacking along with filling out registration papers for different schools. Finally after the second move, things settled down but he had landed in a town full of strangers. Billy’s skills and confidence in baseball had pulled him through many challenges in the past but this time it was different.
He’d transferred in the school mid-term right after the Christmas holidays and had inquired about the baseball team when meeting with his counselor. The counselor had informed him that tryouts were in progress already. Billy had to take a couple of days to get himself situated in the new school including the whole process of class selection and finding his way around. By the time he’d been able to find the Baseball Coach it was in fact the very last day of the tryout session that had been going all week. Billy remembered arriving a bit late for the workout. They were working on bunting technique, a skill that he was particularly gifted in and quite proud of his ability. Unfortunately, there was no opportunity to show off actual skill, instead the coach was leading them through a make believe proactive with focus on technique of holding the bat and stance. According to this coach, Billy’s technique was all wrong! He was off to a bad start, but wasn’t too worried because he’d always been able to work his way to a starting position whenever he joined a new team including many all-star teams. “Between the lines” Billy told himself, he was as good as anybody.
On this particular day, an unbelievable sequence of events occurred that would haunt him for years to come. When the drills were over, the coach split the players into two teams and then created line-ups. Billy was assigned to one of the teams, but did not immediately get sent in to the game. It started with him on the bench and continued that way for several innings. “Speak up” he thought as light grew dim and he was sure they probably wouldn’t be playing a full nine innings. It was inning number five now and shadows crossed the field and the sun was sinking down near the hilltops in the western sky. At first, Billy had been reluctant but now he sensed opportunity slipping so he got up and walked across the dugout and up the steps. The coach was standing in the box on the third base side. Billy drew a lot of unwanted attention to himself when he stood at the dugout entrance and tried to get the coach’s attention. He thought he’d made eye contact but there was no acknowledgement of his situation. “Is this some kind of test?” he thought, but there really didn’t seem to be any choice. “Coach!” he called. Just then the coach called time out in the game and walked out to the mound. For few moments he stood there talking to the pitcher and then he took a few steps forward and stared into the dugout. “Who hasn’t been in the game? It’s about time to call this.” The coach waited. Billy took a step forward. “I need to come in” he said confidently. “Ok, this guy and that’s it” the coach answered although he gave no indication that he was addressing Billy. “Well, I’m this guy” Billy thought to himself and he was certain he was going to make a good impression even if there was just to be this one small opportunity. He looked in the rack for his bat and grabbed a helmet. “Come on batter, its getting dark” called the umpire, who was one of the players himself. Billy took a couple of practice swings though he noticed that this umpire was impatient. The pitcher was smiling and the umpire stood behind him as customary in a practice situation where there is not enough equipment to put him behind the plate. The umpire sneered at him. “No ball, two strikes” the umpire called out. “What?” Billy said unbelievingly. He stepped out of the batter’s box and stared. The pitch was still smiling and the umpire’s face was frozen. “Let’s go!” the ump shouted. Billy stepped him and cocked his bat. This would be it, his only chance. The bat was locked and loaded. It was strange how sometimes the most outlandish situation might free Billy from pressure and nervousness. His arms were relaxed and his body was limbered and ready. The pitcher wound up and delivered a high fastball near the outside corner of the plate. There was some pretty decent smoke on this pitch and it moved slightly outside as it came in. All in all, it was a fairly impossible pitch to do anything with. Billy let it go by. “Strike three!” called the umpire. For hours afterward, Billy tried to rationalize the situation. For sure, that pitch was not in the strike zone. Had he swung there was a strong probability he would not have touched it and the result would have been the same. But there wasn’t a pitch to waste. Was it his fault or not! Damn the whole world and try to forget it about. Billy couldn’t even remember what happened after that except when the coach gathered the players together and before dismissing, had told them “the final roster will be posted in the locker room near my office tomorrow morning.” The other players were strangers that he hadn’t even met before this. No one said anything to him when the team had walked back to the lockers. Billy left to go home. That night he tossed and turned and tried to settle on what he should do. Confront the coach?
In the end, Billy had decided not to do anything. He told himself that he’d never have to face the finality of being cut under these circumstances as long as he didn’t go in there to look at that final roster. Later that year, the family moved away to yet another location and Billy’s baseball dream was put aside. Instead, he had to focus all effort just to graduate from high school and after that, to find a job and look for stability in his life again.
Billy never gave up completely on playing ball though. He tried to get out after work and on weekends, taking kind of game or workout he could find. He longed to get back to playing organized ball and his first opportunity coming with a team of Mexican semi-pro players. They needed a player one day and he was on a nearby field practicing. So let him in their game on a lark and discovered he had some talent. They had been surprised to learn he could speak some Spanish and even more amazed when he joined in a discussion of what country some of the current Latin America major leaguers had come from. After that he practiced with the team a few times. The experience with this team got Billy noticed around the area and he was able to get with other semi-pro teams with relative ease after that.
Chapter 3: Nice Catch!
Five Years Later
Billy had begun to realize that opportunity to play the game he loved was become scarcer with each passing year. He had occasional wild ideas about leaving his job and going to Arizona in the winter to try-out for the big leagues. Who really knew what to do? The call big league baseball “The Show” and Billy figured to get on a team was probably like trying to break into the Hollywood movie industry without credentials. Who knows? Maybe you just hung around the set and made a nuisance of yourself until someone gave you a chance to prove yourself? Billy could never bring himself to do that though. He had looked seen what happened to his parents and didn’t want to risk that he too might have an unstable life. Instead he’d even begun taking college courses at night and more or less settled into a career in business. But when he could, he played baseball and here and there he still came close enough to taste the glory of making the big play or getting the bit hit. For instance, there was that time he made the greatest catch of his life.
It was going to be his night! On his first time to bat in the first inning he had noticed the left and center fielders were playing straight away and deep. He had adjusted his knees to take a wider stance and lined a fast ball in the gap between the fielders. Out of respect for his ability to hit the long ball, they had given plenty of room and he was more than happy to take it. “Drive the ball hard over the infield and get on base, make something happen.” Billy had surrendered to this time tested impulse and was rewarded with a hit. He had eventually scored with the lefty Greg had produced a solid double down the right field line. But this was only the beginning!
Billy had taken his position in left field in the last of the third inning and then winced as a throwing error on the infield and a base on balls given on a full count had threatened to erase their one run lead. Now there was only one out with runners on first and second. Following another impulse, Billy moved a few feet forward as he remembered this batter had blooped a single over the shortstop’s head on the first time up. The pitcher was worried about his control and not wishing to walk another batter, he grooved the first pitch and this time the batter hit a hard drive to left field. The shortstop leaped futilely toward the ball but Billy was racing forward. Would he get to it? There was only a flash of ball descending toward the grass and a split second decision to make. If the diving fielder misses the catch, it was almost certain that two runners would score. Billy decided to go for broke! Accelerating and the diving forward, he reached with the webbing of his glove and skimmed the top of the grass. With his body stretched as far forward as possible, Billy’s glove intercepted the ball just above the ground and he slid forward a few feet on his knees. Billy saw the umpire wave his right thumb in the air signaling “Out!” and he jumped to his feet aggressively on the chance he could double up one of the runners. Both runners retreated, not daring the possibility to choke out a rally with at least one more hitter remaining.
The crowd was mostly just the team’s home folks, so there was a decent amount of cheering for the play along with the proper amount of caution for the danger of one more batter to face. Billy remembered that this guy had driven the ball well into the left side gap last time and he had to get over quickly to cut it off and prevent extra bases. Billy backed up a few steps and shaded to the left to allow him the luxury of arriving quicker if the batter favored the same spot as before. He watched the runners take their leads and could see them leaning forward threateningly. The third base coach was calling “two out and come on anything”! Billy could sense they all had a great amount of confidence in this batter, so he moved back another couple of steps.
The pitcher was working hard through this at bat. A couple of pitches fouled back in the screen, another two just off the outside corner, and finally a fast ball that blazed in down the middle but a bit high. Billy couldn’t see how the batter had managed to lay off that one, but incredibly he had checked his swing. From out in left field he began to fidget, wondering what was happening now as the catcher called for time and went to the mound. The batter appeared to be set up for the slow curve but apparently Jason had other ideas. The shortstop wagged a finger behind his back, pointing right and this meant Jason was coming inside with heat.
