The corporate dustbowl

So why would I quit a job that paid well, offered good benefits, and leave behind family and friends to move across the country and return to school? And why would Dave support, even encourage these actions?

Simply, to escape the developing corporate dustbowl. I worked for DuPont, headquartered in Wilmington, DE for over 7 years. My time there was eye-opening and I got an eyeful of corporate culture. (One of the funniest moments – HR telling me to give them the exact date my maternity leave would start. Sure. Easy.) My frustrations grew, but when the opportunity to enroll in the UC Davis Master Brewers Program arrived a year early, I hemmed and hawed over accepting.

Dave asked a poignant question: ‘You are miserable there. How are you going to feel spending the next year working there, knowing you passed on a chance to leave?’ So I accepted and we started to make preparations to leave. Right after we went to Firefly and took 3 weeks to travel the country in 2015.

So, where is the corporate dustbowl? Beginning slowly with sizeable layoffs in 2008 (contractors, support staff), 2010 (exempt employees), the dustbowl hit hard in 2015. Ellen Kullman (DuPont CEO) won a proxy batte against activist investor, Nelson Peltz, but layoff rumors were rampant after the win. Dismal 2Q and 3Q numbers all but guarentee layoffs. Ellen’s unexpected ‘retirement’ and appointment of Ed Breen, fat cutter extrodinare, had the rumor mill estimating 25% of departments would be let go.

And then in early December, the Dow-DuPont merger was announced. In early December the layoffs began. 50% of one department, 90% of another, an entire department shut down. The company is dying. To make matters worse, despite company claims of environmental stewardship and highest ethical behavior as core values, investigative articles report about the willful illegal disposal of toxic chemicals.

Finally, Central Research and Development (CR&D) is gutted. 60 to 70% of groups are gone. All to save $2 billion to distribute to the shareholders. From a group that returns $9 billion in revenue. This is the new quarterly capitialism, squeezing every penny of short term value out of company regardless of the long-term effects, which are outlined in this article. In short, the company’s future is being destroyed (no CR&D, no new products) to provide investors short-term returns.

Now, this is not a claim that there wasn’t waste; waste was rampant. However, gutting the scientists and support staff while leaving in place the business personnel making the poor choices of products to pursue will not decrease waste.

And so the corporate dustbowl has begun and is not limited to DuPont. The question is, how long before the effects are felt and can we ever recover from it?


Abby: Our planned impulse purchase

Dave and I fondly recalled summer vacations of our youth traveling across country with our families in a RV or truck/trailer combination. These memories are likely fond because we were not in charge of logistics or driving.

In the hope of having Alex fondly remember trips as a family, we talked about purhcasing an RV on and off for several months. We were concerned that if we purchased an RV our usage would be minimal because we didn’t take many trips. It was also possible that we didn’t take many trips because we lacked the tools (the RV) to make it easy to get away. Thus deciding the only way to solve this chicken or the egg type question, we decided that we would purchase a RV.

Dave dove into the internet to research options available to us with our criteria: diesel engine, easy to drive, smaller to allow access to most locations, and reliable. The result: the Winnebago View, layout H, 2006 model year. At 24 feet, the View is only 4 feet longer than a Suburban and allows us to camp anywhere short of tent only sites. Built on a Sprinter chasis, it should be easy to drive so the responsibility can be shared between Jess and Dave. And most importantly, the 2006 model year meant someone else had already taken the depreciation hit and the average price fell into our range.

Decision made, we settled in to wait for right View to cross our paths, fully expecting the process to take at least 6 months and require a fly and drive obtain the vehicle. Ever optimistic, Dave impulsively checked the ads on Craigslist. Within a week, Dave found a 2007 View H located only 90 minutes away in Rehoboth, DE. Contact with the seller was promising so we decided to take Alex (then 3 months old) on a road trip to check out the View. Worst case scenario, the RV would be horrific and we would have to go to Dogfish Head Brewpub for lunch. It is unbelieveable the trials we were willing to subject ourselves to in order to purchase an RV.

Upon arriving at the seller’s house, we discovered the RV was in great condition. Dave had his internet researched list of pitfalls to avoid in purchasing an RV. The price, after minor negotiation, was right. The hardest part of the transaction was the Delaware DMV and the ever changing list of paperwork requirements necessary to complete the transaction, all dependent on the representative.

Abby, short for abenteuer (adventure in German, a nod to the Mercedes chaise), officially entered our family a couple of weeks later in August of 2015. She quickly demonstrated that we didn’t take trips due to a lack of interest