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How to get laid off: the Don Dodge approach

Posted by Scott Kirsner  February 9, 2010 09:21 AM

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I saw Don Dodge yesterday for the first time since he was laid off by Microsoft last November.

Dodge had been a director of business development on Microsoft's emerging business team, essentially working with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to encourage them to use Microsoft products and services, and also acting as a very important set of eyes and ears for his employer in the start-up world. Based in New Hampshire, Dodge was a regular presence at conferences and start-up gatherings on both coasts. Though not a senior executive at Microsoft, he was one of the company's most visible employees ever since Robert Scoble departed in 2006.

Dodge is now a developer advocate at Google, encouraging software companies to build new applications that work with Google infrastructure. He went unemployed for 11 days before Google hired him, and he told me over coffee yesterday that he'd also fielded inquiries from three or four other big-name tech companies, including a popular social network founded a few years ago by Harvard undergrads.

What can you learn from Dodge's situation?

(In the photo above is Dodge with M.C. Hammer. Dodge is on the right.)

Most employees toil anonymously, whether they work for big companies or small companies. They're more concerned with playing politics internally than building external relationships and establishing expertise in their industry. Their cars go from home to the parking lot at work and back. When they are laid off, no one but their colleagues, friends, families, and maybe a few customer contacts knows or cares. 

Now granted, Dodge has an outward-facing evangelist type of job. But don't brush off the power of blogging, tweeting, being a presence at networking events, judging contests, sitting on panels, and generally being helpful to people who are trying to make new connections to advance their businesses or careers. Especially if you work for a faceless company that people may not know well (or, like Microsoft, may have hostile feelings toward), being the friendly face can be a huge help to your market value. 

Dodge chose to be clear that his blog, The Next Big Thing, was a personal project, and it wasn't hosted on Microsoft's domain although he did talk about Microsoft topics there, and sometimes provoked the ire of his higher-ups with it. (In 2007, he shared the story of how he almost got fired over a blog post.)

But in a shaky economy, being known as an individual who is good at doing a given job is a lot better than being anonymous. (Dodge has more than 500 connections on his LinkedIn profile.) Interestingly, because Dodge knows TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington, and because Arrington wrote this post about him being laid off, Google exec Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering, became aware that Dodge was looking for his next gig. (Previously, Dodge worked for Napster, AltaVista, Bowstreet Software, Digital, and Compaq.)

So what are you doing to build your rep outside your company's walls?

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Innovation and technology news that matters, on a new website from the Boston Globe, featuring Scott Kirsner and other original reporting.

About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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