Sleepless in Fresno
After a year of unemployment stuck in Fresno away from the lucrative and challenging IT positions I have been accustomed to, I wanted to leave, but my parents were aging and needed my help. My brother had passed away and my sister was in the Los Angeles area, and my daughter was studying Cognitive Science at UCSC.
Then a recruiter called and asked if it would be a problem for me to live and work in Fresno. It was not only Ok, but it was ideal! The job would be with the hospital where my mother and I were born. And I had nothing but good feelings for Community Medical Centers. I attended a lunch interview with the lead and the manager of the group at a Mexican restaurant, and they called me back for a second interview or series of interviews in one setting. And the folks I would be working with were awesome.
Sometimes an awkward moment came when someone asked why I moved back to Fresno. I could not lie. I suffered through a painful divorce and came back to be with family and friends, and suddenly a few of them connected and said, "Yeah, we know what you mean and we've been there." I fell in love with the people at Community Medical Centers, and in a few days management called me and said they were processing the paperwork and I would hear from them again. Mark lent me books on Epic and Cache to read, and I began studying to get started as quickly as possible.
Drinking From a Firehose
My first day was August 1, 2011, and we were having a major go-live on September 26. I knew how to spell Epic and Cache, but I had much to learn. I shared a cube with a guy name Rich who took me under his wing and taught me everything I needed to become productive with Data Courier and imports. Immediately after, I was burning midnight oil with the rest of the team making the Epic go-live a success under Mark's leadership. We kept comforting ourselves reminding ourselves of what the overtime pay would buy us.
Within a year, I would go through certification in Chronicles, Hyperspace, and Cache Administration. I completed my certifications for Chronicles and Hyperspace and Installation Tools with high scores. And I completed all the coursework for Cache Administration, three grueling two day projects, and two out of three of the exams. And during this time, I developed strong skills in Data Courier, ETL, interconnects and SOAP proxies, CareEverywhere and CareElsewhere, load balancers, and various ancillary systems. And my 30 or so years of solid Unix experience helped the team significantly.
I had a chance to work through several large Cache and Epic upgrades upgrades and applied countless smaller updates. I installed updates to administration scripts, created new installations based on Production as well as Test environments, and became familiar with many of the 700 or so INIs (tables) in the Epic databases not to mention shadowing and journaling, BCA, web blob, printing configuration, and security.
In my own time, I studied ITIL, PMP, Six Sigma or CISSP certifications for my own edification and considered becoming certified but never did.
My departure from Community Medical Centers was a mixed blessing. I loved my coworkers. I planned to stay until retirement. And yet I always felt a little haunted by my salary which was significantly lower than it had been when I worked in the bay area. I also noticed others on my team suffered similar heart problems and our friend Steve suddenly passed away. In a way I longed to move back to a bigger city or to the bay area where my daughter lived. But my parents were aging and needed our help. Furthermore, I appreciated my coworkers and CMC and wanted to do my best for them.
Up until a month before I turned 59, I had never been fired by any employer during my entire life and the only time I remember being laid off was when IBM laid off all of their temporary consultants, and even then my manager was sad to see me go. My reviews at CMC were consistently excellent, and I got along with all of my coworkers. My performance on the job was said to be excellent, and I was considered a vital part of the technical team.
The Cause of My Departure
Something seemed awry with Epic's testing and certification process. Epic motivated customers to invest in training for a quarter million dollars per year in Good Maintenance discounts while Epic held all the cards when scoring the exams. In the end, Epic could simply pay themselves millions by denying one or two certifications from each customer, and nobody would be the wiser. Or at least everyone would live in fear and not say anything.
However, I believe Epic had a more sinister intention. If Epic offered this $250,000 discount "on grace", they could keep management living in fear of losing that discount. Then use these imaginary "exam scores" as a whip to keep all certification candidates under their thumbs. In other words, whether you are a manager or an employee, if you cross Epic in any way, or if you report any concerns over possible illicit behavior, you could be defamed before your entire management team and fired.
I passed my certification exams for Chronicles, Hyperspace, and Install Tools with perfect or near perfect scores, and this was typical for the majority of my life. For my Cache Systems Management certification, I passed the first two exams and three two day projects with flying colors. And then I repeatedly failed the last exam missing the minimum passing score by approximately one question. I expressed my concerns and immediately the typical verbal warning was skipped and I was given a written warning by my management in retaliation. Epic changed the rules in the middle of the game and limited the number of attempts a person could make, and then I was banned from certification forever after all the work I had done.
I was not allowed to see or verify my exams. We had to take Epic's word for it, and I was only allowed to know what Epic claimed my weak areas were each time. I continually studied to learn the material exhaustively and came away from the exam certain I had a near perfect score only to fall about one question short. Yet nobody lands on the same score multiple times. If that is rare, how rare is it to happen just one question short of passing? It was looking highly suspicious to me.
I expressed my concerns over the apparent conflict of interest and the possible fraud and defamation I believed was taking place, again, and I was disciplined and fired for "unprofessional communication". Nothing was said in my termination paperwork about my concerns about fraud, conflict of interest, or defamation--only that I had complained over the timing of the exams.
In conclusion, it may be better to lay the facts on the table and let people come to their own conclusions, but there are more facts and concerns or opinions that have come to my mind and might help others in a similar situation compare their situations to mine.
I believe CMC management would be foolish to believe Epic if Epic says only about 1% of candidates fail their exams. Why do I say this? Should management regard Mark and Steve also to be in the bottom 1% or 2%? Mark received the same score I did until he called by phone and clarified one of his answers. Steve received the minimum passing score.
