Six Years Since My Shipley / Rohm & Haas Layoff and AEB Interview


OK, so it was actually last Thursday October 3rd that Lisa strolled through the door to find me home and snarkily asked the question ‘what … did you lose your job or something?’ and found that the answer was ‘yes’.

But today marks the 6 year anniversary of me heading back to pick up the rest of my stuff, finish my paperwork with HR, and then drive to Wilmington to interview with Advanced Electron Beams (AEB), where I ended up working from early December through the end of February when I came out here and started working for Corning.

As Lisa reminds me, there was a part of me that left and never really returned when Shipley fully became Rohm & Haas and a mass-layoff had armed outside security guards accompanying managers into meetings and the cafeteria and so on and pulling people and barely letting them grab their coats before they were tossed out and their cars tracked so they were sure to immediately exit the property.

There had been layoffs before, but the cold brutality was totally new. It took me a while to deal with this, and ultimately I never forgave the company – and as a result even as I got published more, engaged in critical collaborations and so on … my heart was never fully in my job – at least not with RHEM. It has been pointed out to me that I did greatly benefit partner companies during this time. For me the last straw was when my data and IP was stolen by a French equipment company I had been talking to and represented as their own – and RHEM wouldn’t go after them in any way. I switched departments and tried to refocus for the last 9 months.

2007 saw ‘rolling layoffs’, with R&D, manufacturing, engineering and quality all getting hit pretty hard. And with considerable attrition in the prior couple of years, the layoffs hit numerous people that made you say ‘wow, never saw THAT coming’.

Which is what I heard over and over again.

But as I noted, I had an interview within a week of the layoff – because I had already started looking. One of my 2007 resolutions was to either be happy or be gone from RHEM by the end of the year. Mid-year it was clear I wasn’t going in the ‘happy’ direction, so I finally overcame inertia and started dusting my resume and looking for a new job.

AEB was terribly slow and inefficient for a company with only 45 people – so prior to the layoff I had already had an initial chat and a phone screen interview and then set up the on-site interview, which then got pushed to the 11th. As I mentioned, I ended up starting there in December … more than two months later!

When I look back at Shipley / Rohm & Haas, I think of all the amazing people I worked with: Charlie Paddock and Phil Ramsey who mentored me in statistics; Mike Stan who was an amazing process engineering teacher and with whom I butted heads many times but always liked; Mary Tedd Allen who gave me a mediocre first review that really pushed me to excel in ways I never knew I could; Ron Sienkowski, another amazing boss – as was Kathleen O’Connell; Wenyan Yin who was just an awesome person; Paul Buccheri, joker, clown, wise-ass, great engineer, and totally great person; Kira Shapiro, who was younger than her years when she started but quickly grew and became a seasoned pro; Dani Hestermann, great engineer, and one of the sweetest people I have ever met; and non-Shipley folks Eileen Clifford of Therma-Wave who was stuck in Marlborough over 9-11, Mike Burns who was so cool we still got together after Therma-Wave was gone, and Ken Pulaski. There are so many more that just keep pouring into my head as I think back …

Six years – the boys were 11 and 9.5, and the economy was just about to collapse. We got lucky – I had four offers around the country, and when we decided to move our house sold within two weeks. Lisa was stuck for a ‘hell month’ as the dogs broke through the ‘dog-proof fence’, the real-estate agent kept dropping demands on us, the water in the basement was the worst ever, and I was useless in New York because my thyroid had died and I hadn’t started medication yet!

It is amazing looking back – companies change, people change, circumstances change. But for me the core is always that one thing that has never changed: I get to have Lisa by my side for every good, bad, easy and challenging moment.

4 thoughts on “Six Years Since My Shipley / Rohm & Haas Layoff and AEB Interview

  1. Fortunately YES! We moved to western NY in order for me to take a job with Corning Inc, and in spite of a layoff in 2009 I have now been employed here for 5.5 years!

  2. HI Mike – Unfortunately they still do they ‘walk you out the door’ thing. It’s so sad and humiliating because it makes one feel as if they did something wrong. To not be able to say goodbye to co-workers you’ve known for years is not right. To not be able to go to your desk and take your personal belongings is not right. Unfortunately again – this is the way of things in all companies. I love reading your posts and am happy for your life now.

  3. Loretta – I understand it to an extent, as the ‘walking out’ grew from the vandalism at IBM and other issues such as deleting computer files and attacking managers that happened in the ‘downsizing’ revolution.

    But like so many things it is how it is handled. I honestly felt that I was treated as well as I could have expected that day … certainly better than Karen Kvam and so many others experienced in 2004 – and I think part of it was that it felt so cold, and so UN-Shipley.

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