TakeTime take 2

Today IBM announced that, like last year, they’ll be offering the TakeTime program. Once again — I’m very tempted by the possibility.

This year our life circumstances are a little different which will certainly impact the decision to take advantage of the program. This year is my 10th year at IBM meaning I get an extra week of vacation so I’m not as tight for vacation as I was last year. Also unlike last year, we’re in a different part of the development cycle for my product, so it might be more challenging to get management approval. If all goes well, Benjamin will have a full-time job this summer which should make things cash flow a great deal better, but sadly also means that it would be unlikely we could use it for vacation as he would have just started working. And I have high hopes that I might, just might, get some sort of a raise this year which certainly wouldn’t hurt cash-flow wise either.

The first step is to touch base with my manager to see if my management team would even consider the possibility before I get my hopes up too high!

2009 PBC Rating: 1

I’m excited to announce that this year I pulled off a PBC rating of 1. This is particularly good news because my performance was being compared to all the other band 9 employees, a band that I’m relatively new in. I think I made a strong showing for 2009, obviously others did too, and I’m expecting 2010 to be even better.

[From my post two years ago:] For the uninitiated: At the beginning of each year, IBM employees write down their goals for the year and put them in the PBC tool. At the end of the year employees write up how close they came to achieving those goals and submit them to management who reviews them. Also at the end of the year management gets together and rates employees according to how well they did compared to their peers. Ratings can be one of the following

  • 1 – Extraordinary
  • 2+ – Exceeded Expectations
  • 2 – Solid Performer/Met Expectations
  • 3 – Needs Improvement
  • 4 – Your Ass Is Getting Fired

Because PBC ratings are tied to bonus payouts, the number of 1s and 2+s are limited – generally at a 3rd-line manager level.

To make things more challenging the evaluation of employees for band 9 aren’t done at a 2nd-line manager’s level but at a level higher. This means that my manager isn’t directly involved with the discussions but instead fills in my 2nd-line manager who advocates for me with her management team. Getting a 1 this year shows that not only am I performing well but I’m making good progress at getting exposure to my 2nd-line manager and her peers.

Like last year, I thought I’d include an excerpt from my manager’s writeup:

This is only Casey’s second PBC assessment as a Senior Software Engineer (Band 9) employee. For 2009, I can say with complete confidence, Casey has stepped it up a notch to clear the “raised bar” of expectations for the higher band and has achieved an extraordinary contribution rating, relatively, in such a short time. I feel this is remarkable, well deserved and continues to be tip of the iceberg regarding Casey’s up-side potential, in regard to his career in Tivoli and IBM, as a technical professional. Given the economy, recent resource reductions and world events, Casey is accomplishing this at a time, perhaps, where relative contribution relatively, may be more competitive than ever.

IBM Thanks! awards

IBM has an internal employee appreciation program called Thanks! Awards. This program allows employees to show appreciation to a fellow coworker for going above-and-beyond the call of duty. The award is actually a placeholder. After being given the recipient goes to a specific website to redeem the placeholder for an IBM-branded item of their choice.

Each employee is allowed to give up to 12 Thanks! awards a year and can receive up to 3 of them (the limit on receiving only 3 is presumably linked to the IRS regulations that says employees can gift up to $75 to an employee tax-free and the items to choose from are all easily under $25 each). I’ve maxed out the number of Thanks! awards that I can receive every year that I can remember, and each year I race with myself to see how close to January 1st I can max out. Not that I solicit them or do anything different than I usually do in my day-to-day job ’cause that would be cheating. In 2008 I received my 3rd award on Feb 25. This year it was on Feb 16. We’ll see what happens in 2010. I’m not the only one who keeps track of this as a quick google says some people even mention the number they get on their resume.

After your limit is reached coworkers are suggested to send internal eCards instead – which are admittedly corny but in my mind have the same personal recognition impact. Because lets be honest, it isn’t the IBM-branded stuff that’s the big win from the Thanks! award program, but the recognition of a fellow coworker of a job well done.

And in that vein my work resolution for the new year is to be better about giving out Thanks! awards (and corny eCards if necessary) where appropriate.

ITIM 5.1 is released!

