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Sun 22 Nov 2009 04:00 AM

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The big chill

Secret CIO battles to find gainful employment.

Minutes after enjoying the shock of being laid off last month (in a particularly underhanded coup d'état by my deputy), my belongings were summarily dumped into a large cardboard supermarket box, and turfed out onto the street, along with my unwilling corporeal presence.I stood there on the street looking at the double doors for several minutes, mumbling various incantations of indignant rage. This rapidly progressed to some quite vocal allegations about the private proclivities of the boardroom, extensive examinations of their lack of moral fibre, and several suggestions of highly inappropriate kitchen utensils to be introduced into their anatomy at leisure.

Naturally, when the police showed up, I was able to deny any of this taking place, since I had forgotten to buy the 20-cent sound module for the security cameras. The only footage they had was of a blurry (because I didn't buy the autofocus model either) man in a dark suit gesturing furiously to no one in particular on an empty street.

Posturing aside, I was far from happy. My career was essentially in ruins, my savings would be dangerously next to nothing after I had paid off all my bills and I was going to have to look for work in a market where ‘IT chief executive' has roughly the same level of reverence from potential employers as ‘the man who empties the bins'.

Nevertheless, there was nothing to do but start looking for work. Initially, things looked good. The online websites promised several jobs at a level slightly junior to my old one. Well, really - everything's a junior role after you've been Chief Information Officer. Unperturbed, I began applying in earnest, only to receive several "Sorry, you're overqualified," letters in reply from many apologetic job agencies.

Undaunted, I decided that if they wouldn't hire me as a highly-experienced junior, I would need to set my sights higher. I called up a number of my CFO mates to find out if there were any vacancies. As luck would have it, there were a couple of senior IT VP posts going spare at some well-known organisations, so I threw my name in the ring. Unfortunately, this led me slap bang into my next career wall - namely, the fact that I had been a ‘proper' CIO for less than a year, which placed me firmly in the camp of ‘vastly underexperienced for the demands of the role'. This, despite the fact that I had been doing the previous fellow's job for years, and was largely instrumental in engineering his dismissal.

Yes, I see you lot at the back sniggering away at the inherent irony, and no, I'm not bothered.

As my bills mounted and my confidence plummeted, things were starting to look black. My lavish lifestyle had already been curtailed to the absolute limit - only one trip to St Tropez in the last two months - and my taste for exotic Italian automobiles have also suffered, as I've had to shift allegiances from Lamborghinis to Maseratis. At this rate of attrition, I would be close to the beginnings of bankruptcy in a scant eight years.

Clearly, something had to be done. Some sort of divine miracle needed to be summoned. And as luck would have it, one such stroke of good fortune did appear. Out of the blue, I got a call from an outsourcing company that's so famous it hardly needs to be named, looking for a project manager. Not enticing on the surface, but they were offering rather a lot of money for not very much effort. All I had to do was be willing to move to a different enterprise every month to bequeath my considerable experience upon on a new willing IT department. Happily, I signed on the dotted line, met my team of eager beavers and prepared to deploy out to our first assignment.

But as it turns out, fate had indeed one last joker to play. My very first job would be to act as the rapid-deployment infrastructure team for an award-winning enterprise which after a brief bit of restructuring, was rapidly emerging from the downturn as one of the most efficient IT organisations in the Middle East, with a strong focus on service delivery and  deep alignment with the central business goals.

Or in other words, the company that had just sacked me.

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