Would Brandon or other management lack the intelligence needed to see that a maximum possible failing score and a minimum possible passing score are not very far apart? Doesn't it seem a little strange to assume that Steve and Mark are highly competent and intelligent while I am in the bottom 1% with a score only about 1 question short of theirs?
And is it really intelligent or honest or rational to believe for a moment that someone would likey land on the same score multiple times in spite of exhaustive study and returning to Epic to retrain? Is it reasonable to believe that someone who studied Computer Science at the graduate level at Stanford would be among the bottom 1%?
Is it really intelligent for a manager to fail to see any of this, or to miss what appears to be a very obvious conflict of interest? Is it that management at CMC just cannot see the obvious? Or do they lack the integrity to admit to an obvious truth?
Were my concerns about possible fraud, conflict of interest, defamation and such overlooked? Or were they left out of my termination paperwork intentionally to avoid getting in trouble for whistleblower retaliation?
Where is the integrity of these particular people in CMC management?
Let me say something about my coworkers. Mark is brilliant. You will not likely find a more competent lead in the whole of California or the United States. He is very customer oriented, highly intelligent, very conscientious, and extremely reliable and committed to performing his job in the very best way possible. He was always a great leader of our team, and I have always held him in the very highest regard.
Steve, too, was highly competent. He could rub some people a little roughly at times, but he was not just a good friend but a great friend and a great person to work with. I know Mark and I both shed a lot of tears for him when he passed on suddenly, and we loved him as a dear friend. I still miss him, and I miss Mark, too. I miss the entire team and the people in the build teams as well.
Yet when I was fired, my first thought was to accept responsibility, to consider where I had gone wrong rather than casting blame outward or attempting to defend myself initially. But while I believe that is the right and honest thing to do, it can result in a greater amount of anger when other people seem to reflect back to you on the injustice involved, the dishonesty, the cowardice, the avoidance of responsibility, the hypocrisy, the violation of moral, ethical, and legal values, and the bold faced lies that have been told in writing in legal documents and presented to the court.
These are things I might have considered suing for and still may. But I did not want to punish the hospital for what a few in management did. Nor did I want to engage in a court battle after having spent years in a stressful position knowing that Steve passed away and that my coworkers have also experienced some heart palpitations possibly as a result of the stress involved. And now I would be missing from the team leaving the team down one person for the next upgrade and for the years to come as it would take a few years to train up more people to replace me.
If suing CMC would bring more stress, it could kill me and bring great difficulty upon my family. Furthermore, at best, it would take me away from some things I wanted to accomplish in life.
After my departure, I quickly made a list of projects I wanted to complete. I wanted to complete an Android app that would protect or facilitate the rescue of those kidnapped in Nigeria and the Yazidis in Iraq. I wanted to reorganize or rebuild from the ground up my Christian and marriage related websites. I wanted to get involved in promoting revival. I also wanted to work on a block-chain based dead-man's switch to protect people who felt under threat of death or kidnapping or felt threatened by a rogue or abusive government.
I already had some excellent law study materials and an awesome law dictionary, so I took some time studying law in case I wanted to go to law school. Ultimately, I decided law would just be for my own benefit. I did not feel I wanted to commit myself to a law career. I studied Chinese, learned Vagrant and Docker and a little Go programming, and I installed and set up VistA, a free, public domain competitor to Epic onto my laptop.
Then I learned that the DoD was planning to invest $11 billion into a new EHR system with Epic, Cerner, and VistA being considered. I quickly lobbied for VistA and against Epic, something I could do legally given I myself am not a competitor. Epic called me back and informed me they were doing away with the limit on exam attempts, and then I smiled. What that means is that CMC could have had another back-up Cache Administrator and my wife pointed out that I had been able to encourage Epic to do something that the entire management team at CMC had not been able to accomplish. Perhaps that is because I was no longer under Epic's thumb.
I studied revival again and began working on an online school of evangelism and revival when I learned about The Last Reformation. My wife and I went through all 20 lessons as did one of my close friends who is the president of the local Businessmen's Fellowship International chapter.
Being on Medi-cal now, I visited a doctor and was diagnosed with some health issues that needed taken care of--namely my thyroid. I had an ultrasound, a radioactive scan and a biopsy and there is no cancer, but I do have Graves disease and Diabetes. But my blood work is getting to be really good now. I wonder if these issues would have been caught had I remained at CMC. I did not want to go to CMC for all of this, so I went down to Kingsburg, Hanford, and Selma instead and found the drive quite nice.
I also learned of some teaching and some substitute teaching possibilities. My hope is to build up some businesses of my own that will turn a greater profit in the end while helping more people and to earn my freedom to do what my family and I want to do.
It's time. In two years, I will be able to collect social security, but that is not my desire. However, it can help carry us while I continue working to build up something better for the long haul. Colonel Sanders was broke and on the edge of suicide when he decided to start selling chicken at age 65, and I'm still not there yet. When he was 88, he was a billionaire.
One thing I want to do is to tighten up the accountability in all hospitals regarding whistleblower retaliation. I'd like to see the changes called "CMC's Whistleblower's law", but I'd be happy just to piggyback these changes onto legislation already being considered for VA hospitals by one representative at this time.
I want to build our family back up financially. We have been crushed for too long. I want to get traction on this while my father is still with us and to accomplish as many really great things as possible before our lives are over. And my wife feels the same way I do. She is a wonderful woman.
So, we're on to positive things in life!