After ~1.5 years in the making, IBM Tivoli Identity Manager 5.1 was released today! This version adds support for role hierarchy, enforcing separation of duties policies, endpoint group management, and user recertification. Performance-wise we addressed some minor defects and made better out-of-the-box indexes for use on Oracle and MS SQL databases.

My big post-release todo is to finish updating the Performance Tuning Guide and get it released by the end of July. With luck I’ll have it done by mid-month.

IBM raises (or lack thereof) arrive

Despite the economic turndown IBM did in fact give out raises this year, albeit meager ones. Unlike last year where there was an MRP adjustment in addition to a merit-based adjustment, this year it was only merit-based and it only applied to those who received PBC ratings of 2+ and 1. That was disappointing for me given that I received a PBC rating of 2 largely due to my recent promotion. So my salary remains unchanged. Not that I’m at all complaining given that many companies are reducing pay across the board by a percentage.

On the plus side I did find out the new MRP range for Band 9s in my region. I’m currently sitting at a MRP of 46% — or only about half way to the midpoint of the range — so if they opt to do MRP adjustments again next year I have lots of room to grow.

Looking back on it I’ve decided I’ve been on the wrong side of IBM’s MRP program. Every time they’ve decided to do MRP adjustments I’ve made a high PBC rating and qualify for merit-based adjustments but the pool of money to allocate is smaller because of the mandatory MRP allotments. The time they decide not to do an MRP I have a lower rating that doesn’t qualify for merit-based adjustments.

Time off this summer

IBM is offering a voluntary pilot program called TakeTime this summer. The concept is rather simple: with management approval you can take between 10 and 20 days inclusive off in the months of June, July, and August and get paid 1/3 of your pay for the days you take off.

The days need not be taken contiguously and the money is taken out of your September paychecks in equal amounts allowing for folks to plan their cash flow. The days off are separate and distinct from your vacation. During the time you take off you’re still a considered a full-time employee without any change in your insurance coverage, vacation accrual, etc.

IMHO this is a very exciting program because IBM is a stickler about vacation: you can’t roll unused vacation over and you can’t buy back vacation days — what you have based on your tenure is it. For me that means 3 weeks of vacation which have been eaten up by travelling back to Texas for holidays the past two years.

Originally I wanted to take the full 20 days off but that didn’t cash-flow well with travel expenses we’ll have over the next few months and the tuition for Benjamin’s summer classes. Instead I opted for the minimum 10 days. I’ll be taking them every Friday in the months of July and August (8 as July the 3rd is a site holiday and I have off anyway) and 2 floating dates that I can use whenever in July or August.

What will I be doing with my Fridays off? Some of those will be spent visiting friends during some of our travel. Others will be spent doing some coding for PGDP. And yet others may be spent reading a book by the pool :)

Anniversaries: Personal & Professional

Monday, June 1st was my 6th-year anniversary with Benjamin. We met 6 years ago on a blind date set up by a mutual friend to see Miss Saigon. We celebrated it by recreating our second date: we had dinner at Schlotzsky’s and then proceeded to see the movie Up which was amazing. Well, technically our second date was dinner at Schlotzsky’s and then dancing lessons at RCC so it wasn’t a total recreation — but neither were we 6 years younger either :) Benjamin did seem to enjoy his dozen + 5 roses.

Tuesday, June 2nd was our 3-year marriage anniversary. To celebrate that we’re seeing Rent next week and staying in a hotel downtown.

Today, June 5th, is my 9-year anniversary at IBM. When I was hired at the peak of the dot-com boom I never thought I’d be at IBM for 5 years, much less 9. During my second performance evaluation roughly 18 months after I started I was told that I was getting a raise, not just because of my good performance but because if they didn’t new hires would be making more than I did. It was then that I discovered that the hiring managers didn’t consider me a strong candidate and weren’t going to offer me the job until one manager stepped in and said he thought I’d be a good fit and would vouch for me. I never did end up working for him though. Thus I was hired at the lowest salary they could offer a college graduate (which was sadly the highest offer I received by far during my job search). Since then I’ve proceeded to impress folks — at least according to my performance evaluations. Here I am 9 years later a well-respected Senior Software Engineer (band 9) and a performance subject-matter expert on all things ITIM, including the IBM LDAP server and DB2 database. It’s been a fun ride! I’m looking forward to an extra week of vacation next year and seeing where IBM’s headed from here.