Corporate IT Acquisitions: A Survival Guide

As a freshly-minted VMware employee who has been there just over a month, you might be wondering what my take is on the Broadcom/VMware acquisition.

Well, first of all, I can’t talk about what’s happening internally, because that would like, get me fired and stuff. Also, I am not in the business of making predictions about what’s going to happen with it. I am sure you can read many of the, “hot (or not so hot) takes” on the google or on the twitter machine.

But what I can do is speak in generalities about what you can expect if the company you work for is acquired. I have been through no less than 3 acquisitions in the past 22 years, if I include this one, so maybe what I say here can help you. My only disclaimer is that I am talking about very large organizations (+20K Employees), but there might be something applicable to smaller companies too. Here goes:

Survival Tip #1: “The Announcement” – Calm Down and Don’t Panic

So the Press Release is out and now some other company has swooped in to acquire the company you work for. Now what?

First, I will let you in on a little secret about me. Change rarely bothers me. I have always been wired to be a, “roll with the punches” kind of person. Always have been. But there are a lot of people who do not do well with change . . . like, at all. And these same people are 10 times worse when it comes to uncertainty, which is how we can categorize an event like this.

These people, to put it lightly, WILL FREAK OUT. To them, this announcement is literally an existential crisis for them.

But, the announcement is not a cause for anyone to panic.

First of all, the larger the companies involved are, the longer it will take for you to see any changes, if any. With large acquisitions it takes 6-12 months before the acquisition is “official”. Then it takes another 6-9 months for the Bobs to come in and take a look at the acquired organization and see what’s what. You’re looking at around 12-18 months, give or take, before any changes are seen for you.

The Bobs. Source: The movie Office Space.

Therefore, you should acknowledge that this is all beyond your control. And from my own anxiety-resolution mantras, what do we do about things that are beyond our control? The answer is nothing. You’re better off “getting to calm” so you can make a rational and informed decision.

One thought that I do have here is that if you are in Operations, or what someone might call a “cost center” (as opposed to a “revenue-generating center” like Sales), then you might at least have some level of consternation, but that is still a long-term issue, not a short-term one.

Additionally, since this is in the realm of “uncertainty,” it is possible that things might be better for you, but either way, we don’t know this early in the game, so “business as usual” is the name of the game.

Survival Tip # 2: “The First All-Hands Meeting” – Don’t Expect C-Level Leaders to Put Your Mind at Ease About It. It’s Not Their Job

Next will be an internal all-hands meeting (brought to you by Zoom . . . or Teams . . . or Whatever) run by the C-Level assholes at your company.

Here you will hear a lot about, “Shareholders”. And a lot about, “what’s best for the company”. And a lot about, “our exciting and bright future”.

You will not be told what’s going to happen to your 401K. Or your, “Work From Home” status. Or whether or not your new overlords have the same values as you do. That’s what your immediate manager is for.

C-Level leaders, however, are concerned with:

  1. Shareholders.
  2. END OF LIST.

I am not saying it’s a bad thing that they only care about Shareholders. I am simply pointing out how stuff works in Corporate America.

Again, no one knows exactly what’s going to happen at this point in the game (which is essentially Day 2). And even if someone did, they either can’t tell you, or they would be stupid to tell you.

Survival Tip #3: The Clock Has Started – Over the Next 12-18 Months, Some People You Love Will Leave

Taking a page from the “Captain Obvious Playbook” here, once the announcement is made, each person is going to make their own decision about whether or not they will stay at some point over the next 18 months. And as far as your choice in making that decision, in my experience, you will know it when you see it. But again, if you like your job and the company you work for, you have some time to come to terms with all of it. And also, again, maybe things won’t change at all.

I will say that if your first thought after the announcement was made was, “Man, I should really update my resumé,” then you were probably looking for an excuse to leave anyway, and maybe you should think about that?

Who will be the first to leave? It’s usually middle-manager or higher-profile types who can afford to actually have (perceived) principles about where they work.

You know the types. The ones who say stupid crap like, “I am leaving Company X because I don’t like the new direction Company Y is taking us.” Blah blah blah.

I guess my jadedness is showing. I prefer to call it the wisdom the comes with age, but whatever!

I am being dick-ish about this because if you are putting your faith in a Corporation to always, “reflect your values” and/or to always, “go in (what you perceive to be) the right direction,” you really have not paid attention to how Corporate America works. Corporate America is run by Shareholders. Shareholders are supposed to make money. And if they think a “new direction” is going to make them money, they will go in that direction because . . . fuck you, that’s why. They are human and they make mistakes like everyone else, sure, but don’t feel like you’re “taking a stand” by leaving. No one cares.

To those who say crap like, “I am leaving Company X because I don’t like the new direction Company Y is taking.” I say, “OK Che Guevarra, then go! Eat a bag of dicks and shut up about it. Who do you think you are, anyway? I say, Godspeed!”

I would actually never say this to a person. Not to their face anyway . . .

Survival Tip #4: Play It Cool

So now you’ve made it to Day 3 and beyond. What now?

First of all, if you have concerns, talk to your manager about it, but make sure your conversation is confidential. In my experience, they probably know about as much about it as you do, so the best they can usually do is empathize.

Outside of that, politically, you are better off keeping your cards close and keeping your trap shut about it. Fall in line with, “business as usual,” especially if you are emotional about it.

Why? Well, in the next few months, some of your peers may be attempting to make some new moves. Alliances may be made. Wall writings may become apparent. The less people know about your intentions the better, so it’s best to be stoic and unfazed. As people leave, others will attempt to fill the power void. Let them. Unless you want to make moves, I guess. I can’t help you there. Power moves are not really my forté. My inter-office political maneuverings are on an “as-needed” basis and the best I can say about my inter-office politics is that I, “hold my own” as it were. But, that’s a different blog post altogether.

Second of all, this is a good time to re-assess your career goals and even if your goals are to stay with the company, you should have an ear to the ground about what kinds of things the company is looking for. See if there’s a match between what the company’s needs are, what the market needs, and most importantly, what’s important for you. Hedge your bets.

Questions? Hit me up on twitter @RussianLitGuy or email me at bryansullins@thinkingoutcloud.org. I would love to hear from you.

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