Monday, October 13, 2008

Culture shock. And money too

Spoke with someone who transferred from HP California to HP Houston last year.
Interesting fact: his California salary is so much higher than the equivalent Houston position that he was told "don't expect any pay raises while you are out there."
'course, Houston is so much cheaper to live in he's ahead of the game.

He mentioned that he was still having a tough time adjusting to the former Compaq culture.
"Yeah, they brought in 300 of us and there are 10,000 old Compaq people. It's not always smooth."

Me: Well, you have to understand the culture here. Californians drink wine. We drink whiskey.

Him: I drink wine.

Me: That's your problem. Drink whiskey.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

HR prizes (or not)

We had a supervisor's training meeting.
As part of the 2 day meeting they devised a contest.
Now, this is a group of supervisors.
Fairly competitive group.
HR goes on and on about the final mystery prize.

Contest ends.
I win.
The prize?
Oh, no prize.
It was just an incentive.
No need for a real prize.

HR, that bastion of proper relations, figured the only way to get supervisors to participate in the class was to lie to them.
Know what happened when someone lied to HR?
They got fired.

HR. Gotta love 'em.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

There was a crooked man.

There was a crooked man
and he walked a crooked mile.
And bought a Compaq computer.

Many of our customers were out and out crooks.
Many of them played the 'small claims' game.
Almost every big company will fight lawsuits in the courts to avoid setting precedence.
HOWEVER, small claims court is not recognized by most as a "real court."
Many of our customers would simply file in small claims for $3 or $4 thousand and wait for us to call.
One customer told us on her first call: " I filed in small claims. The JP told me that I'd get what I want because Compaq always settles."
And we did.
You file, you win.
One customer wanted their money back AND to keep the computer.
Care to guess?
Yup. We gave her the money back and she kept the computer.

Another scam was big in portables.
We had a mail in repair program.
We mail you a box, you pack the computer, ship it back UPS/ FEDEX.
Boxes would come in packed with bricks or phone books.
Customer swears they sent in the computer.
Someone at UPS/FEDEX must have stolen it.
And when is Compaq going to send a replacement computer?
Today. No problem.

The most common theft was parts.
We sent out user replaceable parts.
The customer never sent back the original.
We couldn't do anything.
So we tried taking credit cards as insurance.
Still didn't work.
Customer protested charge.
Said they shipped product back.
We lost again.

Last and least common.
We ship out harddrive.
They return hard drive from another brand computer.

Very ingenious, these customers.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cutting edge

Compaq wanted to be on the leading edge of technology.

Even when there was nothing to lead.

And no one was asking for directions.


The now ubiquitous USB port was once a brand new idea.

Compaq release a Presario with TWO PORTS!

First on the market.


But there was no software to drive them.

That's right, these two ports could be used by exactly ZERO outside products.

And exactly one internal product: a mouse.

So if you bought this great, leading edge product you could be the proud owner of two absolutely useless ports.

Two years later though you could use... a mouse.

Still, Compaq was first...


There was a day when every sound card made HAD to be Soundblaster compatible.

Boxes of games all listed Soundblaster 16 (SB16) as a requirement.

Almost all games.

All computer manufacturers used SB16 cards.

And paid a license to SB.

Except for Compaq.

Some genius got the idea of making a sound card with unique technology.

That was not SB 16 compatible.

So they would not have to pay the license.

Which means no, repeat, no games would have sound.

When it was announced every tech at Compaq, bar none, said it was a mistake.

Compaq said: Don't worry, we'll release SB16 drivers soon.



That was somewhere around 95 or 96.

Still waiting on those drivers.


What kind of problems did the non-SB16 units have?

All products experience some sort of returns.

Maybe 10%. Maybe 15%. Sometimes people just don't like what they bought.

So many Presario 900s were returned that we had trailer loads standing in the parking lot.

The warehouses were full.

And they just kept coming.

So what did Compaq do with them?

Cleaned them up and sold them at their factory outlet.

Still not SB16 compatible.

Friday, June 15, 2007


The first year I was there some poor secretary emailed the entire department pay rates to the entire department.
For the whole year, TG and BG had been ribbing me because I was the lowest paid person hired in that group.
I didn't care. I knew I wasn't qualified and was still hired.
Then the pay rates came out.
We were all "lowest paid."
Some friends....
It's not that I hated HR at Compaq.
I hate all harmful, wasteful organizations.

Another example:
Training could not have 'tests'.
That word was too "stressful" and it would be embarrassing for someone to fail a test.
Even the tech that works on computers.

So we had "knowledge assessments."

But no tests.


I wrote a review of an employee.
She went through a full term of a difficult pregnancy without missing a beat.
Incredible effort.
I said something to the effect:
"Even though she experienced a long, difficult pregnancy, she performed above the department average and never missed a day. She is to be commended."
I couldn't use that.
HR told me I was not allow to acknowledge that I knew she was pregnant.
How the hell could I not?
Even ignoring the swollen belly.
Somewhere in there a baby miraculously appeared.
How could I pretend to not notice???
HR: "you can't say that. Take it out."
Ever wonder how much HR made at Compaq?
I looked.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Helpful HR

Something you should know about Compaq.

Human Relations (HR) at Compaq had one job and one job only: make sure Compaq does not get sued.

Therefore, it was impossible to fire someone.

Example 1.

TB was a new hire. On the third day at work she came back from lunch drunk.

Not tipsy.


Four co-workers saw her drink 4 margaritas at lunch.

HR said it didn't count.