Instinctively Billy rose from his crouched ready position and adjusted his shoulders and feet toward his right. This impulse would have been imperceptible to anyone but the move was proof that the outfielder was locked in and engaged like a fighter pilot. The pitch came in belt high and tight and the batter turned on the pitch with perfect timing. There was a loud crack, and now a soaring drive headed deep along the left field line. The ball held a straight line and there was no chance it was going to hook foul. Many of the spectators rose from their seats and all eyes were focused on the left field corner. The base runners were dashing frantically around the bases and the batter had tossed his bat aside and was digging in for a sprint around the base paths. The ball must be caught to prevent disaster!
Billy’s impulse had been a true one and even as the sound of the hit echoed out toward him he had already turned and began running at full speed back and to his right. Farther and faster, his eyes had told him and now he was running with his left arm and shoulder extended. Billy wasn’t even looking at the ball, knowing that success depended now on his ability to get to a place that he somehow knew he needed to be. Finally his eyes scanned the sky over the left shoulder and he saw the ball. It was still high in the air but he could tell that it had the right angle and speed to intercept it. Billy reached out and extended his glove in a backhand position and felt the satisfying smack of ball sinking into the webbing and then it disappeared inside the glove. He didn’t break stride immediately but allowed momentum to carry him back a few more strides and then he pulled the glove toward his chest and turned back toward the infield. He was truly surprised at how much ground he had covered to chase down this ball. The other players and the crowd appeared to be somewhere far off. For a moment he stood there, enjoying the sensation of being alone in his own space. “Just like an old game of Three Flies Up” he thought to himself, only this time he’d actually managed to make a nice running catch when it really counted. “Three outs!”, so there was no need to surrender his prize. It was only then that the roar of the crowd and the voices of his teammates came to him. He smiled and jogged in toward them, accepting high fives from the third baseman and the shortstop along with a slap on the back from a very sheepish looking pitcher Jason. Some of the people in grandstand were still on their feet cheering and calling “nice catch” but Billy couldn’t hear them. He was already thinking about how he was due up fourth in the inning.
It was right about that time that the stadium lights of the old municipal ballpark had suddenly crackled, popped and gone dark. Billy had just jogged in from his position in left field and stood in the middle of the infield, looking into the sky. The team managers and the umpire stood in front of the breaker switch behind the third base dugout and Billy could tell that they had already pulled the lever several times with no effect. He had some glimmer of hope at first as more people began to converge on power utility box, but after a few minutes it became clear that no there understood what needed to be done. This city league game was not important enough to call out for an emergency maintenance crew. “Who would we call any way?” some one had said. Everyone was shaking their heads and Billy could tell they were going to give up.
Players were already packing away equipment and seeking out family members in the grandstand. Many were headed the parking lot which was still lighted. Billy’s desire to play ball on that night burned with each passing second. He thought about small town minor league ballparks and the way you could see the stadium lights for miles ahead on a country highway. Yet here in this place everything remained dark. Billy sat in the dugout with his elbows firmly planted on his knees and gritted his teeth against hard reality. He wanted with every fiber of his being to run back on to that field. Finally he grabbed his bat and glove from the ground and walked up the dugout steps. A young man was standing on the field waiting for him as he approached exit. It was apparent from his expression that he was a bit shy but with as much respect as he could muster; he extended his hand toward Billy. Billy accepted the handshake without saying anything and finally the young man spoke up. "That was a great catch" and the smile on his face broadened expectantly. "Thanks" Billy answered, feeling like there was nothing appropriate to add. “Well, I just wanted to tell you it WAS a good catch”. The young man turned away and hurried off into the night.
"Thanks" Billy said again silently. Somehow the acknowledgement of this one stranger had awakened his sense of “why?” and “what if?” Billy was twenty-five years old now and it was darn sure too late to think about how he might make a living playing baseball. He was lucky enough to being playing ball at all now given that there were not many people his age still playing hardball. Just this little semi-pro league for a couple of months in the summer was about all that was left. Billy came back and sat in the dugout alone for awhile in the dark.
Chapter 4: The Long Ball
Billy was smiling to himself. “Damn right I caught that ball out there tonight. I was made to play ball and that’s what a ballplayer would do. You have to get to that ball.” He put his things in the truck and took one last long look at the darkened field and resigned himself to his fate. Driving home that night, he began to feel better when he thought about the game he’d played. When he got back home, the first thing he noticed the flyer on his nightstand. “Yes, damn it!’ he shouted. It was an invitation to a home run hitting contest to be held at the local minor league ballpark. It was an annual event for the fans to take the opportunity to see if they could hit one out at a professional ballpark. Billy usually considered the contest as something for amateurs, but now he’d begun to feel differently about it. This time he was going in. That very night, he called a couple of his friends and arranged to start practicing. They may have thought Billy a bit crazy, but just the same it would be fun to get all wound up in this excuse to play ball a bit more regularly.
The practice sessions turned out to be as much as three or four times a week. There were two and sometimes three of them involved. Each player got ten pitches to hit from live pitching and then 15 hits from a tee. They all jogged after the balls after each round and kept playing until dark. It was as great a time as Billy had ever had with baseball. The contest was a month away and he was committed to keep working on building up his reflexes and muscles to crush a baseball. He’d never used a tee for hitting practice before but had read about it in some books and decided to give it a try. Billy was surprised to find that hitting from the tee had really sharpened his focus on the ball the result carried over to hitting live pitches. The places where they practices did not have fences, so Billy had used an old fashioned tape measure to get an estimate for how long the hits would go. In time, he was finding it easy to hit balls between 350 and 450 feet. The dimensions at the minor leaguer park were 330 to the foul poles, 375 to the gaps, and 410 to straight away center field. When the day of the contest came, Billy was ready. He going to take some cuts on a professional ball field and he was anxious to see what it would be like.
Billy had arranged to bring one of his friends to the contest and the guy was running late. Billy had waited in the car and blew the horn a few times, but finally had to come up on the porch and holler out to get the result he wanted. The game started at 8 pm and the contest was set for 6:30. When they arrived in the lot, it was 6:45 and the contest was already in progress. By the time Billy had it through the sign in process, he was the only one left in the on deck circle. As Billy selected a bat, another person showed up behind him and the announcement went out that these would be the last two batters. The batter hitting before Billy finished his turn and walked away amused at his lack of success. For the first time, Billy noticed that there were several orange cones placed out on the field, some of them near the warning track in the power alleys and one in the deepest part of the grass in center field. “What are the cones for?” Billy asked as he stepped in to the batter’s box. “Those are the longest hits for today” he was informed. There had not been a ball hit over the fence and they were planning to declare a winner based on distance to these cones. Billy had never felt so perfectly relaxed in his life. He wanted the moment to last as long as possible but it would come down to whatever happened with seven pitches.
The pitcher was a coach from the home town minor league team. Billy waited with his bat cocked and his eyes locked in on the ball as it left the pitcher’s hand. A little low and too the outside, but Billy swung and lined the ball in the left center field. The sound of the wood hitting the ball was sweet and the echo resounded across the park from foul line to foul line and back in to the grandstand. Another pitch, same location, and another line drive. “Sorry” called out the coach. “I’m getting tired out here”. The next four pitches came in near the strike zone and Billy promptly lashed hard drives just a few feet off the ground just as he had the first two. Billy’s bat had never seemed as lively as it did at this moment. He hadn’t been counting the pitches and did not realize the next one would be the last. Some of the minor league players had gathered around the batting cage and were watching. The next pitch came in belt high on the inside and Billy turned on it and got it right on the sweet spot of the bat. It was hard drive that sailed over the 330 marker near the left foul pole. The ball disappeared over a trucking company advertisement that had been painted on the wall, clearing the fence by about ten feet. “I knew that was gone, the moment he hit it. No doubt on that” called out one of the players. “Was that really the last pitch?” said another. Billy recognized him as the center fielder that had starred as lead off batter and current California League leader in stolen bases. His name was Ron Wilson and he walked up to Billy and extend his hand. “Nice hitting” Ron told him. “Thanks” Billy replied and the player nodded. Billy took a seat in the grass back of home plate and watch as people scrambled around the outfield to remove the cones and the last batter took his seven swings. It was all so blissfully uneventful.
Billy returned to the stands to watch the game. During the seventh inning stretch, Billy was asked out to the coach’s box along the third base side where he was announced the “Home Run King” and presented with the contest winnings which included a weekend trip to Lake Tahoe and tickets to all the games left in the season. Afterward, Billy retreated to the anonymity of the grandstand crowd along the third base side to watch the game.
Many years have come and gone, the triumphs and hardships of life endured, and still sometimes on a summer night Billy will come early to a game and sit in that same area of the grandstand to watch the warm-ups. It is the quiet time when the sound of the baseball hitting hardwood or cracking leather sounds most distinct and you can hear it echo across the field. It is the time when memories are stirred and reminders of what might have been.

