Friday, August 28, 2009

Memories of IT - 1979 -Finishing University and Getting a Job

Middle of the school year, employers come on-campus to do job interviews. It is still the olden days, so you had to hand-write job applications for each company on a standard form, could have used copy-and-paste....

I recall 3 interviews; I positioned myself as being a guy who wanted to work on real business systems rather than pure techie stuff like operating systems, fairly prescient I think now, but some of the interviewers viewed themselves as techies, so it did not sell well to them. Of course, I had no idea what a "real business system" was. UofT did not have a co-op program, so I had not worked in any IT department; my summer job was not in IT, but I kept it because I could work part-time during the school year as well, and I needed the money year-round.

I think it was an interview with Bell where I hit the techie reaction most.

General Motors was hiring, but their career path for programmers was that you had to start as a computer operator doing shift work. Neither thing appealed to me, but they gave me a second interview, which meant I had to drive out to Oshawa, east of Toronto, where the interview include a tour of Operations. I remember only a whole lot of printers, so feeding them paper would be the main work. GM solved this problem for me by not offering me a job, I think they sensed my reluctance...

One of the remaining interviews was with Crown Life, a middle-size Life & Health company, located on insurance row in mid-town Toronto. The interviewer was more 'touchy-feely' than others, wanted to know more about me as a person, not just as a set of skills. Their next step was to invite you to the head office building for a tour and to write an aptitude test. There was no Operations room to see, as they had already spun off their computer operations to a separate company, and Crown Life was now one of many of its customers. They also gave the aptitude test to non-CSci majors, believing that programming was a skill people with other degrees could master as well. Anyway, I passed the test, got a job offer that actually paid more than others I had seen, although the annual amount would not buy a compact car today. I also liked that they were a PL/1 shop, as I hated COBOL. So, I accepted and started in May 1979...

Next time: Learning to code (for real)

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About Me

Ontario, Canada
I have been an IT Business Analyst for 25 years, so I must have learned something. Also been on a lot of projects, which I have distilled into the book "Cascade": follow the link to the right to see more.