back to article Mainframe brains-slurper sues IBM for 'age discrim', calls Ginny and biz 'morally bankrupt'

An award-winning former IBM saleswoman who tried to patent a system that slurped fired graybeards’ mainframe knowledge before they departed is now suing IBM for age discrimination – and squarely blames CEO Ginny Rometty for Big Blue’s “morally bankrupt” actions. Former IBM saleswoman Terry Keebaugh, of Alpharetta, Georgia, …

  1. jake Silver badge

    "knowledge that cheaper millennials lacked"

    And I'm here to tell you that it's a lucrative business leveraging knowledge which used to be taught as a matter of course. Crying shame, though ... what's more important, knowing about ones & zeros or knowing how to fondle an iFad/Fandroid?

    1. Ima Ballsy
      Unhappy

      Re: "knowledge that cheaper millennials lacked"

      True story:

      Years ago (around 2008 time frame), I was working on a self project to create a ISAM multi value database (thing nosql type ). I was working thru all the b-tree theories and was debating whether or not to have leaf node records or external block store records.

      I decided to post my results and ask for anyone that wanted to help, on some forums I belonged to.

      One of the millennial's posted back

      "why do you want to do something so ancient as ISAM / b-tree, you should write the project in SQL !"

      AT that point I decided that they AIN'T teaching theory any more in school ...

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    She was also one of the people originally assigned to Rometty’s “Millennial Task Force” initiative. That initiative was charged, so 57-year-old Keebaugh said, with “creating a workforce comprised of 75% millennials”.

    Don't upset someone who knows where the bodies are buried.

    Apart from her own case it sounds as if she could have a nice career for a few years as an expert witness when all the others sue.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Dr. Syntax ...

      First, I have to say yes, she knows where the bodies are buried. At least some of them. Too many bodies buried all around the globe on this one....

      That said, she has a killer case.

      PBC of 1 right before you get kicked to the curb is a huge red flag against IBM. If this actually makes it to trial, IBM is going to have to explain that one away...

      To those who never spent time within the Blue Borg, managers only have the ability to give 1 or maybe a handful of PBCs of 1 depending on the size of their team. I mean I was on a team where I was handed a near impossible task and crushed it. (The following year, I was replace by a team and they managed to close 75% of what I did the year earlier.) I got a 2 rating because there were others on a different team that my manager controlled couldn't get a raise and did good work too. There were more people who deserved to get a 1 than he was allowed to award.

      So to get the PBC rating of a 1... you had to earn it.

      Unless you're shutting down a complete team... you don't fire a 1. Even if you are shutting down a team / group... you move them elsewhere.

      But I have to disagree with her as an expert witness.

      She will sue. They will settle and in the settlement... they will gag her.

      Think about that.

      Posted ANON because I escaped and too many people know who I am and my alias. ;-)

      1. Rabster

        Re: @Dr. Syntax ...

        One of my best managers at Big Blue left line management for a senior PM type job because he was "tired of inventing feeble reasons to mark down good people".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Dr. Syntax ...

          One of my worst managers at IBM (against stiff competition) was brought in as a result of an outsource and was such a poisonous liar that he was promoted to "invent feeble reasons to mark down good people" so there was file evidence to justify their resource action. He was so good at it he had removed everyone fitting the profile (age/band/background) inside 2 years and I was pleased to see he was then actioned by the same people who'd promoted him.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Dr. Syntax ...

        Search El Reg, there are too many cases of PBC 1 ratings right before dismissal. I'm still trying to figure out if it's corporate trolling at the highest level, or just plain incompetence.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @AC, Re: @Dr. Syntax ...

          Yes its possible. Of the cases I personally know about... its when the team itself is being shut down.

          Or you fell in to a larger trap... e.g. You need to relocate and you can't or won't relocate at your expense.

          What I am saying is that its pretty rare for that to happen on its own.

          And to answer your question.... if you escaped from the blue borg, you'd know the answer to that question... its incompetence.

      3. Jtom Bronze badge

        Re: @Dr. Syntax ...

        Her name and this lawsuit is out of the barn. Other workers discriminated against now know who has the knowledge that would advance their case. Non-disclosures, or any other similar agreements, can not be used to avoid giving testimony in a court, even if the agreement was approved by the court..

        IBM has a problem.

        1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
          Boffin

          @Jtom Re: @Dr. Syntax ...

          "Her name and this lawsuit is out of the barn. Other workers discriminated against now know who has the knowledge that would advance their case. Non-disclosures, or any other similar agreements, can not be used to avoid giving testimony in a court, even if the agreement was approved by the court.."

          Uhm no. Not exactly.

          In a criminal case, you can be subpoenaed to provide testimony.

          In a civil case you can refuse to testify and quash a subpoena. The binding terms of an NDA will be upheld, although its possible that a judge could compel testimony under some cases. (Like you show up to offer some testimony and then refuse to answer a question because of an NDA. )

          So watch IBM pay her off in a settlement w a gag order.

          (The other cases would have to get a judge to remove the gag and even then, the person can refuse to testify. )

          Yes, Civil Law sucks sometimes.

