My First Job

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People always remember their firsts: first day in school, first day in college, first day in university, first job, first love, first kiss etc. For me it is my first job which is very memorable.

But before that some history about myself.

I came to USA for doing Ph.D in physics which I completed in 1993. After that I

worked as a post-doctoral research associate for two years in Norman, OK. But when

the funding ran out and it turned out I am not quite the Einstein I thought to be,

I was left with no choice but to find a job outside of academia.

Some people said with my background in physics and with Ph.D from a well known

university and also an MSc from one of I.I.T’s in India, I can easily get a job

in industry in companies like Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Applied Materials etc.

However, my job search did not turn up any results in two months. Even though I

got some job in India, I was not willing to go back and wanted to explore further what uncle Sam might have in store for me.

But no job, no job. Then someone suggested I could look for job in the software

industry which was beginning to boom. I had done lot computing as part of my

research. So I thought it is not a bad idea. So I started applying to software

companies in the internet. But most companies kept rejecting by saying I don’t

have any relevant experience. Some will talk to me for a few days and then eventually it will not go anywhere after that.

While I was doing that, I started learning about C programming language. Before

then I have done programming in Fortran language only. So I started learning about pointers, memory

allocation, etc. I also started learning about C++ which was gaining popularity at that

time. I kept on learning. Encapsulation, inheritance, polymorphism. I

liked the idea of inheritance and polymorphism very much. While the university

had no funds to pay me anymore, I could still use their computing and other resources, e.g. phone, fax, internet etc. This turned

out to be a great service for me.

But I was still not having any luck in finding a job. Everybody said they need industry

experience which I lacked. Almost a whole month went by, and still no luck.

In fact, a time came when I gave the hope of getting a job and almost about to head back home. But before leaving I gave a call to one of companies I was dealing with. I had talked with them before. This time, the president of the company

himself took the call. When he learned about my story, he decided to give me a

chance. He offered me to come there and stay in their guest house and learn more

programming and they will look for projects for me. At that time, it sounded like a gift from heaven to me.

So I packed all my stuff, vacated my apartment, bid final good bye to the academic world and headed for New Jersey.

New Jersey

It was a small infotec company in New Jersey. They had a two bedroom apartment

which they used as their guest house.

They also urged me to learn visual C++ and I started learning it. However,

they had only one computer for use and sometime there will be competition over who will get to it first.

The company had probably 50-60 employees and most of them were at their client

site working on various assignments. There were only four people in the office.

In fact, most people were recruited over phone and never even came to the home


They had rented a two bedroom apartment which they called the guest house. This

was going to my address for a while.

Life in the Guest House

At a times, their guest house really got crowded. People were coming from India.

Some got placed pretty much immediately but some had to wait a while.

Sometime the mood got very festive. People talking, joking, playing. One day,

someone was cooking while some other people having a hearty adda (chit chat). So

he also joined in the party. But he forgot to switch off the cooking burner.

He was having so much fun, he didn’t realize the oil had gotten over heated

and started burning. It caught our attention only there were smoke all over the

living room. Immediately we ran to the kitchen and switched off the gas. But the

oil was still burning and so much smoke came out that it triggered the smoke

alarm. We quickly opened the windows and tried to fan the smoke out with some newspapers. At one point we were worried if police or fire brigade

will come and what they will think when they find so many foreigners in a single

apartment. So someone suggested most of us could hide in the bathroom. Then

someone pointed out the closet which was a walk-in close and could fit 5-6 people easily. But no police or fire brigade ever came and the smoke cleared in an hour.

In another day, someone put a hot cooking pot containing lentil right onto the carpet. No one seemed to notice what happened until we finished eating. The pot

has burned the carpet it was sitting on, we discovered when the pot was lifted.

Everybody was very nervous. Weeks later, it will a subject of obscene joke : an black round spot exactly in the middle of the apartment.

Also people will forget one or another sometime : may be switching off

light or the air conditioning, one someone even forgot to turn off the cooking gas, it kept burning the whole day. It was very fortunate that the whole apartment was not burned down. But every time the company president knew about

it, he would start yelling, and the blame game will start.

Hopeless quest for job

As I was learning visual C++, they would try sending my resume

for review to some companies. In all cases, it will be completely ignored. Sometime the marketing person will talk to someone mentioning my impressive educational

background. But only response he would get from the other end was in the form of

a question : how much industry experience does he have? Answer was, of course, ZERO! It was getting more and more frustrating.

In one instance, he almost yelled at them saying : ‘he has written thousand lines of code’! To this day, the desparateness, frustration and poignance still

rings in my ear.

I was also getting sick of learning visual C++. I know I can write program that

can fetch data and display it on the screen, but what all is there to learn?

One can not memorize the whole windows api.

