Mixsonian


Working at AOL
2000-2011

After leaving PEC I went to work for AOL.  AOL was at its peak at this time with over 30 million subscribers making AOL the largest Internet provider in the world.  I interviewed for a project manager in the Internet services group and they quickly made me an offer.   The year 2000 was the year that AOL merged with Time Warner which was one of the biggest media mergers in history at that time.  Time Warner had many divisions, all of which had computer web sites, most of which were hosted around the country at third party datacenters.  As a cost saving measure of the merger, many of the Time Warner divisions were to move their hosting to AOL “mega” datacenters.   My job was to manage the move of the Time Warner websites and computer systems to AOL with one of the first was moving a couple of Time Warner divisions with over 900 computers into the newly built AOL datacenter in Gainesville Virginia  

I worked at the main AOL campus, at Ashburn which started with the HQ building and the joining CC1 and CC2, “CC” meaning Creative Center. When I started the new CC3 building had just been completed quickly followed by CC4, 5 and then 6.   The growth seemed endless, with new people being hired at a furious pace.   

This was the heyday for AOL, a time of plenty, a time of excess.   The culture was one of work hard but have fun.  There were often parties with food and kegs of beer at lunch or after work.  Ping pong tables, and other games were scattered around the campus if you needed a break.  With every new release of AOL or other new initiative there would be T shirts and other swag giving to the employees.   With the merger with Time Warner the excitement was high.  The Christmas party that year was an extravaganza with an entire local convention center being rented and decorated with themes from various Time Warner TV shows and movies.  There was a tent setup with a complete replicate from the TV show Mash, another with I Dream of Gennie, characters walking around dressed up like various TV characters and super heroes and so on.    For the annual all hands meeting they rented the entire Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum which was just down the road from AOL.  It was quite amazing to be able to wander around the exhibits, with food and drink tables setup between the exhibits.  

But it was not to last.  Within a year after the merger with Time Warner AOL realized that they were no longer growing like the had in the past and did not need all their datacenter space and decided to sell the one I had just moved all the Time Warner divisions into.  Well that was a bit disheartening, after spending months on the planning and move to get them into the datacenter, I had to do it all over again to move them out into another AOL datacenter.   By 2003 the signs of problems begin to show with AOL’s fonder Steve Case leaving AOL and rumors begin about the separation of AOL and Time Warner.     

By 2005 there begin layoffs and come 2007 a massive layoff of some 40% of employees, some 2000 people.  Over the next few years there would be more layoffs every year but somehow, I still managed to hang on.  In 2009 came the announcement that AOL and Time Warner would be separating and my job changed from moving Time Warner divisions into AOL datacenters to moving the out.   As more and more employees got laid off, they moved out of entire buildings, CC6, then CC5, CC4 and finally CC2 which I had started in.  Our group got whittled down from its peak of around ten project managers to just three including myself.  With the announcement of more layoffs I expected one or more of the three of us would be laid off but myself and one other remained.  We were told we were still needed and were “valued” employees but you could see the writing on the wall, it was only a matter of time before we to were let go.   

As it turned out, several of the persons I worked with at AOL all went to a nearby computer hosting company called Carpathia and one of them called me up and asked if I was interested in coming to work for them.  I took the job and left AOL.  An interesting side note is not only myself but the other two of the last project managers in my group at AOL all ended up working for Carpathia.  

My time at AOL was probably one of the best and most fun jobs I have worked.  It saddens me to have seen it go from a fun and exciting company to what is now, just a shadow of what it was when it was in its glory.

Larry 4/2/2019

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