The End

Created by Bill Keys

Management Decisions

Chapter 1: Bruce and the Preacher Man

Something happened that day at the office that was very disturbing. Will should have gone out with his friends to a ballgame or he could have watched that DVD that came in the mail over the weekend. Instead it was 9 pm on a Wednesday evening and Will was sitting on the couch staring at the wall. The TV was silent and the laptop case was closed. Will had been mulling over a series of why questions, the kind that didn’t bring easy answers. As usual, it was something involving a management decision that had confounded his sense of right and wrong It really wasn’t anything new except this had been one of those times a “decision” had direct impact on a person’s life that went beyond what happened in those offices at Giant Networks. So Will was thinking about what kind of people he spent his time with at work and how anyone could instigate a situation like this without feeling the same kind of pain that he felt.

It takes a certain kind of person to succeed as a manager in a Silicon Valley company. They need to have a certain attitude. To believe in themselves (“I’m right”), their boss (“definitely always right”), the company (“we are on the right track”), and in their own progress. (“I’ve done great things and promise even more to come”) The manager must have the ability to set aside truth, logic, or any present circumstance with potential to prevail against the company line. By and large, managers in the modern day corporation were sophists to their very core. They had invented for themselves a whole new way of communication that Will referred to as Corporate Speak. It was the kind of language that was couched in whimsical and nonchalant fashion and was meant to detract blame and nullify the significance of bad decisions. Damn it! Many mangers are really stubborn people who could never admit mistakes or identify uncertainty.

It was just this sort of irreverence for knowledge that now goaded Will he sat there on the couch that evening. He felt that someone had crossed the decency line and it was all the more sad because this situation had begun with rays of hope only a few short weeks before.

Eight Weeks Earlier:

“Hey Will, can I see you for a moment?” Marco Riccardi, a VP at Giant Networks had noticed Will in the hallway and called out from his office. “Valerie Dubois is going to hire a new Program Manager and she’s trying to set up an interview team. I told her you can help represent us”. Will considered it a good sign that they trusted him with recruitment of important position like a PM. He would not only be part of the team, but help integrate and determine their make-up. It was all very positive. “Great Marco! I know Valerie’s group well enough but I ought to speak with her and find out what specific projects are going to the new person.” Marco was always happy with the way Will would throw himself forward at a new assignment. “Well OK then. Sounds like you kind of got this under control already. Go ahead and get with Valerie then, sooner is better”.

