Saturday, November 1, 2008

After the layoffs, the layoffs

In the past week, Design Associates laid off another 22 people.  A couple of major projects, and the developers who were funding those projects, went on hold.  Our office has gone from around 150 people to around 95 in the past year, 33 of those gone in the past 30 days.  Kellye was a victim of this most recent round, as well as few other licensed architects and some interns and even landscape architects and interior designers.

It's bad, y'all.  I dont know how it is where you are, but it's bad here.

Kellye and I went to lunch right after he put a few things in his car.  "Y'know," he mused, "maybe it's denial, but I'm really not hurt or upset right now.  I've been really bored and underemployed for the past three or so weeks, and I've been thinking I need to do something.  So now, I guess I have to do something."  He smiled faintly.  "I've gotten calls from a couple of contractors I used to work with, looking for an architect to do some minor residential work.  Maybe I'm their guy, now that I have some time free.  Or I'll start my novel.  Or work on my blog.  My wife just got an excellent job as an RN at ______Hospital, and we're used to being at one income for the past 18-plus months, so we can do it again for a little while, y'know?  I feel bad for her, but not for me."

We clinked our cups of hot tea in agreement.  I know Kellye will be fine, though I'll miss hanging out with him at work while I'm extremely underemployed, but I know it's all good.  I feel worse for the interns that weren't making that much to begin with and now they're making nothing.  Some of them may have to move home again, and some of them may end up getting small retail jobs, like working at Target or something.  I wish them all the best and offered any help I could to the ones I knew well.  I went home and tried not to cry.

The next day, the office was a ghost town.  Derek had been gone to a punchlist all day and missed the action.  The color nearly drained from his face when we filled him in.  Norman, Ingrid, and I went to lunch at a local (inexpensive) sandwich place and spent at least half of it just sitting together and being quiet.  We just had to get out of the office and get away from the sounds of quiet desperation bouncing like bats squeaking against the cavernous, well-designed walls and soffits in our big, open, half-empty office.  After lunch, I went to Alex, my big-big boss.  

"Alex, seriously, should I be worried?  Should I just...go now?"

Alex shook his head.  "No, no...we're laying off from the bottom up; there are other people who will go before you.  We're trying, really trying, and I know you're not busy.  The best thing you can do right now is get good at Revit, because when the work comes back, there may not be anyone to help you do the drawing."

Fair enough.  That's how I did Wheatlands.  I didn't have anyone to help me do the drawing for most of it, so I did it.  No sweat.  But it still left me creeped out.  I later heard from Norman, who heard it from a local major contractor, that the Denver office of a nationwide architecture firm at which Guy worked in between DA and Acme, where he is now, is closing this year.  There's just not a whole hell of a lot of work.

We had already told Ethel that we'd go to her house last night for dinenr with her and her hubby, but I really didn't want to.  I've been feeling like I've been coming down with a cold or the flu or something on and off, and I really didn't feel like hanging around her since she's been pretty bitter and cranky after getting laid off from DA in September.  After spending the night with her and her husband, who were both in bad moods regarding the economy and jobs, and who also nearly had a fight in front of us about her spending habits, Guy was in a really depressed mood on the way home.  He was at the point where he was talking about "what if we both lose our jobs and can't sell the condo" and "should we sell the condo now" and so on.  I didn't have time or energy for this--I had to help Dame Judith with a class on Saturday morning and needed to be in a good mood for that.  I was already not going to get a lot of sleep, so can we please not pile more onto this bad mood?

So, I learned a few things this week.  One, my employers really really do value me; two, if they lay me off, I don't want to be there anyway; three, I don't need to hang out with Ethel a whole lot; four, Guy needs a nap.  No matter what happens, Guy and I are going to be fine.  We've taken good care of ourselves, financially and otherwise, and we have plenty of time (at our ages) to survive whatever life throws our way.

I'm going to go read and snuggle with Maddy.


Xtine said...

I hope you all get work soon!

We're actually faring very well in Raleigh, what with government jobs (even though some are starting hiring freezes), and the universities.

Matt's company is actively seeking to hire at least one or two ASAP; and possibly 12-24 by the end of 2009 - there's a contract being hammered out. And his company has done very well this year.

And then his brother just got a job offer. And then, of course, there's mine.

I've never been so glad to live here before.

PS: I don't ignore your comments; they're unread in gmail for a time when I feel like waiting for firefox.

ms. kitty said...

Boy, things out there are hard on everyone, aren't they? I hadn't yet considered the effect of the housing/building slump on the folks who provide the plans and drawings, but of course architectural firms are sweating it. I'm thinking about you and Guy, Pixie, and hoping for the best outcomes possible.

Charissa said...

I'm really not sure how it is here (houston) for architects. I just know I'm damn glad my husband was able to get a job when he did at the place he did,their hiring process is rigorous so you have to screw up bad to get fired. It's connected to the car industry though, so there's always that fear in the back of my head that *poof* his job will be gone.

Anonymous said...

I run a small design firm in San Francisco, - primarily high end custom residential work. The clients that didn't have endless amounts of cash are really hurting and have put their projects on hold. The clients that did have endless amounts of money actually feel bad about moving forward with projects that are large personal expenses during a time when so many are suffering, and they have put their projects on hold too. 90% of our work load evaporated in two months and I have three employees who I respect immensely and care very much about that I am letting go out into a harsh and bleak situation. Not sure if I will be able to keep the firm open past four months if this continues.

Anonymous said...

I'm in architect in St. Louis and it's getting bad here. Every day another firm lays off architects. They don't just lay off a couple, they lay off 10-20 at a time. Every day I'm at my job, I am extremely thankful, however I am not busy, nor have I been... Every day is a gamble. No one has work.

Anonymous said...

"Some of them may have to move home again, and some of them may end up getting small retail jobs, like working at Target or something."

This statement is exactly what's wrong with the profession of architecture. We go through a brutally long masters degree ... we begin interning [code speak for CAD tech] ... we get cut as soon the economy slides ... and then we have to get menial jobs. Why go the architecture route at all, seems like a waste of intellect. If you have the determination and smarts to get through an M.Arch degree then don't squander your intellect on architecture. The profession doesn't have to be like this, but architects are spineless and have zero business sense.

Architects eat their young. There are lots of great careers out there - this isn't one of them.

Anonymous said...

would seem only fair for architects to at least take take of their employees during the good times. I've rarely seen that happen.

Anonymous said...

The business model of architecture is flawed. Young architects are forced to work overtime for free during the "good times" for poor wages and weak bonuses. The profession is geared to making other people wealthy, while your "mentors" completely abuse you. This is not a bitter statement more than it is a fact. I hope that once this recession is over many of the older generation that own the firms will be retired or out of business. This profession needs fresh ideas regarding a diffent business model. Something is not right when a crap drug addicted construction worker can pull in a larger pay check than interns and young architects. I just pray that all the people laid off will not take the first architecture job tossed to them. Because these same old bastards will just abuse you again. We a group have to stand up to them with demands for higher salaries, and other compensation.

Anonymous said...

From the management side, yes the model is flawed, the young architects take no responsibility for their work and errors, payroll, estimates, correcting the drawings they produced, the ones you think are getting wealthy are doing this. They are also the ones signing on the line to make payroll until they finally do layoffs because they can't make it work anymore and they are the ones left with the debt and no production capability when things pick up again. It is not quite a simple as you think.