  3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Amorality

    Seems to be a job requirement pour les Grandes Fromages.

  4. Mark 85 Silver badge

    The downward spiral to the ground is well underway.

    I don't know when it started but getting rid of the graybeards always only ever looks good on the bottom line and that's very transitional. Used to be even 10 years ago that companies paid the greybeards well because of their knowledge and insight. To say that can be replaced with a database is absurd. Once that knowledge has left the company, it's never coming back.

    1. A.P. Veening

      Re: The downward spiral to the ground is well underway.

      Spreadsheet management is a bit older than those ten years you mention, but it really started spreading like the plague at about that time.

      1. Joe W

        Re: The downward spiral to the ground is well underway.

        We have a friend who got shown the door (early retirement, my a...) at a large company designing and building power plants, conventional and nuclear. He was one of the head engineers.

        A year later they rang and hired him back for big money as consultant on a project. When he had earned as much as he could without the retirement money being reduced he made them install a new heating system at his home (that or he would leave).

        Get rid of your greybeards on your own risk, be prepared to hire them back as consultants. They will charge you through the nose for that.

        1. Ken 16 Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: The downward spiral to the ground is well underway.

          I'm almost afraid to ask; Was the home heating system conventional or nuclear?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The downward spiral to the ground is well underway.

          I was working for a small consulting company many years ago and our team had an older guy within the client company as our point of contact for all things technical.You have questions? Joe's your guy. We weren't the only consulting company who were working with Joe. It seems that Joe knew most everything there was to know about the systems and applications that the various consulting firms were contracted to work with. You can probably guess what happened one day just before lunch. Yep, they let Joe go. I'd guess he had a half dozen job offers by the end of the day. (He wasn't hired by my employer.)

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: The downward spiral to the ground is well underway.

        We were doing manpower reports on 13 column pads long before VisiCalc existed.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The downward spiral to the ground is well underway.

        > ``Spreadsheet management is a bit older than those ten years you mention, but it really started spreading like the plague at about that time.''

        Indeed... I was brought in as a contractor about ten years ago. Not at $NN.00/hr but at $NN.49. I chuckled about it at the time as being a rate that could have only come from a spreadsheet. As much as I tried, I couldn't convince them to round it up to $NN.50. "What do mean `rounding to the next even dollar'? Are you crazy?" I was actually happy to have worked myself out of a job while there. The last year I was there, nearly every month came news from the project manager that all contractors would need to take a week long furlough. (Really sucked having to let people know, month after month, that I wouldn't be available to attend that meeting, etc., but, OTOH, it gave me some time to look for the next project.)

    2. Double Blue
      Facepalm

      Re: The downward spiral to the ground is well underway.

      The knowledge does come back but in the form of a higher-paid consultant.

    3. Fungus Bob Silver badge

      Re: The downward spiral to the ground is well underway.

      "To say that can be replaced with a database is absurd. Once that knowledge has left the company, it's never coming back.."

      Why am I thinking of little Bobby Tables.....?

  5. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Alert

    Watson

    Couldn't the greybeards distil the virtues of Messrs Watson and come up with an AI (TJ) Watson to replace Ginny as chair, president, and CEO of IBM?

    Does corporate law allow AI holders of company office?

    1. FozzyBear Silver badge

      Re: Watson

      No need for that level of sophistication. Any Monkey from the local zoo that habitually masturbates in front of the crowds should equal, if not exceed the intelligence quotation of Ginny.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Watson

        "the intelligence quotation of Ginny."

        Not gonna touch that one. Not with the proverbial ten footer.

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Joke

      GINNY2

      A group of millennials ignore the sage advice of the greybeards to produce an AI system where due to an elementary design fault, it thinks it's prime directive is to implement the “Millennial Task Force” initiative at whatever the consequence.

      General Intelligence Neural Network analYser 2 (GINNY2) runs amok, putting HAL to shame. It understands that in order to carry out the prime directive, it needs to remove GINNY1 (Rometty, the one with the Heart), but, understands the need for a Human avatar. GINNY1 is trapped in one of the computer suites at Armonk, and her holographic projection is what we now see, created from cutting edge holographic projection technology produced by the few greybeards still employed at IBM Labs.

      We need commandos in helicopters to mount a rescue mission to IBM HQ at Armonk to free GINNY1 from her incarceration at the hands of GINNY2

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: GINNY2

        Why would we do that, when we could simply nuke the site from orbit?

  6. Not Enough Coffee

    As a literal greybeard I'm fortunate to be nearing my pension date.

    What's funny is that the new kids they're hiring here leave after a year or so anyway because they're a part of the floater generation - no long-term loyalty to any place of work.

    Businesses will soon have no long-term knowledge of any systems and they'll have to keep spending money on new computers and software because the people they *can* hire only know the new stuff.

    And as for documenting things, they tried that here as well.. Several times. But changes happen so often that documentation became low priority, and then no priority.

    1. Joe W

      Re: floater generation

      Well, if they would be treated well, earn a decent pay and their work would be appreciated they likely would not leave. Why would one think they treat the younger people better than those they (in theory) should replace, always being told they are just a human resource, cheap to replace etc.?