Will was surprised to find out from Valerie that the position was being offered as a six month contract with a potential to hire option instead of a permanent hire. “Will, I need to move on this real fast. I was hoping you can take this stack of resumes and find the best candidates You can make it a phone screen, maybe five or six of them. Lets bring the best couple of them in for a quick interview.” Will waited patiently. He had a lot of questions but realized there was a certain way that people thought about contractors at Giant Networks and it generally didn’t go over well to counter this attitude directly. “Valerie, if you don’t mind, I’ll go ahead and set up in person meetings with a few of them. I think it should help.” Valerie’s face showed a hint of concern which Will picked up on. “When do you need this done?” he said quickly before she could object. “Today’s what? Tuesday, right? I was hoping to have a PM in here by Monday to help us coordinate and develop a new support model for the 7400 series. We have the Fast Access people coming in for a meeting Monday afternoon.” Will was already starting to fill the whirlwind gathering which was fairly typical of the way things happened at Giant Networks. They always wanted to jump from concept to reality in minutes rather than days. “What is Fast Access?” Will countered regretfully. “You didn’t know we outsourced support for all the new Consumer lines going forward? We bid out the business last quarter and Fast Access gave us the best turn. They’re expensive but quick! We need to take risk and cut Support cost after the revenue impact from the downturn. We are going to RIF about 250 Support people and get it done in time to mention in the quarterly earnings announcement. Keep that to yourself of course.” Will was trying to put the news in perspective but Valerie was already making a show of impatience by rattling her thumbs on the desktop. “Ok, I’ll see if I can get people in there during the next couple of days, then we can settle up on the final two candidates. Are you available Friday?” Valerie thought about it . “Marco told me you are basically free to do this, so I’ll trust you to keep me in the loop. I want those interview appointments on scheduled for Friday. Talk to Kim as soon as possible to nail down the spots, 30 minutes each though I probably won’t need that if you did the homework and screened them.” Valerie’s eyes drifted away toward her computer screen and then she actually started doing something else without waiting for Will’s reply. She made it clear that the result was all that mattered, there should be nothing more to discuss. “Ok then.” Will responded and left the office knowing he’d gotten about as much from Valerie as he could expect.

Will managed to find four people with relevant credentials for a PM contractor who could interview and be available to start on their timeline. By Thursday afternoon he had narrowed down to two candidates. There was Robert Boyle, a guy with ten years Telephony experience. Robert came in dressed up like a country preacher on Sunday with a strong and earnest handshake and a solemn “I’ll do what you want” attitude. Robert insisted on showing Will that he had made the most of his ten months “between jobs” by getting a book published. He reached down and pulled up a black briefcase to his lap and unsnapped the lock. “Here it is. Its called How To Manage Career Transition.” Will took a quick look at the book, noticing it was a self produced. Will might have wrote a book like that himself at one point but right now the whole subject seemed kind of pathetic to him. It had a “blind leading the blind” aspect to it. Will guessed it was exact opposite impression from what Robert was apparently hoping for. Will tried to probe with questions about what it would be like to work with this guy in meetings and how he might manage conflicting priorities among difficult people. There was a lot of nasty stuff that went on at Giant Networks but it had to be managed in a very pleasant way to keep down the stress factors and get through the long hours. “Sounds like there are a lot of difficult people working around this project” Robert had responded. Will couldn’t block out this preacher image from his mind and he imagined it would carry over to the project meetings with threats of hellfire and brimstone and warnings about adhering to the master plan. This just wouldn’t do. Will became a bit anxious knowing that this preacher man was his number two choice at the moment and the deadline beckoned tomorrow.

Bruce Warner was the next candidate. Will was initially put off when Bruce showed up at the cafĂ© patio wearing dark sunglasses. Will had decided to meet outdoors as a way to shake things up a bit. It had only been a couple of hours before when he’d encountered the preacher man and he really needed to purge that image. Bruce began in dangerous territory by asking a couple of pointed questions about the work environment and whether ‘travel is involved”. It made him appear standoffish.

But things changed when Will discovered that Bruce was quite adept in explaining how hemight organize a theoretical schedule and how he might interact with the various people involved . Will liked the way that Bruce listened closely and asked questions to help understand what would motivate people and how to balance their priorities with his own. He was also very honest in detailing his recent work experience. He’d been working as a Project Manager at a small start-up Human Interface Design company in San Francisco which had very promising technology for touchscreens. They had unfortunately ran out of cash in a down economy and were forced to sell out before they could go to market. Bruce had been unemployed for six months and admitted that interviews were very scarce these days. “I’d really appreciate this opportunity to show you what I can do. I promise you we’ll be engaged with that Support transition by early next week and we should be able to get a first pass task list ready by the end of the week. Then we can catch Fast Access on the following Monday and get some names and dates.” Will knew he was taking some risk but considering the tight deadline and the preacher man, this guy looked good to him. He and Bruce spent the last ten minutes of the interview in casual discussion about plans for the weekend, which was supposed to be a nice and mild one.

Will hurried to arrange Valerie’s interview schedule for the next day with her admin Kim only to find that the busy Program Office Director was now unwilling to meet in person with the candidates. “Valerie told me to have you send their resumes over and make sure they are available all of Friday afternoon. She’ll call them when she can.” “Ok, she should have the resumes for Robert and Bruce in her inbox now and I’ll supplement with an email with my impression of their skills and background.” “Sure” Kim answered knowing it would be fruitless to set any expectations for Valerie. Whatever happened tomorrow would depend on her mood and circumstances of the moment.

Will wrote up a good contrast and comparison of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two candidates along with his ‘strong” recommendation in favor of Bruce and sent it along to Valerie and Kim with a reminder of the need to finalize before close of business Friday.

Friday morning came and went with no response from Valerie, so Will called and left a message to find out what was going on. Late afternoon and still no response, so Will stopped by Valerie’s office. Kim stopped him at door and explained that Valerie would do the interviews after 5 pm. Later that evening Will logged in from home to look at email. To his surprise there was a message from Valerie to HR copying him and asking them to offer the job to the preacher man.

That evening Bruce Warner received a call from his agency informing he had not been selected for the “opportunity at Giant”. Bruce decided to go out and get a drink and ended up staying at the bar quite a bit longer than planned. On Saturday he got up late and called his girlfriend to explain he wouldn’t be starting a new job after all. He had felt good about the interview but his hopes had been dashed again. He spent the rest of the day telling the same story to a few other friends. He found it very difficult to retract his optimism from the previous day and wondered what everyone must think of him now. On Sunday night he traveled over the hill to Santa Cruz and stayed out late drinking again. It was embarrassing enough that he had nothing positive to say to anyone, but even worse that he had to borrow money to get drunk. He’d gone through three packs of cigarettes over the weekend and now there wouldn’t even be enough money left to buy more smokes.

Chapter 2: A Rough Start

Monday morning and Will’s phone was ringing as he walked up to his desk. He could also see the message indicator blinking. He hadn’t been expecting much to happen on Monday morning this early. “Hi Will. I’m Lexi Jones from Dannon Recruitment. I’ve been trying to reach Bruce Warner. Valerie said we need to get him in here today. “What?” was all Will could muster in response. “I thought Valerie had offered to the job to that other guy Robert Boyle?” “Can you hold there a minute?” Lexi asked. After a moment she came back online and explained that Robert had decided to accept a full time position from another company. Will recalled Robert had appeared a bit smug in the interview. “Turns out he was just playing us as a second option” he thought. “Well Lexi, let me see if I can help reach Bruce today.”

Late in the morning on Monday and Will had still not been able to get in touch with Bruce. Valerie was furious and had called Marco to complain about the lack of support from Dannon and Will and a few other random entities. Marco, not knowing all the particulars of the situation, had offered to have Will assigned to the project until the contractor could be on boarded and the situation stabilized.

