I left Kodak in late 2004 — at least that is when I ended my employment there. Surprisingly to me, I am still “working on” (as your waitress likes to say when you have a few bites left on your plate) the process of taking leave of Kodak in my head. Just last night, I dreamed I was back at Kodak making emulsions. Bizarre, bubbly emulsions.
In my waking hours, I routinely check the internet to see what has happened to Kodak, good and bad. Have there been more layoffs? Will Kodak emerge from bankruptcy? Will the board of directors ever see fit to fire CEO Antonio Perez, or will they give him a bonus? What are my old co-workers doing now?
It’s not like I was a workaholic. It’s fair to say that I was employed there about ten years before I really got down to doing serious work, as any business with any kind of standards would define it today. Kodak really didn’t start demanding much from its workers (or its managers) until the mid-1980’s. That’s when the layoffs began.
I finally kicked it into gear and thought I accomplished a lot in the last half of my career. But I bet there is little evidence of it now. That multi-million-dollar worldwide factory upgrade I worked on in 2000-2001, the project that seemed so important to Kodak’s future at the time, looks like a waste of money now. Half of the buildings where we installed the equipment don’t even exist anymore.
Now I wish I had saved copies of a few of my technical reports and those prototype mixers I designed. It is hard for me to let creative efforts go, to acknowledge that things I devoted much thought and energy to are now, literally, dust.
I remind myself that Kodak (and film buyers everywhere) paid my salary and helped us support a family, maintain a house, educate our children and prepare for our retirement. If nothing else I did there lasted, that has to count for something. Still, it’s sad to leave.