I started at Sun in March of 1996 as a contractor. I did not really like being a contractor, even if a 3rd party company was actually paying me. I had no health plan. The 401K was very limited. I had no vacation or sick days, and I was hourly. And had no job security. There was almost no paperwork to get rid of me.
I was particularly worried about the health plan. I have always had some chronic health concerns. At the time I started, my then-wife just put me on our plan. However, we separated near the beginning of the year in 1997, and I planned for the divorce to be final by the end of the year, and at that point, I needed a health plan. It’s one of the major reasons I was interviewing around in 1997.
After I had been there 6-9 months, I asked my manager about possibly getting a permanent position. He said, “We’ll see”. Finally, after about a year, I got an offer for a permanent position at Sun Labs. It was actually kind of an ultimatum. I was also told my contract was ending the Friday before the first day in the offer.
The pay was actually a little less than I got as a contractor. The assumption was that I was paying more for benefits as a contractor, which wasn’t true as long as I was covered by my wife’s plan. But given that this was the choice I had in front of me if I wanted to stay employed, I accepted the offer. And then I had insurance, a 401K plan, an Employee Stock Options Purchase plan, use of the onsite fitness center, etc.
The only downside: I had to get a new badge at Sun. This was a nightmare.
When I first joined Sun as a contractor, I did not initially get a badge. I had to sign in at the front desk to go to work, sign out when I left for the day, and had to have coworkers hold the door for me to get into the cafeteria (called “Sparcy’s”; Sun’s most successful product at that time were SPARC-based computers). I was told I was going to need to go to the badge offer to take care of this.
There were two badge offices in the Bay Area; one was in Mountain View, on the same campus as where I worked. However, it was only open 9-12 Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. There was a another office in Milpitas 20 miles away open 9-5 5 days/week. On Tuesday, I drove out there. I then found out that personnel records were uploaded and downloaded across Sun offices via satellite on Wednesdays, and I could not possibly get a badge until Friday.
Friday, I got a badge. Hooray. It opened the door to the employee area when I tried it. Hooray.
It did not, however, open Sparcy’s. Boo. I was then told I had to launch a piece of software called “BadgeTool” from a Solaris box to fill out a request for access to Sparcy’s. Well, I was hired to do Mac and Windows, and did not yet have a SPARC box to work with. I was then told that my boss had to launch “IT Support Tool”, and request a SPARC box for me.
So, the following Wednesday, I got a SPARC machine, which, actually, it turns out I needed for work anyway. I launched “BadgeTool”, this hideous X-Windows confusing app, and request access to Sparcy’s.
Friday, I was informed that I then had it. Great.
The next week, I had to go get something in my car, and go back into the building after 5:00. No dice. I went home. The next day, I asked my boss, and he said I needed to launch “BadgeTool” again, and request after-hours access.
That took a couple of days. And I was set.
Until July 1. My badge stopped working. My boss told me that as a contractor, I had to renew my badge every six months, and he had to request it, and he would.
So I had to get another badge. At least by this time, the Mountain View badge office was open 9-5 5 days/week. Oh, and I had to request access to the cafeteria, and after-hours access to the building again.
And I had to do it all again six months later, in January.
So, when I became a full-time employee, I had to get yet another badge. This time, however, I did not have to request the additional access (all employees had it), and I would not have to renew it every six months.
Badges. We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.