“Hey Will. What happened Friday? Valerie seemed kind of upset.” Marco was in Will’s office Tuesday morning to find out what was going on. “I owe them a favor Will so I told them you’re on the project, effective immediately. Find out what the hell is going on with Fast Access. Get you ass in there and start working the project until we can find another resource. If I were you, I’d start leaning really hard on Dannon. Tell ‘em we’re thinking of sending this req out to other agencies.” Marco wasn’t really worried, he knew Will could probably handle the project for the long term if necessary. Will wasn’t too happy about the prospect of working for Valerie though. “Well now, it wouldn’t be the first time something like this happened, now would it?. Get out the chairs and start playing some music” Marco had his own special way of laying thing outs for Will. “Oh, ah….Will. You need to get over there and lead the Fast Access kick-off meeting this afternoon. I’ll forward you the invite I got from Valerie. You can relax though, it doesn’t start for about an hour.” “Thanks Marco. I knew I could count on you to makes things interesting this afternoon.” “Hey, don’t push your luck. See ya” Marco said and then he walked away intent on avoiding further questions.

Will skipped lunch in order to make a phone call to Dannon and he was hoping maybe he could grab a few moments after that to prep for the meeting he was supposed to be leading. “Hi Lexi. Will here again. I think we might need a plan B. Bruce hasn’t returned my call yet. I’m really not thrilled with any of the other candidates, so maybe can you get a few more people in here. Use Robert and Bruce’s resumes to model the background we’re looking for.” Will had decided he wasn’t going to threaten Lexi with the dreaded “Giant Networks means everything to your pitiful little company” line that was so typical of how people around Giant thought about themselves and their company. Will believed that if someone was giving best effort, one should honor that by at least being polite. Suggest alternatives and work with them like the word “partner” would imply. “Well Will, I do have some promising news. We’ve contacted Bruce just a few minutes ago and they are doing the background check on him. He should be able to come in tomorrow and I’ll confirm that within the hour. In the meantime, I’ll get your plan B started in case we need it.” Will was happy with the news and immediately put all effort to discover what agenda he’d be pusing in the Fast Access meeting. Things were looking up!

Late afternoon on Monday and Will had just sent out status and action items from the Fast Access meeting. As usual there were plenty of surprises, the most significant being that Fast Access was still waiting for business requirements to develop a timeline for rolling out the 7400 series support model. Valerie rapped her knuckles the door and then walked in to Will’s office. “Good job with Fast Access. I think they made it pretty clear what it would take to get them in bed.” Valerie announced, clearly pleased to combine slick with vulgar. “The 7400 team needs to step if they still expect a quick turn on this”, Will offered. “Yeah, well the RIF notices are going out and we’re committed. There won’t be any support unless you make it happen. Anyway, I thought you got off to a good start today. What are your thoughts on this contractor? Do we need him?” Will was floored. “She thinks I’m going to volunteer to take this on after she muffled the requisition process?” Will couldn’t see himself becoming somebody’s pet, a concern already in his relationship with Marco. “Yes Valerie, we need the contractor. I have Bruce coming in tomorrow”. Valerie tried to hide her disappointment. “Excellent news! Lets see if this guy will work out then. I’d appreciate you taking some time with Bruce over the next week or two. Go to all the meetings. I’ll decide on to proceed once you two give me a status report next Friday.” Will realized this wasn’t going in the direction he wanted, but thought it best to put aside his concern for the time being. “Ok then, I’ll let you know once we get things situated with Bruce”. “Oh Will, there was something I meant to tell you. The 7400 team doesn’t have requirements down because they are playing games with the budget. I think they’re trying to squeeze in more requirements at the last moment and hope to blame the cost over run on us. They’re like little chicks chirping and you feed them, hoping to shut them up. Only now they’ve become fat little chicks that are even more hungry. I’m sure you’ll figure out how to deal with them. Bye-bye now”, Valerie said with the air of satisfaction that her orders were being carried out. She believed in keeping the troops on edge. That was Valerie, forceful and clever.

Bruce Warner was running late. It was a Tuesday morning and he hadn’t faced the prospect of getting up and going to work for months. He felt like hell and the attempt to drink a lot of coffee had made him feel sick. Yet here he was, arriving at Giant Networks, and then getting lost trying to find the security check-in site. “All these buildings look exactly the same. They must save a ton of money on building design and maintenance.” He rushed around the parking lot and had to ask at least three different people for help with directions. It was after 11 am when Bruce finally called Will and told him he was somewhere in the parking lot but he had a security badge.

Will came outside and when he saw Bruce walking toward him, his heart jumped up toward his throat and alarm bells were clanging in his head. “He looks terrible”, Will thought. His shirt was visibly soaking with sweat and he looked as though hadn’t slept for a couple of days. This was his guy, the one Valerie had overruled at first and anything he did would surely reflect on Will. He tried to remain calm and polite as he greeted Bruce and took him back toward the office. “Did you have trouble finding us?” Will asked. “Well, yeah.” Bruce answered. “Don’t these buildings remind you of an army barracks?” Bruce looked around, surveying the horizon. As far as one could see, there were Giant Networks buildings in either direction. “Yes sir!” Bruce gave a mock salute. “Please excuse the way I look. It’s hot today and I’ve been rushing around all over the place. I must have walked a couple of miles”. Will finally smiled a little. “Well I know what you mean, they have those signs and walkways all over the lot but I think it only ads to the confusion.” Will was starting to feel a more relaxed, but still didn’t necessarily feel like bringing the new guy in to the building for introductions. “Bruce, it’s almost lunch time. How about if we grab something to eat right now? There’s a place we can walk to from here if you’d like.” Bruce hesitated as though there might be several things concerning him. “Come on! It’s the traditional way to welcome the guy on board” Will announced with gusto. “Well Ok Will, but to tell you the truth, I’d rather drive over there if you don’t mind.” Bruce was pulling at his shirt, indicating how bad it looked and Will understood. Will was also thinking about how there was no such tradition to welcome a contractor on board with a free lunch, but he had to think quickly in situations like this.

