On my own

Sunday 19 December 2010This is over 12 years old. Be careful.

Friday was my last day at Hewlett-Packard, I’m now a freelancer.

It’s been interesting to reflect on my time at HP. Generally, I don’t like the large company dynamic. A big difference between Tabblo as a start-up and Tabblo as a technology group inside HP was the extent to which our attention was focused on HP itself rather than on the truly important external concerns. A lot of that was due to the shift in our work, but a lot of it was also because of how large organizations work. It’s very easy to become preoccupied with internal issues that simply don’t matter to customers.

This doesn’t seem to be peculiar to HP, it’s just a natural side-effect of trying to get tens or hundreds of thousands of people to act like a cohesive unit. There are some things you can only do once you’ve gotten that many people together, but I am not driven to do those kinds of things, so I choose not to work in that large a group.

But HP’s particular blight of the last few years was obsessive cost-cutting, something that I hope was due to Mark Hurd, and that is now a thing of the past. Back in March, I wrote a blog post about a particularly bone-headed policy change. The worst part about these measures is the seduction of cutting visible costs at the expense of invisible ones:

These [cost-cutting] policies do nothing to improve the mood among HP employees, and they do nothing to make HP products better. Every one of them is a trade-off of the visible against the invisible, and the invisible that suffers is everything you want in a company: productivity, morale, loyalty, and innovation. It’s hard enough to build great products, I don’t need my employer, a giant profitable tech company, nickel-and-diming me to make it even harder.

That pressure inside the company made it very difficult to feel like HP and we were together in trying to build something great. More often, it felt like we shipped something in spite of the corporation.

I can’t say I would have stayed at HP even if it had been run perfectly. I still will be glad not to be commuting, and I like the flexibility that freelancing gives me to be involved in more than one thing at a time. I’m also hoping that freelancing will allow me stay focused on technical rather than organizational work.

So I’ll be on my own for now. Of course, to mark the occasion of my last day, my family made a cake: it’s me on a horse, riding into the sunset:

Cake: riding into the sunset


Been reading your blog for a long time now, so I've been "following you".
Just wanted to say good luck in your future endeavors!
Also, the cake is awesome :)
It's been like that at HP for a long time.
When I worked there (in the early 80s) we frequently felt like we shipped things in spite of HP.

P.S. Good luck in the future.
A cake that is you on a horse going off into the sunset? I don't know my westerns well but I think this is what the cowboy does right before he goes off into oblivion. You've got plenty of important stuff to do still.

Congrats on surviving HP— they were lucky to have you as long as you stayed.
Congratulations Ned, and good luck!
First of all good luck.

I can tell you in a couple of words the issue at HP. Ink cartridges. 80% of that companies profit comes from selling ink. The rest just facilitates an excuse for using the ink.

You see I was on the other side as a lead manager for a Fortune 10 that used HP product. Try as we might we could negotiate the pricing on practically anything else but ink. In the eyes of the board nothing else mattered. The VP that controlled the ink division (separate from the printer side I might add.) controlled the fortunes of HP and he knew it.
Congrats! I think it is a great move - and I know you will find something much better.

Good luck!
Congratulations Ned! I think it's a swell move on your part. The risks are slightly higher when you're consulting but the pay and the feeling that you're in the drivers seat more than compensates. I wish you all the best.

I moved from a full time job to being a consultant last December and the past year has been an incredible learning experience for me. I intend to blog about it shortly.

Good luck!

P.S. Beautiful cake. :)
That is one awesome cake! Also, good luck, it sounds like you made the right move.
Ned, I look forward to seeing what you do in the coming years. You're always welcome for lunch at my place of employ.
Well done on making the shift and the best of luck with it!
Walked off into the sunset myself, almost two years ago. It has much to recommend it. Good luck.
Congratulations and best wishes for the new year!
lame-brain cost-cutting example : billion $ insurance company removing coffee machines from (the gloriously luxuriant east-coast) campus. Why? Save a whole $60 000 / year.

Giving "free coffee" away for 1 hour a day in the cafeteria. Picture thousands of employees making the trek (huge office building) and lining up, waiting for the coffee. Try to imagine the cost of all those people standing around.

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