Habush Habush and Rottier

Friday, October 28, 2011

Resources After Termination

Unless you found a job (congratulations!), you're going to run out of money. You may be able to move back in with your parents, but if you put down roots or have a spouse and children then this may not be an option. You'll need to keep looking for a job, but you also need to find a way to get enough money to get to the next job.

First off, there's unemployment insurance. You'll be making $363 a week, based on what Epic pays. It's easy to file. Go to this website, or call 608.232.678 from Madison, or 1.800.822.5246 toll free. Epic pays unemployment insurance and this money comes from that fund, so don't worry about taking from hard-working taxpayers. It's still Epic's money. Once you do the initial signup, you just have to fill out the questionnaire every week. Apply for at least two jobs each week, making sure to keep track of how you applied (phone, in person, website) and who you spoke to in case they decide to audit you. They may require you to attend some classes--these are actually worthwhile and useful. Dee Relyea (twitter @deerelyea) teaches one of the classes, and she knows her stuff. She has an extensive network, and can steer you to good recruiters and other opportunities.

If you're lucky (ha!) enough to get fired at the end of the calendar year, do your taxes early and get your refund. You should know how to do that by now; you're a grown-up after all.

If that hasn't tied you over to your next job, consider cashing in your 401(k). Start by calling Fidelity at 800.343.3548. They'll walk you through the process. It'll involve siging some paperwork, then sending it to Epic for some signatures, and Epic's HR department will have to send it back to Fidelity. It should take about two or three weeks to get the money.

At this point, you really need to have a job. Unemployment is worth $9.08/hr, so if all you can get is minimum wage, you're better off being unemployed. With FICA and other automatic deductions, you probably need something at least $11/hr to equal your take-home from unemployment. Take the first job that comes your way that pays better than unemployment, and then KEEP LOOKING FOR BETTER WORK. One of the Chronicles quotes of the day is "Too many people quit looking for work when they find a job.--anonymous" (no relation). Don't make that mistake.

Last but definitely not least, you'll want to call all your credit card companies, all your utilities, everyone to whom you owe money. They've gotten extremely good at granting forebearances and deferments, and you may be able to argue a lower interest rate or lower monthly payments while you're unemployed. As long as you let them know beforehand, they're usually pretty accomodating. If things do spiral out of control, Greenpath Debt Solutions is extremely helpful and easy to work with. The budgeting software, YNAB (referral link, saves you money on the subscription), can be really helpful with making your newly limited funds go exactly where you need them to go.

On applying for jobs: You're probably not going to find a company that doesn't honor the non-compete. All the recruiters honor it, so if you want to go directly from Epic@Epic to Epic@Client, you're going to have to apply directly to the healthcare organization. Implementers will probably have a leg-up here, as most clients want dedicated builders. Fewer are hiring for ongoing support. TS, market yourselves appropriately.

I do know and have confirmed that at least a couple clients don't honor the non-compete. Leave a comment with your email address (comments are moderated and private; no one but me will see them) and I'll let you know who they are.

Update 2/3/14:
You can get free money from the internet, but it'll be less than minimum wage, and it'll typically come in the form of gift cards. These are the sites that I use, and I've had great success with getting Amazon (but they have other vendors, like Starbucks and Paypal) gift cards from them, to the tune of several hundred dollars over the course of a while. It's not going to help you pay your rent, but it might keep you in lattes for bit. Disclosure: some of these sites offer me a referral bonus. That bonus encourages me to keep posting useful advice. Depending on reader interest, I'll post more advice on milking these systems with the minimum amount of time-investment.

  • Swagbucks: 450 points gets $5 amazon. You can get 50 points a day by not doing much at all, and the opportunity exists to get a lot more than that every day. At minimum, you're looking at a gift card almost every week. You can get points for shopping, too.
  • MyPoints: Similar to Swagbucks. They send emails to you, you click on them, you get points. You also get points for shopping online, and I think they're partnered with more vendors than swagbucks. I've been using this for years and have gotten a couple hundred bucks from them alone.
  • Bing: Get points for searching. It takes me about 3 weeks to get $5 amazon, with an investment of about 3 minutes a day.
  • Amazon Mechanical Turk: No referral bonus for this one. It's amazon money in exchange for helping research studies and other cognitive stuff. There's also transcription and translation to be done. I haven't used this much, because the payouts are small for the stuff I qualify for. I don't speak the languages they're interested in with any fluency, and that kind of stuff pays more. 
  • E-Miles: I get no referral bonus here, either. Watch some ads occasionally, answer three questions, get some points. It used to be free airline miles, but they've opened it up for gift cards now. You can make charitable donations to numerous causes and get points. I just watch the ads, and get a gift card every couple of months.
There are definitely ways to milk these systems, and depending on interest, I'll share them here. Otherwise, nothing more will ever be said on the subject. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Epic Scale Priorities