DJ Fox was Director of European Services & Support and at that moment just happened to be walking across the parking lot toward Will and Bruce. “Hey Will, got a second?” he called out and he approached quickly with the air of someone seizing on a lucky opportunity. Some people might say that God was not smiling on Will at that moment, but Will was thinking “the gods must be smiling down right now, having arranged some pawns in this configuration.” DJ completely launched immediately in to his “parking lot” summary speech of concerns for the 7400 Support roll out in the EMEA theater. He was losing some people in the RIF and hence forced to give up some of his power with this latest outsourcing move. His only recourse in the situation would be throw down freaking hell on Fast Access and the Project team and make the most of an opportunity to present a horse and pony show of customer concerns. “I expect you’ll follow the usual course and let Americas Support come first? Force the rest of us blokes to line up behind!. Well, I’m putting you on notice right now that it’s not going to be that way this time. I’ve got slim resources and a very short window. I will insist that this roll-out goes concurrent.” Now DJ stopped talking and took a good, hard look at Bruce for the first time. Then he turns back to Will, his lip sneered and he eyes glaring. “If you were smart. You might have already asked for my opinion before bringing these Fast Access guys in here for a meeting today.” DJ stopped to let those words sink in and survey the damage. “Good God Almighty” Will thought, “first there was Valerie and now this guy. We’re going to have a fine time with this project”. Will turned toward Bruce, his eyes pleading with a “lucky you” expression. “DJ, I’d like to introduce Bruce Warner. He’s going to be taking over the Fast Access project”. The men shook hands but now DJ had his hands on his hips and he was looking at Will unbelievingly. “Valerie told me to run concerns through you. I thought she would know what’s going on if anyone did. Maybe I need to stop by and chat with her?” Will could easily see that it was a bad time and place to work through DJ’s conflicts. “No, you can run concerns through myself and Bruce. We’ll get back in touch with you later this week. Are you here until Friday?” DJ was determined not to walk away without a fight. “I’m expecting to get through this before Friday” he told them.

With that, the pleasantries in the parking were over and the men parted to go in different directions. While Will and Bruce went out for lunch, DJ Fox went straight to Valerie’s office to tell her he wasn’t going to entrust Giant Networks customer critical business to a new contractor. He also threw in a couple of pointed comments about Bruce’s appearance along with his very own off the cuff assertion concerning his capability. Valerie reassured him that Marco Riccardi was completely behind the project and she would personally insure that it would be a success. DJ was happy man! It had taken less than thirty minutes for him to create a big splash around the Giant Networks corporate campus. For her part, Valerie called up Marco and asked him to “keep an eye” on Will and his new contractor. “Oh great” Marco said with his unwavering capability to express exasperation in two syllables or less. “Will is still not experienced enough to manage this perception crap. Its like going in to a bar with your little brother. Couldn’t he at least make it look like he knows what’s going to happen next?” Given a moment to think, Marco eventually found a silver lining. “Valerie, please, DJ’s just firing a few shots over the bow to get your attention. I was kind of thinking about taking a trip out to Amsterdam anyway. It wouldn’t hurt to show some executive concern for the success of Fast Access in Europe. I’ll take those guys out and we’ll all get smashed. At the end of day, they’ll be toasting your team and DJ will be slobbering all over himself to make sure the next train doesn’t leave the station without him. Do I sound worried?” Valerie laughed in that cute way women sometimes do if they want to come through as unimposing. “I’m writing in this trip on my schedule now. Let me know if you want to come along. I can pull a few strings just for you Valerie.” Marco said with his own sweetheart voice. “Will do” Valerie answered. Office politics put together strange bedfellows.

Chapter 3: The Project Endures

The project daze came to Bruce Warner in ways he had never expected and could not have prepared for. First there was this friendly guy Will who acted like his boss but at the same time seemed eager to escape from Fast Access. Then there was Valerie who was in fact his boss but never had a moment of time to spare for him. He felt like a little church mouse that had been set loose in hell. Every day brought a new adventure with negotiation on project requirements. Sure, there were tasks to track and people assigned, but every checkpoint meeting found someone challenging existent requirements or adding new ones. The rank and file folks of Giant Networks had immediately warmed to Bruce, finding his attitude refreshing. He was actually willing to listen to their concerns and attempted to bring their feedback to management meetings. Bruce had noted right away that DJ Fox and his group provided more than their share of these issues. He was constantly having to work back through delays in schedule arising from one or more tasks assigned to DJ’s group. Finally, he could stand no more. He realized that both his own success and the success of the project depended on his ability to reel in the EMEA Support team.

“Hi Valerie. My apologies for barging in but I feel it’s important that we have face time on this issue.” Valerie pulled together some papers she’d been working on and gave him an entirely pitiful look. “Ok then, Bruce lets go through your concerns then. But shouldn’t we bring Will in on this?” Bruce wanted this job and realized there would always be certain hurdles to climb. Will had been saying lately that he should assert himself more, especially when dealing with managers. “Will said it was important that you have my perspective on this.” Valerie was thinking about it. “Ok Bruce. Why don’t you speak with Kim in the morning to get on my schedule? Tell her to red flag this and we need an hour. OK? I don’t want to short change you.“ Bruce agreed, after all, it was the first sign that she was going take him seriously. Now he allowed himself to think how they would offer him a permanent position at the end of the contract. “I’m back in the saddle” he announced triumphantly that night to his friends in the bar. Later he went out to the parking lot for a smoke break and called his girlfriend. Sally Branscombe had been observant enough to note that Bruce’s attitude about this job at waffled from week to week. Still it felt good to hear a touch of confidence in Bruce’s voice. She allowed herself to think that he might take charge of what happened in his life and maybe there was some possibility of a future with him.

Another week went by and Will was looking at the schedule update that Bruce had sent out. He’d only recently felt like it was safe to pull back from this project but what he saw today alarmed him. There were several tasks marked in bold red to indicate slip and as before, they were all associated with the European Support team. “I thought Bruce had this under control. He was supposed to have worked this through with Valerie.” Will picked up the phone and dialed. “Hello Bruce. Do you have some time this afternoon? I need to talk about the schedule”. Bruce agreed that they should meet. In fact, he’d been embarrassed about the lack of progress recently and dreading when he would break the news to Will. “I still haven’t had that meeting with Valerie. She keeps putting me off.” Will was stunned! It was exactly the kind of thing that could happen around here, but still he couldn’t help feeling that Bruce should have taken a more active stance to red flag the problem with Valerie. “Bruce, I don’t think we need to meet after all. It’s clear enough who I need to be talking to. I’m going over to see Valerie right away”. “Thanks Will. I knew you would understand but I didn’t want to bother you with this. I’ve sent email and tried to call her a couple of times. The only thing I’ve gotten back is a couple of meeting cancellation notices.” Will liked Bruce and there were many examples where he was doing a fine job but surely he most realize that Valerie wasn’t likely to be embracing him with open arms at the end of his contract. “What kind of an arrangement to we have here anyway?” Will thought to himself. “Bruce was been setting up to succeed. Shouldn’t a manager be responsible for that?”

