Thursday, January 16, 2014

Furniture, Networking, and where I went wrong…

A lifetime ago, in the city of Irvine, California, I used to work for a company called Linksys.

This was long ago, mind you, before Linksys was owned by Cisco, before Linksys was owned by Belkin, before Linksys was owned by… who’s buying it next?

I worked with a guy named Mike who was our Marketing Manager. I worked as a Technical Writer but had started as a Marketing Writer and still wrote marketing pieces when our Marketing Writer who wasn’t very good with marketing and could only write technical information needed a little help. Frankly, I always found myself on the short end of demotion after demotion and disciplinary action after disciplinary action.

I always wondered why things didn’t work out with Linksys when clearly – and I am not bragging here – I was a valuable asset to the company. I could write better than anyone else on staff. I came up with catchier taglines. I was a catch!

Mike didn’t think so. He would tell me how he intended to keep me in technical writing as a kind of marketing purgatory. He wanted me to suffer. He would say, “You’re going to keep churning out widgets for as long as I tell you to churn out widgets.”

It was a fun place.

And I always wondered where things went wrong. And then, recently, I found myself at a Staples store with Vicky. She was off taking care of her business stuff – Vicky is a fucking mogul, make no mistake – so I wandered over to the networking gear. Sometimes, I like to see how much progress has been made in my old line of work so I’ll go check out the networking gear and… Nothing. Same old shit. Frankly, the networking business has been pumping out the same old shit, with just an incremental improvement here or there, for nearly a decade.

Back when I was at Linksys, Mike would bring in the entire marketing department for these round-table discussions about where networking was going. He would talk about how your refrigerator would be networked so it could tell you when you were out of milk. Your TV would be networked so it could tell you when a show was on that you wanted to watch. Your sofa would be networked. Your catbox would be networked.

And then, Mike would make the mistake of asking us what we thought. What were our opinions on his prognostication about the future of networking? Everyone would speak up loudly, telling Mike what a genius he was. Of course, catboxes would be networked. It made perfect sense! Milk had to be restocked! Shows had to be watched!

… except for me. I would sit there with a red face, holding everything back, and Mike would see me and he was ask, “Ken? What do you think?”

And I would take that as an invitation. “You’re crazy,” I would tell him. “People can just check their refrigerators. They can look at their TV listings. Sofas? Catboxes? You are out of your fucking mind!”

And for some reason I just couldn’t fathom… I never got ahead.

The fact is, I never fit well in a place like Linksys. I was a round peg and all they had were square holes. I wanted to be an artist. I didn’t want to blow smoke up someone’s ass. I thought people wanted honesty… they don’t.

I can see now why I never made a lot of friends in business. I thought people wanted honesty. Sadly, that isn’t quite the case most of the time. Vicky has found herself in business opportunities where honesty is valued. In marketing, you better take that shit somewhere else.

That was a long time ago, of course. And now, I’m pursuing the “writer” thing. I’ve learned to temper my honesty with a little bit of tact. After all, Mike was right about the TVs, just not exactly on how they would be networked. All the same, I still hate people who are just looking to have smoke blown up their assholes. And to think, I’m in the arts now.

What the hell have I gotten myself into?

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