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Jobless in Seattle

It’s been a few days since I was laid off from Zillow.com and I thought I jot down some of the things that have been going on.

On Friday, October 17, I got the news that 40+ colleagues and I were being let go from Zillow in an effort to reduce company spending.  Our official final day of employment would be the next Tuesday, October 21, 2008. This really did not come as much of a shock to me, but others being laid off were very surprised and upset.  I feel that Zillow.com did a good job of handling the difficult task of downsizing the company. I will not go into specifics but will say the severance package was fair, especially in light of the current economy.

I had just this week been talking with two friends about referring people for both help desk and systems administrator (SA) job openings. For the next three hours after the announcement I went to lunch, had a couple of drinks, and updated my resume.  I sent my resume off and ended up having a telephone interview that day for the SA job.  My resume was also submitted for the help desk job, but I had down played my help desk experience in the resume and they did not feel I had the right background for the job.  Not that I really want to work help desk but the job was only a temp contract and just three blocks from my home.

I had thought about going in to the office over the weekend to start cleaning out my office and making notes of things for the two team members that were staying on. Saturday flew by and it was really starting to hit me emotionally that I was not just losing a job but also losing an important part of my life.  I do not have any family and don’t see co-workers outside of work, but the people at Zillow are truly the people I see, care about and respect the most.  I spent Sunday in typical fashion and walked about downtown Seattle, from South Lake Union down to the Olympic Sculpture Garden and then down along the waterfront.  It was around 4:30PM as I was standing at Pier 52, looking up the hill towards my soon to be former office, that I decided not go pack up my books, video games and computers until Monday.  I went instead to the Bookstore Bar at the Alexis Hotel and to have dinner and drink and talk to my friends who work there. Krystal was kind enough to invite me to Trivia Night at Belltown Pizza on Monday.

Monday flew by as I cleared off my bookshelves and packed up my PlayStation2.  I almost forgot about my old Mac Mini G4. I had disconnect and packed it’s external hard drives and cable early in the day but left little thing sitting hidden under the desk.  At the end of day after answering some emails, updating some of our wiki documentation and boxing my belonging, I was tired and hungry.

It was 5:30PM and Bookstore Bar’s happy hour was calling my name. $4 Pulled Pork Bite sandwiches and a $6 Vanilla Stoli and Coke was just what I needed.  It was even more what I needed when the broccoli in the drink got the whole thing comp’ed.

Now it was time to return to the office and get the four full boxes of junk back to my home.  I don’t have a driver’s license or a car. Since I only live 11 blocks away this is not normally of any concern.  The building security guard would not let me bring a taxi into the loading dock even though it’s open until 8PM.  He said, “You need permission from Property Management to remove things from the building.”  I told him never mind I’ll just take my stuff out the front door instead of loading dock.  He said that would be fine.  I really did not understand this but decided right then and there not to waste anymore time thinking about the policies or his reasoning and interpretation of them. I have not. I’ve also blocked other people from trying to explain the possible motives and reason for this situation. The truth, and point, is I just wanted my stuff and found a quick and easy solution that met my needs.  Second-guessing and discussing this type of thing is waste of time and energy.
The short taxicab ride, including the wait time, cost less than $10 and was covered by the voucher Zillow had given me.

Boxes unloaded and schlepped up to my apartment, it was now to go to Trivia Night. Since I was less than 24 hours from unemployment I decided to walk the ~15 blocks to Belltown Pizza down on 1st Ave near Batter Street.

The restaurant was busy but not packed.  I got a seat at the bar sitting next to Krystal and had a very nice night talking to her and her boyfriend, who is the bartender. Two drinks and a pepperoni slice later is time to head home.

I get home and check the company email.  Not much in my inbox since I had removed myself from most distribution list.  Sent out a team note about some items.  Now it was time send out an email to say goodbye.  I had been thinking long and hard about using “So long and thanks for all the fish” but that had too much of a negative connotation.  Maybe if you work with dumb people it would be okay, but these are some of the brightest people I’ve ever worked with and I truly wish them best of luck in keeping Zillow going strong. I keep it to a simple five sentences in three paragraphs with the import message being, “meet at the Fado’s Pub on Tuesday, starting at 3PM, for drinks and goodbyes.  This is sent just to the downtown office staff. Both those employees leaving and staying on.

Now we are up to Tuesday, the final day.   It’s a day to archive emails, make sure important files have been moved to the servers, and update wiki documentation pages. We (IT) go out to Los Margaritas for final lunch as a team. Back to work for some final meetings about import systems to watch and maintain. Things/systems like Backup Exec, WSUS, WDS/RIS, etc. all need regular supervision and maintenance.

It’s 3PM and time to hand in the laptop, keys and badge.  I will miss the place greatly.

The goodbye party at Fado’s goes great.  A lot of people on both side of the layoff showed up.  Even Rich and Lloyd were there to say farewell.  They are great people to work for.  Even though the email invite I had sent said this was not a company event and people needed to bring their wallets, Rich and Lloyd still paid for a couple of hours worth of food and drink for over 60 people.

I love Zillow and the people there.  I will cherish the memories of all the things we accomplished together.

Mike Wood
Former Zillowite