Will thought about going to Marco for help with the situation but then he realized that Marco would want him to handle it and besides, he wasn’t in the mood to hear a lecture anyway. It took Will another couple of days to get an audience with Valerie and only a quick phone conversation at that. “Yes, I spoke to Bruce about the schedule. We agreed on some things he can try to do”. Will was puzzled. He’d been trusting Bruce and of course he didn’t trust Valerie as much. Yet she seemed perfectly. “When did you speak to Bruce?” he asked. “Oh, I just spoke to him a few minutes ago actually”, she replied. Before Will could respond she added “I hope you can do me a favor. I’m going to be on a trip next week. Can you go to the Fast Access meeting while I’m out? This is a critical period and there are several milestones coming.” Will agreed to do this but told himself it was for Bruce’s sake and for Marco’s sake, but most of all for his own sake. The project was still winding through hell and he was still tangled up with it. He called up Marco and told him about Valerie’s request but Marco seemed to already know about her travel plans. “Just thought you’d like to know, ah, high level what’s going on” Will told him. “Oh really! Well thank you” Marco said in that overly exaggerated tone he used to denote “don’t bring the sucky world to me”. Will turned to go but Marco called him back. “I just wanted to let you know that you are doing a hell of job with Fast Access and other people have noticed that too”. Will found himself wondering what other gems Marco would bring out to polish. “And Bruce?” Will replied. “What do people think about Bruce?” Marco didn’t appreciate the questions, not after he’d been trying to play nice. “People are stepping over each other and getting all tangled up just because they want to come in here and say something nice about Bruce” Marco teased. “Hey come on, you know what it’s like with new people. They have to prove themselves.” Will thought about that before replying. “Well, I think Bruce is doing a good job with this. Anyone would have trouble dealing with DJ, much less a new guy.” Marco removed his glasses and rubbed his eyelids. “Well there you go” he finally replied. “Bruce is having trouble with DJ and you are going to step in to help. I think that’s about all I need to know about Bruce right now.” Marco pulled a finger across his throat to indicate the subject was closed. Will could feel tension building and he knew whatever happened next week would be about his career at Giant Networks and probably have very little to do with Bruce. “If I were him, this would be the last place I’d want to be when the contract is up” Will thought and made a note to advise Bruce to start looking and the company job board and figure out where the opportunities are. “Working for Valerie would go beyond desperate”.

The next morning Will came looking for Bruce but could not find him. He tried again a couple of hours later and still no success. He ran toward the stairway but just then there was Bruce emerging from the elevator. “Hi Will. Were you looking for me? I was taking a break” he said and tugged at this shirt pocket to indicate the cigarette pack. Bruce looked very nervous. “Valerie said she talked to you?” Will half expected him to deny it but there was no response from Bruce. “Do you think you are getting anywhere on this DJ situation.” Bruce fidgeted. “Can we go back downstairs? I think I can use another smoke already” he said. Will couldn’t stomach cigarette smoke but judging from Bruce’s expression, there probably weren’t going to be other choices available. “Can we take the stairs?” Will was so averse to the affect of second hand smoke that he could feel it immediately burning his eyelids if someone lit up over twenty yards away. Prolonged exposure meant a headache and finally nausea

As they walked down the stairway, Will began digging for information. “I’m sorry to push but I need to know what’s going on with DJ. Right now, it would be incredibly relevant to give some positive news to Marco”. Bruce gave him a knowing look. “Valerie told me that my plan to break off EMEA into a separate call sounded fine! I showed her the way I had reorganized the schedule. It was different from the way you had it, showing dependencies on EMEA with subtasks. Provides more visibility for the pain points we’ve been having”. Bruce was smiling. He was feeling pleased to think he might have more information than Will for once. “So Valerie told you to go forward with that?” “Yeah, but then she turns and tells me IF IT’S NOT TOO LATE”. “Ok, you got me on the hook, now tell me what she meant by that.” “Sure Will. She told me she planned to have a Come To Jesus meeting next week with DJ”. Will cringed. “Ever notice it’s mostly women using that expression nowadays? It’s like how you hear that someone was beaten when they were child and more likely to had down the same treatment to their children. Now we have people imitating the condescending and blasphemous expressions from their precious star VP’s. Anyway, I guess you realize it wouldn’t be normal for a manager to have a side bar with a key stakeholder about the schedule and leave the PM out of the discussion? Damn it Bruce, you can’t let her manage for you! There’s one major pressure point and one big road block on the project and we knew this from the start. We have to offer the solution here, not step aside”. Will glared at him.

Bruce was surprised by the outburst and now they had stopped on a landing and he could see he needed to say something to get things back in perspective. Will had been his ally here and even though he wanted to make his own mark, Will was still his life line at this company. Just the same, if Will wanted him to assert himself, he could do that right here. “Don’t worry about it man. I’ve got a deal with Valerie. After she speaks with DJ, we’re supposed to meet again and put the final touches on the schedule and we’ll finally have stability there. After that, it’s basic project management and you know I can handle that, right? Isn’t that why you brought me here?” Bruce started to walk down the next flight of stairs but Will did not follow. “OK Bruce. You’re right. I’m going to step out of this. Lets get together next week after you have your meeting with Valerie. Like I said, I’m sorry to push this” Bruce was pleased. “Hey, if I don’t see you, have a good weekend Will. I’m going over to Santa Cruz to visit Sally this weekend. Just lay around the house and walk over to beach. Sounds like you need a little bit of relaxation yourself.” Will couldn’t agree more. “Have a good one Bruce”. Bruce turned and walked hurriedly down the stairs, his hand fumbling for the pack with one hand and for the lighter with the other. He couldn’t wait to get into another smoke. Will walked back toward his office. “Its not the way I’d handle this but everybody as their own way to get things done. There are a lot of soft touches in program management and it would be hard to know exactly what had happened without being in the room with Bruce and Valerie. Maybe Bruce has a good read on it. Who knows?”

Chapter 4: It Had to End Badly For Someone

Will returned to work that Monday after a restful weekend and now turned his attention to other things he’d been neglected since the contractor had come on board. He’d made the mistake of micro-managing before and saw this as a chance to prove for himself that he could trust someone else to see it through, even the critical projects like Fast Access. One had to draw a line somewhere. Set expectations appropriate and stay out of the way. Think of how you would like to be treated. It was a swell way of thinking but there were a couple of events unfolding that were about to bring the unpredictability of life here in Silicon Valley back in to sharp focus.

On Tuesday afternoon Will realized it hadn’t seen Bruce that week nor had there been any form of communication from him. He thought they had left each other on good terms? Will decided to do a quick check and found Bruce’s desk looked remarkably clean as if it had been abandoned. He went to break room and next to the cafeteria, but Bruce was nowhere to be found. He took a walk across to another building where several of the project team members were located. Someone immediately came up and asked about Bruce, as in “where is Bruce today, do you know?”

As Will walked by Valerie’s office he noticed the door was open and she was in there talking on the phone. When she looked up and saw Will standing there, she got up and closed the door. “Hmmm, so she’s acting like she thought I was coming over here to push back on something? But Bruce thinks they have an understanding?” Will thought. “It wouldn’t surprise me if there was a change in plans already. But where was Bruce?” This seemed like the more important factor for the moment. When Will got back to his office there was a phone message from a colleague informing that they were having difficulty reaching Bruce today and have something that was supposed be handled. So now it seemed clear enough the Bruce had not come in to the office all day! Will began to feel uneasy.

