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A Second Chance

Kevin Strehlo
Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Related News:

Everyone Deserves A Second Chance

Pets still can't driveAbout 750,000 high-tech workers were laid off in the last year, but things may finally be turning around. The best-known icon of the dot-com boom and bust has landed a job. Yes, pet.com’s Sock Puppet is working again, this time as pitchman for bad-credit auto financing giant 1-800-Bar-None. The Sock Puppet’s trademark line, "because Pet’s can’t drive," has been replaced by "because everyone deserves a second chance."

Surely other fallen high-tech icons deserve a second chance as well. Here are a few suggestions for the headhunters trying to find new jobs for well-known dot com pitchmen, CEOs and other former high-tech high flyers who would like to join the Sock Puppet in the survivor’s circle.

Candidate #1: It has been awhile since William Shatner was canned as spokesman for Priceline. Although it’s unlikely he’ll work again for stock options, surely the only man to beat the unwinnable Kobayashi Maru scenario is an excellent choice as spokesman for a number of high-tech firms today.

Perfect job: Lots of up-against-it high-tech companies could use a Captain Kirk miracle. Many of them would apparently have no objection to Kirk’s Kobayashi Maru solution (he cheated). But given the outlook for enterprise software sales, we recommend that Shatner reprise his "name your price" role of tuneless dotcom minstrel for endofquarter.com, a web site where CIOs name their own price for enterprise software.

Candidate #2: Ray Lane, ex-president and COO of Oracle before his falling out with CEO Larry Ellison, first made his name by saving Oracle from an accounting debacle. Later, he specialized in saving Oracle from Ellison, not easy given an Oracle workforce built almost entirely in Ellison’s own image.

Perfect job: Okay, Lane already has a job, but anybody in venture capital these days is seriously underemployed. And any of a dozen companies wounded by accounting debacles could use a Lane-lead turnaround. But where in the world could Lane find another challenge as compelling as keeping Ellison out of trouble? The answer: going onboard as Martha Stewart’s new second in command. And if Lane can save Stewart, surely the Rigas family of Adelphia fame will want his help next. Oops, too late.

Candidate #3: Marc Andreesen, creator of the Mosaic/Netscape browser and new economy poster child, who recently parlayed $200 million of investment in Loudcloud into a $68 million sale of most of the business’s assets to EDS.

Perfect job: Marc needs to work on a few business principles that didn’t apply in his heyday, like what constitutes a profit. So we suggest he return to the University of Illinois and his former position as part-time assistant at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). Even a billionaire would be silly to turn down the reduced tuition benefit for university employees, although we’d advise Marc to avoid professors who put The New New Thing on the reading list. And while he’s at it, maybe Marc can create another killer application on university time. Who knows, maybe a guy can be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time twice.

Candidate #4: Now that drkoop.com, which once had a market cap of more than a billion, has been sold to a mail order vitamin company for $168,000 (making Andreesen look like a business genius in comparison), Dr. C. Everett Koop is at loose ends.

Perfect Job: It’s clear that Dr. Koop performs better in government than in the private sector, so we threw the search to President Bush’s brain trust. They’re torn between 1) having Dr. Koop found www.drcoupdetat.iq to lead a US-backed, web-driven overthrow of Saddam Hussein or 2) accomplishing the same thing by sneaking Koop in as Iraq’s Minister of Finance. They were leaning towards number two until an intern made them realize they were confusing Iraq with Iran, where Koop’s beard would have helped him pass as an Ayatollah.

Candidate #5: AOL founder and AOL/Time Warner Chairman Steve Case only seems to have lost his job, but we all know he’d be better off if he resigned and let us find him a new position with real prospects.

Perfect Job: Head of the new Department of Homeland Security. Never mind that he couldn’t even protect the AOL mailing list from spammers. Imagine how effective the personal vigilance aspect of defending the homeland would be if every American received a "Sign Up Now To Help Save The Nation From Terrorists" CD every five days in the mail.

Candidate #6. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson -- who ordered the breakup of Microsoft only to be overturned by the US Court of Appeals because of his remarks comparing Bill Gates to Emperor Napoleon -- has effectively retired from high-profile court cases.

Perfect Job: Judge Jackson seems the logical choice to preside over the trial of Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski. Jackson can compare Kozlowski to the last person with a similar public image who was nailed by the government for tax evasion, Al Kapone. Or Jackson could handle the insider trading fraud trial of Martha Stewart (hey, even Lane won’t be able to save Martha) and compare her to Marie Antoinette. Or the securities fraud trial of WorldCom CFO Scott Sullivan and compare him to The Producers Max Bialystock. This comparing executives to symbols of greed gig is a position with real job security, which is not easy to find during hard times.

Candidate’s #7 through 750,007. Of the other three quarters of a million laid-off high tech workers who are looking for a job, we estimate that 16 had significant real-world experience in a profitable venture, while the rest spent all their time on the phone to each other cutting business development deals.

Perfect Job: For the 16, we need several go-getters here at Valley of the Geeks to help aid our quest for an IPO, but be aware that we’re paying in stock options and RTFM mugs. For the other 749,991: Starbucks. Granted, we may not be able to do more than get you in for an interview with the head Barista. There’s a lot of competition these days. And yes, Starbucks has been suspicious of Business Development types ever since it had to sell 95 percent of its Doonesbury merchandise at half off. But the good news is that Starbucks grants every employee stock options, and Starbucks stock is actually up several points since the high-tech implosion. And don’t forget that free pound of coffee employees receive every week, which will help you stay up late hatching your next brilliant startup.

About the author
Kevin Strehlo is an unemployed high tech marketing executive who had made it to the second interview at a local Starbucks before a downturn in demand for $4 cups of coffee led to a hiring freeze.


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