My Last Day at Nortel

Exit this wayToday is my last day as a Nortel employee.

In late 1996, I was just finishing up my 2-year contract working in the Computer Center at Acadia University. But the longer I stayed at Acadia after my graduation, I knew fewer and fewer people, as my friends graduated and moved away for work, mostly to Ottawa. So I decided not to renew my contract and that I would move to Ottawa.

I moved in January 1997. I borrowed my dad’s Chevy Tahoe and loaded my life into the back. Driving through the Maritimes was ok, but once I entered Quebec, the snow started falling. Driving from Quebec City to Montreal was the hardest because the snow was so heavy and the highway had not been plowed.

Once in Ottawa, I started looking for work. I hand-delivered my resumes to Nortel, Newbridge, SGI, Cray, Apple, Corel, and a bunch of smaller companies. None of which lead to any interviews. In February, a friend from Acadia got me an interview with his group at Nortel. The interview went well and by March 1997, I was working for Nortel.

I’ve spent my entire career at Nortel in OAM software – meaning Network Management and Configuration Management.

I started with network management of the Passport-6400 (now MSS-6400). We built a software package (called OMS-P) to integrate the Passport into HP Openview and IBM Netview. There was another group that also did network management of the Passport, which used a proprietary interface that did not work with other software like Openview. Eventually the senior managers decided to only fund one of the two products, and OMS-P development was halted.

Most of the team moved to a new project to integrate the Passport-15000 (now MSS-15000) into the new Optivity Network Management System (ONMS), which came from our purchase of Bay Networks in 1998. I worked on the development for about a year before insurmountable issues caused the cancelation of that project before we could ship the product. Basically, the Passport used software-allocated MAC addresses; by default all Ethernet ports on all Passports had the same MAC address. ONMS needed unique MAC addresses for discovery, which is the correct implementation of the Ethernet standard. The ONMS team would not change their discovery for Passport, and Passport would not change their flawed Ethernet implementation. So the project was cancelled.

Next, our much smaller team moved to Optivity Network Configuration System (O-NCS), which was a configuration manager instead of a network manager. This used a plug-in architecture to manage the new Alteon Layer-7 switches that Nortel had also acquired. We made good progress and were heading towards delivery when the team that was building the O-NCS framework was laid off. Without a framework, our plug-in was useless and in November 2001, our entire team was terminated.

Most of the team went to CDMA, although I briefly left the company to try something new. I didn’t find a new job before I started getting calls from CDMA asking me to come back to Nortel.

In March 2002, I did come back. Nortel bridged my service (after I paid back the severance package).

I’ve been in CDMA since then. I was the first person hired for upgrade/installation, and I wrote the first installation tool for the CDMA network management project that was just starting up. The first delivery of that new tool (C-EMS – CDMA Element Management System) took a very difficult 24 months. The project was almost cancelled a number of times. We all worked long hours, most weekends, and many holidays. It has been a horrible experience for everyone to go through all the layoffs of the last 7-9 years.

After the first release of C-EMS, the work still demanded long, long hours, but it was less likely that the entire project would be terminated. We still lost a lot of people from the layoffs (typically 5-20% per layoff) though.

Trailer for sale - cheapI’ve given all I could to Nortel, and in the end it didn’t really make much difference. Nortel still went down the toilet.

I’ve had nights where I worked 24-hours straight. I’ve worked over the Y2K switch over. I’ve been wined-and-dined and nickeled-and-dimed. I’ve worked through the bubble, got laid-off and worked under uncertainty for years now.

And today, it’s all over. Today is my last Nortel day.

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