I was the highest paid Nortel employee in history

Nortel Networks
Nortel Networks

Well, with the NSN bid for Nortel CDMA, within 2 months I won’t technically be a Nortel employee anymore. So I thought I would share the story of how, for a brief period of time, I was the highest paid employee in Nortel’s history.

Mike Z? Peanuts. John Roth? Getting close. Me? I win.

In November 2001, my department was using a framework from a team in RTP to develop Alteon (now owned by Radware) element management software. The RTP team was shut down, leaving us without the framework, and thus our department was next on the chopping block.

Most of the team went to CDMA, but I wanted to take the opportunity to travel the world, so I asked for a package. I intended to buy a one-way ticket to Europe and start back-packing or something – my plans were not really firm.

Within a few weeks, while still working through the final severance and resume building courses, one of my old managers started calling me to come in for an interview.

Things were delayed for various reasons, so it wasn’t until February that I was able to come in, and soon enough CDMA made an offer.

I was asked to come in and sign the offer, and I would start in another week. No problem, I came in and signed and I was looking forward to starting with the team again.

Later in the afternoon, I got a frantic call from my new boss, saying there was a problem with the letter I signed, and that I had to come in and sign another. Ok, I laughed a bit and made plans to come in the next day to sign the new letter.

When I went in the next day, I brought my old letter to compare the two offers. The difference was subtle, but significant.

Instead of saying I would be paid my yearly salary of (let’s say for the sake of argument) $85,000 per year, to be paid on an hourly basis, the original offer actually said I would be paid $85,000 on an hourly basis.

Meaning, my paycheck every 2 weeks would have been $6.2 million, and my yearly salary was over $165 Million dollars.

I still have the original offer letter, but let’s be honest, if Nortel really had that kind of money (even back in 2002), they wouldn’t have laid me off in the first place.

But, it’s still a good story.

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