How John Gets into Data Processing

How John gets into Data Processing

or 

Geri gives good advice

In my last year at Rutgers, I had a pretty easy course load. I had signed up for 16 credit hours the first semester, but a typical SNAFU forced me to drop Economics 101 since seniors weren't supposed to take freshman entry level courses. Of course, it wasn't discovered at matriculation time, but 4 weeks and two tests into the class. So, I dropped it since it wouldn't count and I wasn't doing well in the class anyway. So, that left me with 14 hours. Four main courses, three in history and one in Literature; and a two credit course on FORTRAN that was a requirement for Freshmen Engineering students. I took it on a lark, thinking that if I couldn't pass it, it wouldn't count against my major (History) and wouldn't harm my grade point average too badly. It was also a freshman level course, but since it was outside the college of arts and sciences and in the Engineering school, there was no prohibition. Rutgers required 120 hours to graduate and when I finished this semester, I would have 110, assuming I passed each class.

Anyway, I was the oldest guy in the class, and I had actually gotten into the class with mostly Sophomores who hadn't been able to pass it the year before. Since the class turned out to be a class on learning to use a language to write logical statements, I discovered it to be quite easy. In fact, I was tutoring four or five of my classmates during lab time. The Professor even called me to his office and told me that it was a shame I hadn't looked at computer science earlier and asked me to help a couple of guys not even in my class. You may notice I use the term "guys" a lot, that's because when I went to Rutgers it was still an all-mens school. I went on to receive a BA in History and computer jobs were out of the question unless I went back to school.

Soon to be married and needing a job, I began teaching in the Quinton Township School district. After teaching at Quinton Township Schools for eight years and receiving my contract for the ninth year for $11,000 plus $500 to coach football and basketball, I began to consider my options. By this time (1974), Vietnam was over and I was thirty and not likely to be drafted anyway, so the timing was good to see if I could land something else. I had until the end of July to decide, but the board liked to know by the end of the school year.

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One day, about a month before the end of school, I ran into Bob Coblentz, a board member, neighbor and a friend. I had already taught two of his three boys and the third would be along in a year or so. He mentioned to me that my contract had not been returned yet and if there was a reason. Since he was a friend, I told him I was considering other options. It was well-known that two of the surrounding townships had tried to get me to move into their schools and one had offered a teaching-principal position mid-year (I wouldn't take it because, I felt and still do that contracts should be honored and I had one for the entire school year). From the look on his face, I knew he thought that I was thinking of a different school. So, I told him that I wanted to see if I could land a job in the business sector. 

Bob worked for IBM as a mainframe repair specialist (AKA Hardware Engineer) and he immediately said, "How about IBM, they're looking for Software Engineers?" I told him, that I didn't have any training or knowledge in that area except for the one FORTRAN class. He told me, it couldn't hurt to apply. 

Bob arranged an interview for the next week and I travelled to Cherry Hill to apply. I was first interviewed by the Software manager and given a battery of three logic tests and the option to take an electronics one (which I would have failed, so declined). After completing the tests, I was told to come back after lunch. When I got back, the manager pulled out the key for the tests and began to grade them. After a bit, he began to scratch his head and check the answer keys. It seems that I had not missed any questions on two of the tests and only one on the other.

I was then handed off to the Hardware Manager who asked me why I thought I had done so well and I didn't know except that I thought logically and that's what the tests measured. He then asked me if I could work for a woman. I was taken aback and replied, "Are you even allowed to ask me that question?" He agreed probably not, but still wanted an answer. It turned out that this service branch was the first in the division to be run by a female branch manager - not a record to be very proud of; but they were. I said, "Do you see where I'm working now? The women outnumber the men". Then it was time to meet Joan, the branch manager. After only a few minutes of general chit-chat, she offered my $800/month to start on July 1st. Since this was several thousand less than I would make if I stayed a teacher, I asked if I could have some time to think about it. She sensed my disappointment at the number and  said,  "If you are holding out for more money, you will not get another offer". I covered by telling her "No, I believe this is a good opportunity, but my wife needs to be in on the decision". We agreed that I could have until the week end, since she had two other applicants (no way to prove the veracity of that statement - though I doubt it).

So, I talked to Geri and I gave the pros and cons. I didn't want to ask her to pull in the purse strings, but we would probably have a struggle for a year or so. Geri replied; "Well, you know that you can always get a job as a school teacher, but you don't want to be kicking yourself in the butt years from now wondering  about what might have been".

I took the job! Nineteen years later they laid me off, but it was a good ride and primed me for my future.

Davdan @ 2008-2018