Valley's New Year's Mix: Work And Play; High-Tech: Workers On Y2K Duty To Be Offered A Fun Atmosphere -- Minus Booze (San Jose Mercury News) : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Well... focus could be a good thing. Preparedness... at home... even better.


Published Sunday, December 5, 1999, in the San Jose Mercury News

Valley's New Year's mix: work and play

High-tech: Workers on Y2K duty to be offered a fun atmosphere -- minus booze.

Mercury News Staff Writer

[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

Make no mistake: This New Year's Eve will hardly be a holiday for many people in Silicon Valley, where thousands of employees will be at work -- or tethered to their pagers -- to tackle any Year 2000 snafus.

``We're there to work, to support the customers,'' said John Earnhardt, a spokesman for Cisco Systems Inc., the San Jose networking giant where 1,000 Bay Area employees will be toiling through that Friday night.

``Work is first and foremost in everybody's minds. We knew this was coming,'' he said of Y2K, which might as well be called the grinch that stole New Year's Eve. ``But we're trying to make things more comfortable.''

High-tech companies in particular are doing their best to help create some semblance of a traditional New Year's Eve bash, minus the alcohol, for employees on the job -- and sometimes for their guests, too.

Yahoo! Inc. -- as its name suggests -- is throwing a party, complete with disc jockey, at its Santa Clara headquarters.

Cisco is offering a buffet of ``nicer food'' -- though not, as rumored, top sirloin or lobster. There also will be day care Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 and cots for those working ``extreme hours.''

And up in San Francisco's Multimedia Gulch at ZDTV, the 24-hour cable channel devoted to computing, technology and the Internet, all workers will get a bottle of champagne after their shifts are completed.

``The good stuff,'' says spokeswoman Cameron Brown.

`00' troubleshooting

The valley's technicians must work on New Year's because many older computers and electronic equipment worldwide use two-digit years for dates and could malfunction when the year turns ``00'' on Jan. 1.

Since computers created the Y2K glitch, perhaps it's only fitting that technology workers will be on the midnight watch as the century switches over. But the Bay Area is not alone.

At Fortune 500 companies, an estimated 100,000 additional people will be at work nationwide the evening of Dec. 31, with another 500,000 on call.

A broader survey by the Bureau of National Affairs, a private research company in Washington, D.C., found that half of American employers are requiring at least some of their workers to come in on New Year's Day.

Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group President Carl Guardino said he doesn't know how many people in the valley will be working New Year's Eve. The trade group represents 150 of the largest Silicon Valley high-tech firms, which provide one of every four private jobs here.

``My gut tells me that most people will be popping champagne corks, while some technicians will be plopping into chairs in front of computer screens,'' Guardino said.

But according to high-tech companies, it's not just engineers, programmers, information technology experts and customer reps who will be asked to show up to guard against potential Y2K computer crashes.

Employees in the finance, accounting, human resources, legal and payroll departments will be working around the globe for Redwood Shores-based Oracle Corp., a spokeswoman for the world's second-largest independent software maker said.

Why? High-tech firms not only have to worry about serving their clients and customers; they also must monitor their internal systems.

Y2K staffing at Oracle kicks in at 2 a.m. Dec. 31, and continues through Jan. 4 in12-hour shifts.

``We feel that's very reasonable, considering some people at other companies are working 72-hour-long shifts,'' said the spokeswoman.

Loved ones welcome

At Oracle, catered meals and non-alcoholic beverages will be available locally during the rollover, she said, and spouses and children are welcome to stop by and visit their bored -- or bedraggled -- relatives. The company will have about 1,000 Bay Area employees on the job New Year's Eve.

At Santa Clara-based chip maker Intel Corp., it's business as usual.

``This is something nobody has encountered before,'' said spokesman Bill Calder. ``We're obviously trying to make it a great place to work, but this is a job, and we're there to get the job done. We're not looking at it as a party, and we're certainly not planning any parties.''

And no champagne. Not even a sip. ``We don't allow alcohol,'' said Calder. ``There will be some food brought in at various sites,'' he said, but the company's ``special recognition'' of its employees probably will come after the event. Exactly what that will be hasn't yet been decided.

