That empty feeling is about more than an empty office. Yesterday morning I was thinking that I hadn't experienced the sadness I was expecting to hit me, but then my immediate co-workers took me to lunch and on my return my former boss's-boss (who couldn't make the lunch) gave me a bottle of wine and a nice note of good wishes and the sadness started to hit me. My boss just sent me a note that was so many degrees beyond perfunctory in its compliments that I'm at a loss for a response. Is this what it's usually like when people leave a job?
Back when I started interviewing for the position I'll be taking at Red Hat (it seems ok to mention the new company at this point), I talked with a co-worker I respect who himself was leaving the next week, about my conflicted feelings here. He noted that I felt a very strong loyalty to SGI, and that he did as well, but that I needed to look at what, exactly, inspired that loyalty (and whether, looking to the future, those things would be different). It was useful advice.
What I realized is that there have been many individual things over the years that inspire this loyalty. For example, I once returned from a LISA conference (a system administrator conference, and being able to attend those conferences for several years is in itself something that inspires my SGI loyalty) and wrote up a long report. Buried deep in this report I mentioned that the chair of the next year's conference had asked me if I'd be interested in serving on the conference committee, which led to my writing a bit about whether and how technical writers are part of the system administrator universe. (My system administrator friends, xeger in particular, helped convince me that we are.) My department manager pulled that mention of being asked about serving on the conference committee out of the report and told me that if I were interested the department would support me, even to the extent of reducing my workload if that was required. As it turns out, I did not want to be on that committee, but that is the sort of gesture that inspires tremendous loyalty; most of my friends who are actual system administrators do not have anything like this level of support from their employers. I could list several dozen of these gestures, all of which are things that did not happen until SGI bought Cray, and all of which are things that I quite specifically credit SGI with.
But, as my departing co-worker pointed out, all of the things I speak of are at the level of immediate management. And he was absolutely correct. Decisions at higher levels, ranging from the company policy of giving technical writers lesser facilities than the engineers they work with (which we got around locally by not telling the corporate offices what we were doing although I almost walked out the door one day over the issue) to making me fight hard to do the traveling I absolutely needed to do to get my job done (I used to have director-level managers making my case to vice presidents, which is a horrid waste of everybody's time) to, well, making poor decisions about the company's direction -- these are definitely not the things that inspire loyalty. I'm also aware that at the highest levels the company doesn't have the same loyalty to me that I have to them, but that's barely notable in the current business world.
Ok, that helped ease my mind about my ultimate decision to leave. But these last days at SGI are entirely one hundred percent about the immediate things, the local things, the folks here in my building who have been very pleasant and respectful to me for years and years. I'm grateful I was able to put off my start date at Red Hat for three weeks beyond their initial offer, to give me time to do this departure at my own pace. I've never been one to rip the bandaid off in one swift gesture, or to jump right in to the deep end of the cold pool.
Strangely, oddly, bizarrely enough, things here at SGI are not looking as bleak as they did for a while. Some excellent high-level writers whom we've had to lay off over the last few years and who are currently employed have heard about my departure and are applying for the position (we managed to get a requisition here, and I gave my boss enough warning to start the process going weeks ago by turning in my letter of resignation immediately, effective five weeks later).
So how are the last few days at SGI? Sort of fun, sort of sad, sort of exciting.
I come into work on Tuesday morning, which I made my last day in case I needed access to my office over the holiday weekend. Then I leave right for the airport for a flight to Raleigh North Carolina for my Red Hat orientation Wednesday and Thursday.
And then we begin a new sort of fun.