Tuesday, November 16, 2010


In August 2010 I was made redundant from my work of 8 years at Virtual-Mirrors Ltd (also known as Innova Clothing). We were given the news on Monday July 26th during our usual weekly meeting. Frustratingly a decision had been made to cease trading the week before (July 22nd) without informing the staff so they all worked afterwards oblivious. On the Monday Patrick Gardner (Managing Director of Virtual-Mirrors Ltd) assured us he was going to try to find a buyer for Virtual-Mirrors but told us there was no money to pay our July salaries. He gave himself 2 weeks to let us know.

This post describes my state of mind and how I coped over the following few months.

I was in shock at this news; it was my son's first day at nursery and we'd planned everything except this. After calling my wife I wondered into my bank to ask what help I could receive, not much it would seem.

We were never told why Virtual-Mirrors (VML) ceased trading (and will never know), something to do with a failed Harvey Nichols presentation I believe. My immediate reaction was to get myself on the market and either start my own business or see if I could slide into a similar role.

That afternoon my wife and I went for a walk around Drumpellier Loch this was good to clear my head and I was soothed by the fresh air and the Cygnets. During this walk I received a call from Patrick explaining he'd been over gloomy during the meeting and he had a "good afternoon" talking to his shareholders. I sent a short essay to Patrick explaining why I'd worked for Virtual-Mirrors with some ideas I had for its future and was asked in for a meeting in the office. We talked about the potential and Patrick seemed to suggest it could solve a lot of problems.

By this point I was really beginning to believe a buyer could be found and I could continue working for Patrick/VML. I had a feeling of optimism.

However, to keep my options open I had a CV which I'd prepared after university so I dusted it off and added some of the work experience I'd gained at VML. Since I had worked from home with VML, I knew I'd need to work 5 days a week in an office which meant putting my son into full time nursery - an additional (expensive) cost along with commuting. Foolishly I added these costs onto my previous salary and started advertising for a higher salary. I got some response, but not a lot.

Over the following weeks I worked on my CV and generated various renderings and a portfolio of some of the graphics work I'd completed all on the same computer and in the same room as I'd worked previously. I even had "lunch breaks" during the same hours when I worked from home. To stop this, after completing work on my CV I halted further graphics/rendering work and took a step back from my main computer. This gave me a much better opportunity to clear my head.

I was also beginning to really worry about our existing debt, so I called various companies and explained the situation; they were all very nice and most of the companies (except BT) offered a month (or more) breathing space with bills. We really needed my salary.

Personally, I hate wasted effort and since January I'd been rewriting VML's visualisation code and adding new enhancements which I was really excited about - but none of this had been realised on VML's shop website. The potential of not seeing this work to fruition was upsetting me and given hindsight probably my main reason for helping Patrick where possible.

Until hearing news, my wife and I took regular walks around Drumpellier Loch. After a week we received an email stating something is possible and we could be paid our July salaries in the middle of August. I requested confirmation whether this would actually happen to which I was told it was more of might - but maybe not. Basically it was a 'non email' giving Patrick another week. During this uncertain time I had kept in touch with some colleagues; however, it was clear each had been told a slightly different story, we talked to each other and found there was no clear truth as to what was happening or future plans. I met up and got to know some of my ex-colleagues on a more personal footing which was a good experience - and I think helped.

On Sunday 15th August I received a text message from a coworker explaining P45s were being sent out. I contacted Patrick who explained he was preparing to officially make everyone redundant as the prospect of a new buyer was not likely. Patrick told me he was going to try and sell the tailoring technology, I asked about the visualisations where I was told nothing had been advertised about this area of software since our meeting in July. It was at this point I realised I'd been spending 3 weeks hoping and helping VML for nothing.

By this time I'd started Infant Massage classes with my (then) 4 month old son which helped divert my attention away from redundancy.

On Monday 17th August I met up with a recruiter in town who discussed my CV and employment options. Whilst I was still very much in shock, this helped me come to terms with my unemployment and so began my job search. I created a LinkedIn profile and updated my CV.

By now my wife had returned to work from her maternity leave and I was for the first time ever, a house husband with a baby. I signed on for Job Seekers Allowance and at the end of the month we'd arranged a meeting with Glasgow City Council regarding our finances.

Our representative at Glasgow City Council was very helpful, gave great advice and I walked away feeling much better. We opened new bank accounts which felt like a fresh start and for the first time since marriage my wife and I had our incomes (albeit mine a benefit) paid into the same account!

Around this time I started to evaluate my salary expectations and balance them against the market. I lowered my salary desire and took a much more constructive attitude to job seeking. I managed to get two job interviews one of which led to a second round of interviews.

Toward the end of September we had a family weekend camping break away in Cobleland (Aberfoyle). This was really refreshing - although I tainted it by filling our diesel van with petrol. I put this down to stress and eventually got over the cost. I returned from this trip to go immediately to a second interview in Edinburgh.

Unfortunately I was not successful for either of the positions I'd interviewed for.

During October not much happened on the job front, but I had significantly improved my state of mind. I realised I was loving time at home with my son and took active steps to move my computer out of my 'manden' and into the living room. This also helped me get over VML as I no longer felt like I was working from home when using the computer. All work software was removed; Innova prints and business cards removed; desktop backgrounds changed and I installed games on my PC. October also saw my redundancy payments arrive which helped me finalise my time with Virtual Mirrors. I started to enjoy life and time with my son. I found it hilarious on one occasion when my wife was kicked out of the Job Centre because she accompanied me to an interview there. During October I had a number of calls from recruiters but nothing seemed to materialise.

During November I received a call regarding a job in Paisley, it looked very interesting and I wanted to be put forward. This led to a phone interview on Tuesday 9th November for which I was invited for a face to face interview the following Friday; however, during the Tuesday afternoon the first recruiter I met in August contacted me about the very first job I wanted to apply for and I asked to be put forward again. I got an interview for this new position on Thursday and received an offer that afternoon which I accepted. I had to cancel the Friday interview and so commenced a new stage of my life!

Looking back I thoroughly enjoyed by time with my son and often said if I had to be made redundant, I would have chosen exactly then. I received a lot of support from my family for which I am very grateful for, but it still took sometime for me to properly realise that there are far worse things that could happen.

The week before I started working for my new employer we put my son in full time nursery for three days. Whilst I'd gotten used to doing housework in the past few months, I found these days very difficult, the house seemed too quiet and I lacked enthusiasm for housework, games or TV. I would have hated the last 3 months like this. I am glad I had my son to keep me company and play games.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well Done Barry - You maintained a positive outlook and came up trumps... Good luck with your new company.