Getting Fired

I was hired to work for Michigan Technological University after a short, informal process immediately after graduating in the spring of 2008. Starting under the department of Auxiliary Technologies as a beginning web developer, I was the sole manager for dozens of websites and web applications. After ten months of complaint-free work, I was fired from my position in an extremely negative manner.

During my employ at Michigan Tech, I don't feel that I was the perfect employee. When a friend of mine was hospitalized after a camping accident, I took a week's worth of emergency leave after sending my boss and colleagues a brief e-mail explaining the situation. I usually showed up to work early, especially during the summer, so that I could leave early to work around the house or go hiking with my dog. There were several projects I worked on that fell behind schedule, sometimes due to my inability to keep up with a large workload. However, while I admit these shortcomings as an employee, none of them were listed as a reason for my termination.

Two of my larger projects failed during my last few months of my employment that, according to my boss, were the cause of his decision. The first one was a youth programs application that accepted online applications and payments and kept track of all participants, payment schedules, and camp information. While I had the original application built before the scheduled deadline, the clients had lists of changes after running through the test that took me weeks to fix. Originally I did not see the necessity of documenting the changes, and their demands and views of the application were forcing me to undo large changes, further complicating the original application. While I approached both my boss and this department with concerns that I was spending too much time on this project, neither one had any suggestions or solutions to offer or seemed to care. I continued to spend up to twenty hours a week working on this project straight through the rest of my employ.

The second project that failed was a recontracting system for students living in the residence halls. When I tested the application, I had a full override in effect; I didn't test actual students. On the launch date, a number of bugs popped up with this approach that delayed or inhibited students from using the system. After working as late as three am on both Saturday and Sunday of the launch I managed to get the application completely working. No students were heavily impacted until that Monday when a new bug popped in. A special subdivision of students with displaced status was allowed to recontract, and the database that had their information had not been updated from last year's data. Not only had my boss neglected to inform me of the old data, but the responsible department (who had full control over the table and normally did all the work with this table) did not update the data. Hundreds of students were able to recontract before their scheduled times, and the system was closed to avoid further complications.

As soon as this second system failed, I approached my boss and went over the specific problems and what we would have to do to fix them. He seemed disinterested in the project, only asking me when I expected it to be complete. A week after, he handed me a letter of termination that stated I had acted with a 'deliberate disregard of my employer's interest'.

I wrote this post on my professional website not because I feel that I was wronged or wanted to vent. Instead, I feel that this experience has had a large impact on my personal life and career. I do not feel that my termination was deserved, but have tried to use it to approach my next job with a more professional manner in order to avoid future negative encounters. I hope to learn from this, and also hope that someone else out there might take away a lesson, or at least a story, as well.