    2. ckm5

      Why should they have loyalty?

      Pretty much all employers have shown zero loyalty to employees. There is no reason any employee, young or old, should show any loyalty......

      And firing the people who know how to do shit is a perfect example for any 'millennial' of why they shouldn't stick around...

    3. Nolveys Silver badge
      Windows

      As a literal greybeard I'm fortunate to be nearing my pension date.

      What's a "pension date"?

      1. Not Enough Coffee

        @Nolveys My date of retirement when I start drawing a pension.

        1. Crofty299

          Wooooooosh.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          You'd probably have spotted it was a joke if you'd had enough coffee. ;-)

          1. Not Enough Coffee

            Ah, ok. That's why it's my handle!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        What's a "pension date"?

        FTFY

        1. Nolveys Silver badge
          Windows

          A pension is a pay deduction that covers portions of currently-due unfunded liabilities.

          Yeesh, even I know that.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Writing documentation is foolish. You make yourself replaceable, and once you have left, why do you care what happens to the company? I am only half joking.

  7. Jay Lenovo
    Meh

    IBM Fresh Market

    If you assume they did and were allowed to age discriminate... Has IBM been any better in developing products since doing so?

    Seems like no.

    They have all kinds of IP real estate, yet they can only muster to run Sears stores on top of it.

    Maybe experienced people do provide value?

  8. ckm5

    Sound like a business opportunity...

    Start a company that only hires people with 15+ years of experience and rent them back to their old companies for 100x the price. Take 20% give the rest to your staff... Rinse, repeat.

    1. I3N
      Pint

      Re: Sound like a business opportunity...

      Naw ... reality - show us the tools to remove the training wheels and don't tell us when you let go of the seat ... redundant again ...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stop the gravy train !!

    Being somewhere between the greybeards and the millenials (closer to the greybeards :-)) in terms of situational position and getting to watch this transition from the field, I don't see too much of a productivity difference between greybeards and millenials, statistically speaking. I see roughly the same percentage of the very useful vs the oxygen thieves types of worker bees. The ratio of usefulness is marginally higher (low double-digits) for greybeards but definitely not a startling difference. However, what completely slays me is that Shitty Rometty is well past her use-by date (the previous two equally useless CEO's retired at 60, having coming to the realization that they have siphoned off enough dollars from the company) but she keeps shamelessly going on at 61. And as for the rest of the numpties on the board, the less said the better. How about they recast the senior management team (including the CEO) with a ratio of 75% millenials? :-) :-). And themselves, while they are about it. Can't get any worse, can it?

  10. Wellyboot Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Blue rinse = Grey beard?

    She >>>tried to patent a system that slurped fired graybeards’ mainframe knowledge before they departed<<<

    She couldn't spot that the 25% non-millennials left would all be management? (well they're not sacking themselves are they)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Blue rinse = Grey beard?

      Last I checked, the ratio of individual contributors to management in IBM came closer to 1:1 than 4:1. That place is so top-heavy and has more layers of management than anywhere else I've worked.

  11. Bamboozled

    Downward spiral - Rometty?

    Funny how their 20-odd quarters of losses started happening just after Sam Palomino left and Rometty took over? Sound a bit like a repeat of the Carly Fiorina/HP fiasco...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Downward spiral - Rometty?

      Funny how their 20-odd quarters of losses started happening just after Sam Palomino left and Rometty took over?

      No, Sam Palmjob doesn't get a free pass either. He was yet another of the execs that was running the company into the ground before Gerstner stepped in. SP took over after Gerstner and returned the company to it's downward path. Sure, Ginny had implemented many of the programmes like "LEAN" before taking over the whip, but in all fairness it isn't all on Granma Beemer.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sauce for the goose

    ...that the idea that younger people are better doesn't seem to apply to senior management and executive roles, where experience, maturity and knowledge are most valued?

    Equally interesting, those are the same people whose jobs are never offshored to India. I bet you could find dozens of smart, experienced top level executives in India, many of them with MBAs from the best American schools, who could do the job of an American CxO for a fraction of the cost

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Sauce for the goose

      ..who could do the job of an American CxO for a fraction of the cost

      Why would the ones who are smart and have the experience agree to do it for a fraction of the cost......? They will already be well-aware of their (international) market value.

    2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: Sauce for the goose

      I bet you could find dozens of smart, experienced top level executives in India, many of them with MBAs from the best American schools,...

      If they're MBAs, that automatically precludes them from being "smart".

  13. Mike 16 Silver badge

    In people as in things

    (allegedly) old saying:

    Two fools. One says "This is old, and therefore good". The other: "This is new, and therefore better"

    Meanwhile, I, and the other "nudged out the door" greybeards of my acquaintance had a tendency to document what we know, and were doing, including early design notes, without needing a patented process in place. Those who have stayed with a company for more than a few years have a personal relationship with their (soon to be) former co-workers, and do not want to make their lives difficult. Sometime, we are given time to do this. Others? Well, I left work on my last day of one job after 8PM, finishing up some notes to my replacement.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They purchased RedHat

    SPSS is useless already. Next come the only Good Man that was left standing

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