I worked as a technical writing contractor at Alcatel for five years, from March 1996 to April 2001 — the longest I have ever worked at the same job. I had three managers during my time there, and all of them were pleased with my work. The last two even attempted to get me hired as an Alcatel employee instead of a contractor, but were never able to get approval to do so.
The reason had nothing to do with me; it was just bureaucratic reluctance to hire any new employee. The paperwork would languish on some vice president’s desk for months, waiting for a signature, until it was out of date and had to be rewritten and resubmitted. The only justification we ever got was that the company’s human resources budget didn’t allow hiring another person.
So I remained a contractor until the morning of April 2, 2001, when I was laid off along with most of my department. The company had fallen on hard times and had to reduce costs — or so we were told at the time. But now I learn that a few months after Alcatel decided it couldn’t afford my services, it paid a $2.2 million bribe to Costa Rican officials in order to secure a lucrative contract to install cellular telephone systems in that country. An investigation is under way, and the officials in question may well end up behind bars.
I shouldn’t take this personally. I really shouldn’t.