Friday, September 10, 2010

Kafkas got nothing on us...

Prepare yourself, for a journey into the absurd.

This started off as a comment to a post on Travis Corcorans site, (inspired by a post on economist Tim Harfords blog) but grew so large and unwieldy I decided to post it here as well.

I once worked for the chief economist of a very large organisation. As his only subordinate, I argued that I should be appointed deputy chief economist. My boss politely disagreed. As an economist, and a German, he was presumably opposed to inflation in every guise.
Ha! Zing!
I’ve got a relative-by-marriage who’s personality is … well, let me stop there.

Anyway, she was very fond of impressing (“impressing”) everyone in the family that she was a vice president at Goldman Sachs.

Having worked on near the Street twice (once for D.E. Shaw…in Cambridge, and once for a spin out of Banker’s Trust … on Broad St and then later in Cambridge) I was asked by a family member to clarify what she was talking about.

So I told them “she translates documents from English to Tagalog, and she’s been at the company for more than two years”."
At MegaGigantoNationalBankCorp, where I have worked for almost five years, I am effectively an "actual" mid level vice president, in terms of position in the organization and responsibilities etc...

...Theres two guys between me and the CIO of the entire company (there are lower level CIOs for smaller divisions, each of whom reports to the president of their division AND the enterprise CIO) , and four guys between me and the CEO (of a 250,000 person company)...

...But they don't give me the title, because of corporate policy. Which frankly I don't much care about, except that I think the policy is ridiculous.

We have a formal "grade" system for HR purposes, which has little to do with actual responsibilities or position in the company; but is used for comparative pay scales etc...

The grades apply to different "fields", or 'specializations", grouped into "families". These are things like "systems engineer", "systems administrator", "systems manager", "Technology manager", "Systems Architect", "Application Architect" etc...

There are seven grades, from one to seven, with grade one being a Jr. teller, and grade seven being the top grade in any field. Executive vice presidents, chief enterprise architect, group technology executives etc.... are grade seven.

There are also "officers" (who have an "O" title), and "non evaluated professionals", which is generally what we use for people who have topped out in grade, but need a promotion or a raise (thus allowing them to break out of the rather rigid salary ranges), or who have an unusual career field or specialization that isn't covered inside the system.

Level five, six, seven, officers, and "non evaluated professionals", are considered "senior team members".

The basic difference between a "team member" and a "senior team member" is bennies. Senior team members are "eligible" to receive annual stock option grants, an annual "profit participation distribution" in the form of a share grant, a bonus which ranges from 10% to 25% of base pay, and five extra days of base paid time off (25 base days, plus 5 additional days every five years, up to 40 days). Team members are NOT eligible for such benefits.

So in HR terms, I'm a "senior team member"; a Systems Architect Grade Six.

The funny thing though, your HR grade has very little to do with your title, and your relative positions and responsibility within the organization can vary widely, even within the same grade.

Also funny, is that team members in technology job families, earn considerably more than team members in non-technology job families at the same grade. Further, those with an "architect" classification, earn considerably more (about 20%) than other technology classifications at the same grade, including technology managers.

I make more than my boss, who is technically in the same grade as I am; but is titled as a manager, not an architect.

If it sounds like needlessly complex bullshit, that's because it is.

A few mergers back, we absorbed a company where basically everyone was a VP; and to avoid further "VP inflation", they decided to restrict the VP title to "senior team members" who have masters degrees.

Also if we acquire your bank, and you had the VP title at your old bank, you get to keep it, even if you would not otherwise qualify (even if your new grade is below grade five).

So basically, if you're middle management (your title includes "group", "area", "community" etc...) or upper middle technology (if your title includes "senior", "lead", or "chief"), and you've got a masters, you get a VP title.

Triple BS (Aerospace Engineering, Computer Science, and Math) don't count for shit.

Anyway, this has the unusual result of having "vice presidents" reporting to "sr. system engineers" sometimes.

Funny enough, two of the eight guys I manage ARE titled as VPs (they are otherwise title as Sr. Architect); and the guy I report to is titled as "group technology executive and group vice president" (whatever the hell that means.

His HR grade is Technology Area Manager Six. He reports to an executive vice president (Technology Area Manager Seven) and "enterprise technology manager", who reports to the enterprise CIO, who reports to the COO, who reports to the CEO.

Remember what I said about needlessly complex bullshit?

There is not a day that goes by I don't miss just being out on my own (for all the hassles). I love my job, when they let me do it, but DAMN there is so much bullshit.

On the other hand, I keep more money from this job than I ever did on my own as a consultant/contractor, or as a co founder of a 20 man company (even when I was grossing four times my current gross. Small businessmen get HOSED on taxes, fees, insurance... everything else...)...

...and it's nice having 25 days of paid time off (actually usually a theoretical 30, which I never use since I carry over 5 days of unused from the year before basically every year) plus 11 company holidays per year, and gold plated health insurance etc... etc...