Sun Microsystems Laboratories – 1997

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.

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One thought on “Sun Microsystems Laboratories – 1997

  1. More badge follies: Sometimes the first inkling an employee got that they were laid off is they would arrive on a Friday morning and their badge wouldn’t work. They found it (rightly) humiliating to have to call their boss to get in, just to be told they had been laid off.

    Liked by 1 person

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