An observation: I guess it started around the time when customers started upgrading to the 2009 version of Epic. Few customers (that I've been aware of) are implementing any enhancements. They want to, and it's on their priority list, but they are just too busy fixing things to work on enhancements. The 2010 version seems to be no different. I remember the 2007 and 2008 versions--there were few persistent problems. Most of the issues seemed to be enhancement related. "We have a doctor who wants to be able to do X. Is that possible?" At the end of my term of service, my customers had just upgraded to '09 and the issues were of the variety: "None of our doctors can send prescriptions. Was that functionality removed? We'd like it back."

Maybe it's just an artifact of later IUs vs early IUs. The first few years I was at Epic, my customers were on late IUs where the bugs had been worked out, and then upgraded to early IUs that were buggy. If that's the case, it's acceptable to a degree. Every new version of software will have some bugs. Testing will catch a lot of them. Testing can't catch everything; it's impractical to test every single esoteric combination of keystrokes/mouseclicks that a user will enter. But, some of the issues cropping up just look like no one tested the workflows at all. A discussion in the Epic Users One Stop Shop group on LinkedIn mentions constant crashes, in all kinds of workflows. That should have been caught earlier. If there were beta testing, it would prevent a lot of these issues.

To prevent these issues, every workflow needs to be tested. With 200+ customers, all of them with different combinations of applications, in different states with different regulations, using different workflows--there's no way Epic could staff that many QAers, and no way the QAers with no healthcare experience could mimic the actions of a user in the real world. The best solution then is to allow bleeding-edge customers the opportunity to be the first customer on a new application/new version for several months, with the promise of increased technical support in the form of more TS and on-site Epic developers. This will allow for faster end user feedback, faster fixes, and "test" scenarios that "mimic" actual, live environments.

During my tenure, Judy Faulkner constantly brought up KLAS ratings regarding needed functionality. "The needed functionality is there! You just need to get our customers to take the enhancements!" It's great to say that, but if the basic functionality is too broken to use, no one is going to want to install new, untested modules.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Networking

Start working your network as soon as you're able to. Call your friends, call your family, join job hunting Meetup groups--find out who's hiring people with your experience. Get your resume updated on Monster, Dice, LinkedIn, and Robert Half and you will get calls and emails within hours.

If you want to stay local to Dane County, Robert Half Technologies is probably your best bet. There are quite a few tech companies in Madison that aren't Epic, but are used to hiring ex-Epic employees.

On LinkedIn, join the Epic Users One Stop Shop group and any sub-groups that you qualify for--most are based on what certifications you hold, but there's also a group for Epic Non-Compete. This is mostly inactive with few discussion threads and little user interaction, but the action that does happen is useful. The group's administrator gets tons of job postings, although you won't be eligible for any of them. Post to discussions though, and get your name out there. If you give good advice, people will start to recognize your name and you'll get a leg up on other prospective hires a year from now.

The great part is that you can do all this while you're still at Epic.

Monday, January 31, 2011

You're Fired (From Epic)!

When you lose a job, you go through the same grieving process that you go through when you lose a loved one. You're probably familiar with the five stages of grief, or the Kubler-Ross Model: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

Right after Epic fires you (probably at the beginning of the month, at your workplan meeting in the afternoon--you can leave early with no regrets and the end of your 6 week period will coincide with the end of the cafeteria accounting period), you'll start the denial phase. "But...at my last performance review, you gave me great reviews..." "But...you gave me a huge raise this year, and the year before that..." These are common. You're not the only one--it's just how things are done at Epic. Read the reviews at Glassdoor, and read this blog from fellow anonymous blogger (not me; I wasn't an implementer). Pick up the pieces, know that accountability is not part of the limited management training, and start looking for your next job. Yes, you're really fired; no, there's nothing you can do about it. But you do have time to prepare.

