For the second time in my career, the company I work for is in the process of being acquired. It’s never a good feeling to wake up and see the news that you have to go figure out a new PowerPoint template or get new business cards (or worse, maybe not). It brings a ton of uncertainty, questions, fear, panic, angst, and anything else that comes with your professional life being a little less certain than it was the day before. Once the initial shock passes we have a choice on how we want to move forward. We can work through the uncertainty, striving for answers. We can live with the uncertainty and focus on the work. And finally, we can settle on doom and gloom and be depressed. Assuming that wallowing in self pity isn’t a long term strategy, we’ll put the doom and gloom option to the side and consider the other two.
The first company I worked for that was acquired was Genzyme Corporation. It was, at the time of acquisition, something like the 5th largest biopharmaceutical company in the world. At that time, it was believed that Sanofi Aventis was buying Genzyme’s R&D pipeline. It was a way of cementing their future as their profitable drugs faced generic competition. More information / commentary on the acquisition can be found in this article. When the acquisition was announced, Genzyme was already in the midst of trying to save money / cut operating expense. Within IT, where I resided, outsourcing was being considered. Outsourcing is never an easy conversation because it affects people’s lives in a very direct way. Being acquired on top of that only added to my discomfort because my own employment future was seemingly vague. My approach at the time, for better or for worse, was to advocate strongly for my team. I strongly criticized the outsourcing effort because I didn’t believe the financial picture being pitched. This led to a lot of sleepless nights and frustration. I was trying to control a situation that I could not control. This lack of control over my team’s future and my own affected my quite deeply and eventually led to my departure for EMC.
Upon reflection, I have realized that while my angst over outsourcing was a concern, my own future also weighed heavily on me. My future with Sanofi was likely secure. I was a well performing employee and I likely could have found a good home within such a large company. From an objective perspective, I should have felt confident. Instead, what I attempted to do was to formulate a clear picture of the future. This was an impossible task because no one knew what the combined companies would look like. Striving for answers wasn’t the right place to put my energy and only led to frustration. Sure, a certain amount of inquiry is fine, but as answers can’t truly be known, there’s a certain amount of insanity to it.
Fast forward a few years and Dell has just come to terms to acquire EMC. Everyone is curious as to what will happen but no one can know for certain. I’ve spent a fair amount of time wandering around the web, reading commentary, discovering what a tracking stock is, watching interviews, and absorbing information as best as I can. I’ve read what competitors have said (IBM, HP, and PureStorage) and, predictably, they are opportunistic. I don’t think I know much more about the acquisition after all that than I did when it was first announced. For myself, I believe the best approach is to focus on the job at hand. That may seem naive or overly simplistic or like sticking my head in the sand but it resonates for me. To strive for answers that I won’t be able to find will only end in frustration. And, to be clear, no one knows yet what the combined company will look like. The answer to that question is a ways off from being written. There’s a certain amount of relief in relinquishing any attempt to control a situation one cannot hope to command. The alternative did not work for me in my last go around so I’m going to try a different tact this time.
Many folks might find this to be naive and given the uptick in recruiting calls, the outside world seems to be betting on EMC employees fleeing the company. I’m sure many will and it is a sensible course of action – solidify your future rather than waiting for the EMC/Dell deal to work itself out. For me, however, as unknown as things may seem, there is a plan. For a dozen banks / investors to make billions of dollars worth of a bet, there has to be a lot of analysis done on the success of the combined entity. People don’t invest that amount thinking they’ll lose money. Combine that with a confidence in my own skills / marketability, I’m going to wait and see where the chips fall. Change usually provides opportunity for those that embrace it.
One man’s opinion for sure, ymmv.