[Namaste-dev] Weekly Plan? July 7 QRT

Michelle w5nyv at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 7 17:09:30 PDT 2008

Normally, this would be the day of the week where I would set out the working goals for the week for the team. I had been making an effort to plan week-to-week, with Dayton and the Symposium as longer-term milestone events, where papers and projects would be completed and presented. I enjoyed the process, and I would have liked to continue daily work on Namaste. 

However, I cannot. The reason I have not written a weekly plan in the last few weeks because my position was eliminated by AMSAT engineering management. 

Namely, by Bob McGwier, in an email on 23 June 2008, when he also specifically, and quite harshly, fired Matt Ettus, who was ACP lead. 

Bob also canceled the July 18-20 meeting in San Diego. This is the second ACP meeting that Bob has canceled. The first one was to be held in April in San Diego. After nearly 6 months of work, we still have not had what would have been, in my opinion, an extremely productive (some would say necessary) meeting. 

In the same email, he announced policy changes for engineering volunteers on ACP that are significantly and unworkably different than the ones Namaste began with. I will list them here, paraphrased from the email I received. If there is any argument or debate about the veracity of what I have paraphrased below, then I will provide the entire email on request.

1. Bob McGwier to be in charge of the entire digital transponder system, which includes Namaste.
2. All decisions on the project go through Bob. Anyone defying this policy is fired from the
3. All advice and all input for the project goes through Bob. He is the only arbiter of the
acceptability of the advice.
4. Anyone without a specific function is no longer on the team.
5. Any documents (including this one) require Bob’s technical and managerial approval before
posting to the Namaste web site.

I was asked to wait while meetings with Bob were scheduled by Rick Hambly to work things out or fix what was fixable, and I did wait. However, would seem to me that AMSAT publicly supports these personnel and policy changes, while expressing regret in private. I was told that this is not the first time this sort of situation has occurred. I do not understand why it would be allowed to continue. 

It should be obvious that what Bob has stated in recent email to the list conflicts very sharply with the statements in the email from 23 June. It can be seen that no public announcement of the personnel decisions made by Bob McGwier has been made. No new team leaders, besides Bob himself, have been announced. The policy changes have not been shared with the team. It's like these decisions were never made. However, they were, and they have repercussions. 

I have received very, very mixed messages from AMSAT board members and other executives which simply cannot be reconciled. Either the decisions made by the Vice President of engineering are trustworthy, or they are not. Either volunteers are empowered to be independent, or they are not.

Decisions by the head of engineering of an organization that represents thousands of dues-paying members cannot be arbitrarily ignored, especially when the decision is to repeatedly accept your (unoffered) resignation. The next most logical step would be to assert the right to arbitrarily ignore the other executives and board members, when they provide direction or ask for specific goals to be set. Or, to arbitrarily ignore the team members that are actually doing the work. I don't want to work that way. 

I do not think that taking over AMSAT engineering projects in such a manner (autocratic), while presenting quite a different public face on this list (collaborative), is acceptable for a manager at the executive level to do. Not without someone speaking up and stating that the emperor has no clothes, that is. 

It was my belief that AMSAT needed to fix this situation Right Now. Not in October, and not by trying to sweep serious managerial issues under the rug by failing to fully address them. The scale of the projects we're talking about doing requires teams of people that need to be able to expect basic management support from their organization. I don't think we're receiving that support.

I understand that these sorts of issues are not enjoyable to discuss, and I would like to apologize to anyone that is disappointed in my inability to simply ignore the Vice President of Engineering for AMSAT. I'm just not able to do that. I have too much respect for the position and the organization to not take communications from Bob McGwier seriously. If taken seriously, then I am no longer welcome as an engineering volunteer. If not taken seriously, then I am faced with the reality of, at a minimum, instructing people on my team to be ready to totally ignore a senior executive when they make decisions. I hope you all can see the dilemma.

I deeply respect AMSAT and the work that the volunteers have done. I wish the projects and programs, especially ACP, the very best. I'm a life member of AMSAT and look forward to seeing what AMSAT does in the future.

All project documents not already in OpenKM will be there by the end of the week. The mailing list and archives belong to AMSAT and will hopefully serve Bob in his efforts to engineer the ACP system. 

I will continue to be active in microwave-band projects for the bands and with the equipment that we've been talking about here on the list. If you are interested, please contact me directly (w5nyv at amsat.org), and I'll be more than happy to include you. 

very truly yours,
 -Michelle W5NYV
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