May 10, 2022 by Kenneth Fisher
I’m actually hosting this month and I was wondering about your first technical job. Mine was kind of interesting. I wasn’t exactly a DBA but I was working with a database-like tool.
I was just out of college. In fact, I had just given up on college after my 4th year and no degree. I had a friend who owed me some money so he suggested I move from Austin to Houston, live with him for free for a while, and come work at the place he worked at. Interestingly I followed the same person back to Austin a year or so later in order to work with him again, this time as an actual DBA. Doing Foxpro for DOS if anyone is interested.
Anyway, this was a fairly interesting job. It was a split night shift. I worked from 8pm to midnight, and then 4am to 8am Monday – Saturday. Later on down the line, they asked me to work till 10am so that I was around for a bit after people showed up for the morning. For those doing the math, that’s 60 hours a week. But hey, I was young, single, and getting paid hourly (with overtime). I was thrilled.
The company was a mortgage collection place and every night a new list of people to be called for the day was downloaded to our system. My job from 8pm-midnight was to make sure the download was correct and then start a process that split the list into 5 equal parts for the different teams to work with. Then, from 4am-8am I was making sure the queries had run correctly, the different lists were given to the correct teams, and the reporting was started. From 8-10am I was passing out the reports and answering questions.
One of my favorite stories about that place was why I ended up leaving. As I said above, the company had 5 teams making collection calls. That year, they had decided they would try something new. They got together all of the money for the cost of living raises (yes, they still had those back then), performance raises, and bonuses and put it all into a big pot. The team that collected the most got the biggest portion, working its way down to the worst performing team who got the smallest share. Each person received a share of their team’s money based on performance and how long they had been with the company. Where this got really interesting was how they handled the service team (IT). Since our job was to support the other teams we received a percentage of each team’s bonus money based on how much they wanted to donate to us. The idea being that if we were super helpful they’d give us more money. Kind of like tipping at a restaurant. No one sees anything going wrong with this plan right?
So bonus time rolled around and everyone got their shares. From what we (the IT department) heard the top-level people made thousands of dollars (pretty good back then) with the lowest-end person on the worst team getting ~$500. That afternoon our manager (technically the vice president over IT) called us into a meeting room to pass our checks. There were 23 of us. Which made it a squeeze but possible. He started by apologizing. Not a good start to the meeting FYI. He then passed out our checks and showed us his. He’d received a grand total of ~$150. I’d gotten ~$20.
In a weird sort of way, this did do what senior management expected. We now knew exactly how much the other teams valued us. Unsurprisingly, over the next two weeks, a fair number of people on the support team quit. I spent a lot of that time helping a fair number of freaked out people deal with Excel spreadsheets, Novell issues, etc. Until I decided it was time for me to leave too. I was one of the last 5 or 6 people left at that point.
And while I’ve never experienced anything quite that bad since I’ve worked at plenty of places that didn’t really value their IT staff. On an up note, I started my career with a really low bar. 😁