The events discussed in this are all true.
Repeat: This is NOT fiction.
Back in 2010, I was contracted to the educational institution known as Universal Technical Institute (UTI) on behalf of the US government and the NSA – and was working directly with Kim McWaters, the CEO at the time.
As was typical, Kim had leveraged the company’s resources to tap the NSA – which at the time only did business with companies – and to hire me as a consultant at the exorbitant rate of $2500 an hour.
My scrape? $55 an hour.
I had previously worked with a number of people on staff at Prudential – which made my job and acceptance in the organization MUCH easier than normal contracts, which was good.
So for a month when I was first hired on, I was told to simply fit in, get a lay of the land, and take the time to understand the synergy of the organization and team.
Larry Duke, easily one of my favorite civilian managers at Prudential – was again my manager here.
Which made the job exceedingly. Pleasant. Delightful even.
Which had me wondering why I’d been called in. Usually something was broken when I was called in. And here, things most decidedly were working quite well.
A respected CIO – David Annis who was a delight to converse with.
A QA team which actually got along with the development staff and frequently joined the team for team building abd lunches.
Even the Project Manager and Risk Analysts knew what they were doing, the risk guy was a former classmate from Thunderbird who was an awesome man.
I just didn’t get it.
And actually wanted to stay there on a full time basis as my responsibility to the US Government was ending .
Then one day, Kim called me into her office.
Back in the day, Kim may have had her moments of sex appeal. But she’d let good food and lack of fitness go to her body, which had me actually turned off when I walked into her office seeing her in a ‘sexy pose’ with her butt on the desk.
“Close the door”, she said, trying to be subtly flirtatious.
I was simply not interested. If I was reading the situation right. And sent every indicator to her that I was decidedly not in anything ‘like that’ that she had to sell.
I sat at one of the chairs adjacent to her, looking at an empty seat behind her desk where she should be sitting, as I said “Ms McWaters, I am actually a little confused on why you brought me in, I am quite impressed with the team you’ve built here, it’s one of the best I have ever seen”
She glanced at me over her shoulder, and I could tell she was a little put off by my lack of receptiveness, as she casually shifted from her perch on the desk corner to the seat behind the mahogany desk.
“Exactly,” she said, “Which is part of my problem.”
Kim went on to explain her story. How she’d originally come into the company as an administrative assistant, and how she’d risen through the ranks of UTI through a series of casual sexual relationships she’d taken advantage of.
Her candor was unusual. But I was under a non disclosure agreement at the time so I knew she was being tactical about her embellishment.
Being honest, I suspect she was so open partially in effort to make me uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure if she was trying to make me uncomfortable or not, the fact was I just didn’t give a shit by then. Three marriages will do that to a man.
And then she cut to the chase.
“And then there’s Ron.”
I didn’t know a Ron at UTI.
“No Ron was a former lover of mine and director here at UTI before I was promoted to Vice President. He was for lack of words much more into me than I was into him, so I fired him,” she said.
After a brief pause – “That was 8 years ago,” she added.
I was starting to put two and two together, but didn’t want to put words in her mouth.
After all, Kim was married, and whether her husband was oblivious or not, which I had it on good authority he was clueless about her infidelities, I still didn’t clearly see where she was heading.
My face must have been easy to read.
“Look. He’s threatening to release information about my rise to power here, our affair, and more information which threatens not just me, but the company itself,” she said, “So I need you to figure out who he is still in contact with here, and using them and hacking his personal accounts, find a way to get him thrown in jail.”
“Otherwise, I have only one option left which removes him as my problem, permanently,” she said.
“And while you’re at it,” she added, “Please see to it that him and his wife get a divorce. I hate that bitch.”
I was besides myself.
I’d been asked to do a lot of questionable things in my career working for the government, but never had I been given any indication that some relatively innocent person’s life was at stake if I didn’t do the things I was told to do.
I was actually pretty pissed off she was putting me in this position.
“Kim, “ I said, standing up, I could feel my face turning red from the heat of my blood pressure getting jacked up, “The last time someone asked me to do something painfully wrong, I walked away and quit the job right then and there. I don’t like you. I like your team though. So while I may not like you and think you’re sick and need help. I’m going to pretend I heard nothing of what you just asked me to do and walk out of this office and back to work. If you’d like to release me from employment, call my employer, you won’t hurt my feelings. Otherwise, I’ll stick around as long as I’m wanted.”
She looked at me astonished. As if no man had ever told her no before.
I waited briefly for her to respond. To which she had nothing to say.
And I walked out of the office.
Six months later, UTI lost billions in educational funding due to a bill that had been signed that, in part, was led by her former lover, and I – along with a handful of other contractors – were officially released due to a lack of budget for our continued services.
I learned a lesson in those interactions, a lesson about my real employer – the NSA.
My job and role with the NSA wasn’t to act with unquestioned obedience to the orders I had been given.
It was to discover me, and to learn about what’s important to me and being ok with making the hard decisions about when and where to say no to clearly questionable demands in the workplace. For a long time I had erroneously assumed that government service meant unquestioned commitment and agreement.
But with Kim and this exceedingly difficult situation which is among the reasons I am homeless today, I have come to have a great deal of apathy for a society which rewards those who harm more than help others.
On a final note.
Kim McWaters is still CEO of UTI to this day.
And for verification – ask Kim, Larry Duke or David Annis. They can all verify my role there.
And Kim – I have no doubt she’ll remember me.
The man who said no.