Anger: you'll start reading online about how Epic gives people the shaft ("We're not in the business of growing our employees."--various TLs, possibly even Judy Faulkner herself), and you'll start wondering "How can they keep doing this to people?!" Resist the temptation to turn off journaling in all environments and wipe the cache database. It'd just be recovered, and you'd get in big trouble. Channel your anger into something productive, like pottery or reading the HR manual (aka the red book) cover to cover. You'll come to your senses once you realize that while Epic isn't in the business of giving references or helping you find a new job, they can definitely make it a lot harder.

Bargaining: There are passages dealing with disciplinary actions at Epic that may interest you. They mention a probationary period, after which there's an evaluation and they'll see if you're improving or not. It's worth a shot bringing this up with your TL, but in all likelihood it will be a futile pursuit. Try it anyway, and make sure you get everything in writing. Paper trails are your friend. Pull out all the stops. If you have lawyer friends, get them on the case--Wisconsin is an at-will employment state, but there is still such a thing as wrongful termination. Age discrimination (or experience discrimination) are the elephants in the room that no one talks about. Epic doesn't like publicity, especially bad publicity. Lawsuits grab all kinds of negative attention. Give it a shot, and see what happens. At the very least, try and get out of the non-compete. The red book mentions the process (submit a written request to the HR manager, who then forwards it to Judy), but in practice the HR manager will just say that Judy refuses them all and you'll be SOL. Try it anyway. Threaten lawsuits. Bring lawsuits to bear if you can. Hopefully, you'll get something out of it. If not...

Depression: Get over it. No one is going to hire you with that attitude and your roommates/family can't stand to live with you right now. Put your rocket-ship underpants on and look for something to do while Epic's non-compete is in effect.

Acceptance: Congratulations, you're ready to begin your job search.

Hopefully this process goes by pretty quickly for you, and you only lose a week or so of your still employed but definitely fired time. Later posts will deal with networking, resources to exploit, and all the other stuff you may want to know after your limbo time runs out.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Purpose of This Blog

This blog is intended as a resource for former- and soon-to-be-former Epic Systems Corporation employees. Having been recently fired from Epic myself, I scoured the Web, turning over every stone Google could show me in an effort to find information about what ex-Epic employees did during their non-compete year(s). I came up empty handed. In the true spirit of American Exceptionalism, I saw here an opportunity. This blog will attempt to fill the void in information and hopefully answer your questions and give you useful advice for putting your Epic skills to work in the real world.

Hopefully you'll see this blog the day you get your "It's not us, it's you" notification from your TL (team leader or boss for Non-Epic folks). Standard Epic operating procedure says that you'll have 6 weeks to complete or hand off any open projects; during this time you are free to look for your next job. Epic will probably ask you to resign. This will get listed as a "voluntary turnover" on their ledgers, which looks a lot better than involuntary turnover rates.

Every bit of advice you've probably heard up to this point in your career says that it is better to resign than to be fired. Like many things, Epic defies the norms here. Epic skills are in high demand everywhere in the country. The day you put your resume on Monster or Dice, you will get phone calls and emails asking you when your non-compete is up so someone (hospital or consulting firm) can hire you.

When your TL asks you for the your resignation, make him wait. If you find a new job within the 6 weeks, resign. If you don't, make them fire you. Every recruiting firm in the nation has dealt with Epic; they know the culture. They know that even though you were fired, it's through no fault of your own and it's just Epic's way.

First takeaway point: Don't resign. Until you have an exit strategy, don't resign. Once you have an out, by all means, get out. But if you don't find a job in the 6 week probationary period, make Epic fire you. This will come in handy later, if you need unemployment benefits, Badgercare, food stamps, etc.

That's a wrap for now. Subsequent articles will deal with maximizing your job search, spreading your network, and finding meaningful work that doesn't violate the non-compete. If I figure out how to get the non-compete overturned or voided, that information will be given to you ASAP.

If you have specific questions, leave a comment. I'll moderate them, so don't be surprised when they don't show up immediately. I'm posting as Anonymous TheAdministrator so I don't get blacklisted. I don't know for sure if Epic does that, but I'm not taking any chances. That being said, I can point you to resources on LinkedIn--just leave your name/email address in the comments (which I alone moderate) and I'll send you an invitation to join my network. Your personal info won't display anywhere on my blog. Good luck in your job search.