The co-workers might be plotting against her.

Had to be witnessed by a superior.

NOTE TO HR: anyone sober is superior to a drunk.

So we could not fire her.

We could "counsel" her.

After two or three more drunk sessions and counseling she finally quit.

But was never fired.

Or Compaq might get sued.

Example 2.

CM was a thief.

Everyone knew it.

Including his boss.

He bragged that he had one of every computer Compaq ever made in his garage.

He also drank vodka from water bottles as he walked around all day.

He was also accused of sexual harassment at least twice.

Once including groping.

Groping was a privilege reserved by Compaq for the VP of HR, Mr. Hands Gotcha.

Anyway, he was counseled and counseled but never fired for theft or harassment.

What was he fired for?

Seems that during an investigation into yet another harassment charge...


Oh, my.

You can steal, you can grope, but you better not lie to HR.

When they finally fired him they said: "We know you have things that belong to Compaq.

Either bring them in tomorrow or we'll get a warrant for your arrest."

He brought back 4 flat dollies worth of stuff.

And this is just what he admitted to.

Makes you wonder what you had to do to get fired for stealing.

Example 3.

I had a tech I really needed to fire.

He was bad, missed work, rude to customers, you name it.

I documented everything.

Went to HR.



Me: "So, if this guy was white I could fire him?"

HR: "Yes. You have plenty here if he was white. But he's black so we need more."

Good old HR.

You could always count on them for support.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Even Tougher Security

Much later in my Compaq life:
Training manager needs to use a portable for traveling.
I'm now in a position of some authority so I get her a new one.
She checks it out, uses it for a month or so, brings it back.

Follow closely:
She checks it out at the 290 site.
Checks it in at the main campus.
Leaves the main campus and forgets to check it out.
Comes to my office at 290 and forgets to check it in.
All honest memory lapses.

She says: "I brought this back but forgot to check it in here."
Me: No problem.

I walk from my office down the hall to the entrance.
Tell the guard I want to check the portable in.
She scans it, says: "You can't. It's already checked in at main campus."

I try to explain what happens. She won't budge.

Finally, I give up and start to go to my office.
She says: "Sir, you can't take that to your office. It's not checked in here."

What am I supposed to do?

Her: "You need to take that back out to your car."

Wait. Wait. Wait....

A Compaq security person is insisting I take a new, high end portable home?

Ok. I can do that.

I used it for about a year.

Then brought it back.
But didn't check it in.
I wasn't smart enough to handle that.

Tough security

Somehow or some way, Compaq caught a few of the more brazen individuals trying to take entire server racks out of the warehouse.
It didn't matter that they were scrap.
It was still considered theft.

Compaq revised it's scrap procedure.
All valuable scrap (processors, drives, memory, etc.) now had to go into a locked bin.
The line supervisor had the key.

I needed parts for my latest project.

TG and I go "shopping."

And find the locked bin.

Damn. How am I going to get around this?

After many seconds of thought, I came up with an ingenious plan.
I went to the line supervisor and said:
"Can I have the key to the lock? I need to get some parts. IT'S FOR TRAINING."

No problem. Got the key, did my shopping, said thank you and left.

After that, the line supervisor would just hand me the key when he saw me.

Sorta gives you a warm, secure feeling all over, doesn't it?

Do It Yourself Kits...

We made many a run for "parts for training."
Picked up processors, memory, system boards, cases, etc.
Anything and everything that could go into a computer.

So I built my own.
First one was a Pentium 60.
As new processors came out, I just revisited the trash bins.
I stopped upgrading somewhere around the Pentium 200 mark.
Only because they transferred us to a new site.

What was so special about this?
Well, Compaq had a policy.
Employees could check out any computer they wish for home use.
All you needed was a serial number.

Can't find that in the trash bin.
So I called a product manager, said: "How do I get a serial number."
He said: "Ask me."
Ok. I did.
He printed out the label, I stuck it on.
I'm done.
I checked that machine in and out many times.
Every time an upgrade was needed.

Some guys built entire servers from scrap.

I wasn't that ambitious.
The latest, fastest desktop was good enough.

Techs were building dozens of machines out of scrap material.
Some just had dedicated game machines in their cubes.
Some had servers at their desk and used Compaq internet bandwidth to run side businesses during work.

Then Compaq started getting serious about security in manufacturing.
Life took a dark turn.

It's for training!

There was a trainer named Brian Weldon.
Few things you need to know about him:
He was a good trainer.
And knew nothing about the events he unwittingly enabled.

Brian was always short of training equipment for class.
A new processor or drive would be released and Brian would get one or two for class.
He'd need many more to complete things in a timely manner.

A fact you should know:
Modern manufacturing depends on speed.
In the computer world, a chip might have 389 pins, each about the thickness of a hair.
If one pin is bent the chip is thrown into scrap.
It costs too much in time and labor to stop and straighten this pin.

So there are huge bins of scrap parts.

Brian needs parts.

Brian talks to the supervisors in manufacturing and gets permission to take scrap parts for training.

Life is good.

And it's about to get better.

Brian needs help. So he recruits BG and myself.
I eventually recruit TG.

A couple of times a week we would accompany Brian on scavenger hunts.
After a while he got to busy so we just went on our own.

Brian told us the most magical words since ABRA CADABRA.

If anyone asks questions just "tell them it's for training."

Oh, man.

The genie came out of the bottle, the waters parted, the wishing well overflowed.

"tell them it's for training."

So we did. And did. And did.

To the point we had to get dollies to carry everything back "for training."