Will left work that evening without knowing what had happened to Bruce. He’d even tried calling him several times on his home number. Later that night there was an email message from Bruce sent to Will’s personal account. He was certain something was wrong now. Will took a deep breath before opening it. “Hi Will. Got your messages. I need to understand what happened? I’m back at the house now, please give me a call.” Will tried calling him a couple of times that evening but never managed to reach him.

The next day Will started asking around, especially the Fast Access project team members. One of them told him that Valerie had called earlier in the week and asked for an evaluation of Bruce’s performance on the project. “Yeah, you know Bruce has been doing a good job in a very difficult situation. I don’t think anyone could manage it better given the circumstances. Do you?” Will was embarrassed to admit that it was all news to him. “No one asked me for an evaluation and I’ve been closer to the situation than anyone else!” Will resisted the temptation make a run directly at Valerie or Marco. “I’ll make them come explain this me.” A short time later there was a call on his cell phone, it was Bruce.

“I got your messages. You don’t know what happened? “ There was a hint of distrust in his voice. “No Bruce, you tell me”. “I didn’t think you could have had anything to do with this Will. I told my friends how much I enjoyed working with you.” There was a touch of sadness in his voice but also sarcastic edge. “Bruce, I’m willing to help. What did they tell you?” There was a long pause. Finally Bruce said “I got a call from Dannon on Monday night. They told me the contract was cancelled and not to come in Tuesday. Of course I wanted an explanation, but the only thing they offered was that Valerie had called and asked Dannon to inform me. They couldn’t figure out what happened either, they said Valerie was not very communicative. So I tried to call Valerie. You’d think she’d have the guts to explain it to me? Right? Well I didn’t hear a damn thing from her. So I called Dannon back again and told them I need to understand what was the rational for this. No one had ever told me that I wasn’t doing the job or gave any indication that something like this might happen. So Dannon calls me back last night and tells me Giant was under some pressure with the budget and decided they didn’t need a contractor. Have they told you anything about the budget?” Will was stunned but he thought it important to be straight with Bruce. “I spoke to Teresa today and she told me Valerie was asking about you. And she told Valerie you were making a good contribution in a tough situation but there was nothing, absolutely nothing said about the budget. But damn Bruce, you need to understand the way that Giant deals with contractors. There’s nothing you can do about this without digging a deeper hole for yourself. I’ve been through this kind of thing. It’s better to move on and focus on what you are going to do next.” Bruce was distraught and kept talking about the circumstances behind his dismissal. Will felt compelled to interrupt, knowing it could do nothing to help. “Bruce, lets focus on your next job, I believe I can help you. There are other people here we can get in touch with that would be happy to help you as well. Lets focus on that. Get your resume ready and if you want, send it over to me. I get job leads every once in a while. I can send them on to you. Start thinking about what you’d like to do so I can help find the right match.” Bruce’s voice was choking as he tried to answer. “I told my friends you were a good person Will. I knew you couldn’t have had anything to do with this. Thanks for everything man. Thanks for giving me an opportunity. I appreciate it, you know it. You are one of the good ones. I’ll get back to you when I’ve figured out what I can do next. The agency is going to start looking for me too.” “Ok Brucke, let me know what happens. You can call me anytime here at work.” There wasn’t anything more that Will could think of to say. “Hey Will, I hope you understand. I need closure on this and I’m not going to give up until I get a straight story. I need to understand what went wrong if for no other reason than to avoid repeating this experience again!”

Will was furious with Valerie but best judgment called for him to wait this out . It seemed likely she pulled Bruce off the project to appease DJ. But he would never know for sure.
That night Will felt sickened by the whole situation. He felt like someone had punched him in the stomach. He couldn’t blame himself. Not this time. Thinking about it made him feel bad, but the thought of not thinking about it seemed even worse. Maybe it was good to feel pain like this, it was proof that he was not stuck in the corporate mud like so many of them. Will didn’t get much sleep that night.

The next day Will received a phone call from Valerie. “I guess you are wondering about Bruce. There has been a management decision to cut some budget from this project because it was taking too long to complete. But I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know you’ve been doing a good job and have nothing to worry about.” Will tried to hold back his temper. “Well I didn’t see anything wrong with Bruce. He was the messenger.
Moving Bruce out doesn’t make the real problem go away. DJ’s team was stalling! What am I missing? I’ve been involved with this project too. I reviewed the budget and didn’t see this coming at all.” Valerie decided to try another tactic that she felt might work better. “Will, I was talking to DJ at length on Monday. The truth is we’ve all been spoiled by having you involved with the project. Bruce doesn’t add value like you do. He just moves numbers and dates around on a spreadsheet. We’ve come to expect a lot more than that.” Will wasn’t buying the flattery approach either. “Valerie, I’m not sure that anyone can get very far with DJ unless they unless they agree to do everything his way. He’s got his own agenda here and you are letting him shove it down our throats.” Valerie had gone along as far as she was willing to go. “Ok Will, I’ll let you figure it out. I was just trying to keep you in the loop. I didn’t expect that you were going to argue with me about Bruce. That train is already left the station. If you were smart, you’d take this opportunity and run with it.” Valerie put down the phone without waiting for an answer.

The next day Will was in Marco’s office. “That was a career limiting move to talk to Valerie like that. Sometimes its better to keep your thoughts to yourself. You need to save ammunition. You just shot at the wrong person and now she’s pissed off. Reset the target. I need you to go after DJ now. If you think he’s been manipulating Valerie, here’s your opportunity to show everyone how you would handle things.”

Will never ceased to be amazed by the way Marco looked at things as if it were all one big drama with all these interesting little intrigues. How was it that he could work with this guy who was Machiavellian to the core? Will guessed that Marco’s redeeming features were that he was anti-stubborn, liked good ideas, and finally, most important, Marco had this awareness of a great big world out there where anything might be possible and one could never know everything. Marco could live with that, it made life more interesting.

“Marco, don’t you think Bruce was treated unfairly in all this?” Marco lowered his voice and began speaking slowly and evenly. “With a project like this one, it had to end badly for somebody….” Will interrupted him. “Lets just be glad its not you or I, right?” “Now really Will, are you going to take care of yourself? Stop dancing on the edge of a cliff! If you do your job right and stand up to all the bastards, there’s always going to be stress and shit to work through. Let me tell you how I deal with it. Ever been to a shooting range? (Marco assumed aiming position, making believe he had a weapon) “Blam! Blam! Best way to relieve stress there is.” Marco smiled and waved at Will to indicate it was time for him to leave. Will wondered what went through his mind as his eyes locked in on the target. “Marco, you really are a lucky bastard, aren’t you?” He went back to his office and turned out the lines and went home.

The End

Created by Bill Keys