At some companies, a monetary reward could be in the offing for employees who work the Y2K weekend.

``Each manager has the ability to give awards or bonuses,'' said Cisco's Earnhardt. ``It's up to the discretion of the manager.''

At the new Microsoft campus in Mountain View, an ``extensive'' number of employees will be on duty New Year's Eve. Many may wish they were working at the company's Redmond, Wash., headquarters instead, where the company will fete the 300 employees on duty, most of whom have worked constantly to prepare Microsoft and its customers for Y2K.

``They get a party,'' said Don Jones, Microsoft's director of Y2K readiness, ``because they're going to be here, just in case.''

The celebration begins at 7 p.m. Dec. 31 with a catered buffet dinner, a disc jockey, dancing, Y2K time capsules filled with assorted items, marble plaque awards signed by Bill Gates and a champagne toast at midnight.

Spouses and significant others are welcome to attend, and child care will be available. Microsoft President Steve Ballmer will be there, as will Chief Operating Officer Bob Herbold. CEO Bill Gates will be at home two miles away, but fully networked into headquarters.

``We've turned down requests from people who wanted to be here on New Year's Eve,'' said Jones. About 40 employees told him they wanted to say they were at Microsoft for Y2K, or wanted to be there to help out. ``I take pride in that,'' he said.

Similarly, some employees at ZDTV have volunteered to work shifts.

``A lot of us are anxious to see what will happen,'' said Tim Sweezey, senior manager of information technology. Nevertheless, he said, ``one thing we will do -- at least at the stroke of midnight -- is get a small glass of champagne.'' Then the staff will return to covering the Y2K story on TV as it unfolds across the world in every time zone.

At Tibco Software Inc. in Palo Alto, software manager Michael Kao is on call New Year's Eve and on the weekend. The husband and father of three said his family knew long ago that their traditional New Year's ski trip to Tahoe or Colorado was shot.

``I'm definitely going to have to stick around,'' said Kao, which also means he won't be imbibing. But he will be taking his family out to dinner or a movie to try and make up for the change in plans.

``My wife understands,'' said Kao. ``It's once every century. You probably won't be asked twice.''

Reached at her office in Fremont, where she works as a purchaser for a contract manufacturer, Joy Kao said, she's resigned to the compromise.

``That's the situation. I don't have a choice anymore.''

Contact Tracy Seipel at or (408) 920-5343.

-- Diane J. Squire (, December 05, 1999


Will the GI's really show up?

Seriously. You can promise to be there, & then not show. It's a risk of course, but if you "get it," what are your really risking by staying home? A job that possibly won't exist in a few weeks anyway?

-- not going (nowhere@the.rollover), December 05, 1999.

No booze? And in this up-tight society, likely no sex, either. Sound s like LOTS of fun, oh yeah baby!

-- A (, December 05, 1999.

All the main SJ Merc stories and sidebars:

Special Report: Y2K Survival Guide: San Jose Mercury News: Sunday, December 5, 1999


See also... an interesting graphic, from the front page of the Business section: 120599impact.htm

And other TBY2K forum threads posted (so far):

Y2K Home Preparation: Officials Worry That Residents Are Not Ready (San Jose Mercury News) 001vpd

Valley's New Year's Mix: Work And Play; High-Tech: Workers On Y2K Duty To Be Offered A Fun Atmosphere -- Minus Booze (San Jose Mercury News ) 001vra

Y2K Financial Advisers' Bottom Line: Stay Cool (San Jose Mercury News) 001vrt

For VCRs And The Like, 1972 Is The Quick, Easy Y2K Solution [Also... Rick Cowles & Embedded Systems] (San Jose Mercury News) 001vsH

Y2K Fixes Cost Billions, With Real Test To Come (San Jose Mercury News) 001vzz

-- Diane J. Squire (, December 05, 1999.

So, it's like a normal work day... we're working, can't drink, and normal behaviour and discipline rules apply... but it's a party, you say? Well, that certainly changes my perceptions of it. In fact, I'm glad I'm not at home with my friends and family, and am instead hanging out with sad computer geeks that I can barely tolerate. In fact, why not charge us admission?

-- Colin MacDonald (, December 06, 1999.

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