Hi-tech companies are still cutting back. Last week's headline-grabber was Comverse Technologies (Nasdaq:CMVT), which began the process of trimming 850 jobs.
Comverse is a star of the Israeli sky. Journalists had a field day. The company found itself wriggling under the spotlight not only of the printed press, but of television. As always, when the populist medium of TV tackles complex economic matters, especially ones involving hi-tech, it gets deadly serious. It delves into the depths of the issue while searching for the sexy story that justified the exposure in the first place.
The following are excerpts of a typical television interview with some unfortunate who just hit the pavement.
Interviewer: Good evening. The global hi-tech crisis hits again. Another hi-tech company fired hundreds of people today. With us is Joe Israeli, an engineer from Company X. Hello, Joe.
Interviewer showing empathy: I understand you were fired today.
Interviewer showing sensitivity: How do you feel?
Interviewer showing surprise: One moment you're king of the castle, the next you're road kill. You must feel just terrible.
Joe: Yup. I was fired, it feels lousy.
Interviewer shows frustration: One moment the world is at your feet, the next you're at the feet of the world. You were a star.
Joe: Yes, there's a global crisis.
Interviewer: Tell us what happened.
Joe: The whole communications industry is in crisis. The company's income started to fall. It had to adapt its spending to the prevailing circumstances and cut jobs.
Interviewer: But you were in HI-TECH. You were the cream of the crop. You were wined and dined, on truffles and sushi.
Joe: I personally usually eat a burger or felafel for lunch.
Interviewer: The world was your oyster.
Joe: Yes, the job was generally pretty challenging.
Interviewer: Shihatsu, massages, stock options, and now you've been canned.
Joe: We worked pretty hard, 16 hours a day sometimes.
Interviewer: You were at the top. Now you're at the bottom.
Joe: Yes, you're right, though I guess it's tough to be fired from any job.
Interviewer losing patience: But you were in hi-tech, not textiles. Hi-tech.
Joe: I guess most people would rather work than get fired.
Interviewer: So, you've lost your chance of big money and the life of Riley.
Joe: I was earning maybe $2,000 a month net and I have a mortgage. Life was great. I had a Mazda.
Interviewer: What about the big money?
Joe: Yes, there are managers who earned a lot of money.
Interviewer: Joe, please. But you were in hi-tech.
Joe: Yes, but the real money went to a pretty small group of people.
Interviewer, disappointed: Just $2,000 a month net?
Joe: And a Mazda.
Interviewer scrabbling about for a more productive direction: Say, it was all a great big bubble, wasn't it?
Joe: the company makes a billion dollars a year and it's earning tons of money. It's just that times are tougher, relatively speaking. Sales are down so it cut jobs.
Interviewer, unfazed: But it's all your fault, really. You inflated the bubble, you believed in it.
Joe: Share prices definitely were inflated during the last coupla years.
Interviewer, triumphantly: So what do you say about the truffles and sushi?
Joe: I personally go for burgers, maybe a felafel. Sometimes a steak sandwich.
Interviewer changes tack: What will you do now?
Joe: I'm looking for work. It's a tough market.
Interviewer: Tough, huh? Last year you were throwing out offers. The good times are over.
Interviewer: Feeling sorry?
Joe: For what?
Interviewer, raises eyebrow: For setting your sights on hi-tech.
Joe: Look, I'm an electronics engineer. That's what I do.
Interviewer, impatiently: But the bubble, the bubble!
Joe: I don't know what to say. I'm not sure that the day of the electronics engineer is over. In any case that's what I do.
Interviewer turns to the camera: Well, it was glorious while it lasted. But yesterday's stars are today's refuse. The bubble has burst, the easy money is gone and the dream is dead. One day they were young and promising with the whole world at their feet, today they're sprawling on the sidewalk. Easy come, easy go. Thank you, Joe.