As I was learning visual C++ and sometime visual basic, I also had another task

to take care of. This was to drive people around. Even though most people

found jobs without too much effort, there were few who took some time. They

will have interviews here and there. Since they just came from India, they didn’t know driving and my ability to drive a car came very handy to them. So

I would drive them to places. In one incident, I drove one guy to some place

in North Jersey and I got lost. Cell phone were available at that time, but almost no one

had them. I stopped at a lonely gas station and made a call. It was so lonely

and time was around 11 pm, I got really scared. In another instance, I was

supposed to bring back a guy from some town in philadelphia who got rolled off

from the project just after a week. This time also I got lost and found myself

driving on a very narrow road. There was no way to turn back. Finally I stopped

on the shoulder which was grass. There was a car coming from behind, so I waited

until it passed. But to my surprise, the car stopped just by my car. I was very

scared. But when the windows rolled down, I saw an old lady instead of a someone

pointing gun at me who asked if I was alright and needed any help. I was so

touched by this gesture. So I smiled and said no. I turned back and eventually

found the guy and headed back to the guest house.

The fight with Lawyer

The first thing they had do was to get an H1B approval for me. But

the lawyer was very much against me. One day the president of the company got

in phone with him and an entertaining conversation followed.

Lawyer: How can you be sure he can do this job?

President: I know his background, he can easily learn this.

Lawyer: Okay, but his degree is in physics it will be very difficult to get H1B

approval for him.

President: He has done lot of programming as part of this research, it should not be any problem.

Lawyer: Okay, but this is still a very complicated case and lot of extra work needs to done, it would cost XXXX dollars.

President: Oh my god! Etna mat bolo. Hamara seva karo. (Don’t quote so much, serve me well).

Lawyer: No man, it can not be any lower than that.

President: Kar do bhaiya! Main to garib admi hun. (Please do it, we are too poor!)

Lawyer: I am giving you the lowest price! Others will charge you a whole lot. (Meaning he would suck the last drop of blood from you if he could.)

And the coversation continued for a while. It ended like this.

President: Okay, we will get all paperwork ready. Please start working on this

as soon as possible.

Lawyer: Don’t worry. As long as it is in my hand everything will go smoothly (meaning he didn’t have a clue what he was talking about).

Return to India

At some point, I decided to go home and stay there until get a project; the chance of

which was getting slimmer and slimmer each day. So I bought a one-way ticket to India and headed home. There was very good chance that I will not return back to USA. At home, my parent pestered me so much to get married.

So I decided to get married even though I did not have a job. This is partly

because I was not having much luck with girls. I did have chances though, but I

blew them all. But this is not relevant in the context of this story. May be later.

But right after getting married, guess what, phone started ringing from USA.

The infotec company has finally found someone who was interested in my resume

and an phone interview was scheduled quickly. The interview was not as great as

I thought! But one hour later, I got a call back saying I was selected for the

job. Take that! I got a job.

After that everything was arranged with lightening speed. The plane ticket was booked and

I headed back to US. But even this part was not without kinks. They booked a

ticket on Tower airlines! I was supposed to fly out of Mumbai. I was to collect

the ticket from the Tower office in Mumbai. When I tried to find their office

in the largest city of India, I had troubles. The taxi driver took me around the

city (probably twice) and when finally located the office, they said I simply

had to pick it up from their counter in the airport itself. Well the taxi raced

back to the airport and dropped me there. He demanded about thousand rupees (or

fifteen hundred, I don’t remember today).

But everything went smoothly after that! In the airport in New York, two people

from the office came to meet me! It was so touching.

My professional career

In the first job, I performed really well. I guess having some good education really

makes a difference. After a few months, everyone was talking about my programming style as if I had been doing programming for years!

One year later, I decided to look for another job and I got one this time in the

company called Sabre group, a spin off company from the American Airlines.

This was a difficult decision to take, to quit the company which helped me land

my first job. But I thought I have served them enough even though I am pretty thankful for what they did for me.

In the second job also I did really well and although there were twists now and then, I was

employed long enough to get my green card.

In my first job I did mainly C programming, then move to C++ and java and then

J2EE. Ironically I never used visual C++ or visual basic.

At this place I also got to know about stock market. I saw lot of colleagues surfing

the finance sites (e.g. Yahoo finance) during office hours and also doing stock

trading in their brokerage account. I did not know anything about stock market

until that time. So I looked for some information and

decided to get in

this game: a decision I very soon learned to regret. Almost all my trades

ended up in loss! Those early days of investing is described in in my web site:

After a year

I had lost almost half of my money! But then came the internet bubble. I made good

money by trading first eBay and then Amazon. I continued trading until March of

2000 when my account value was almost at stone’s throw away from the million

dollar mark! But as the internet bubble burst, so did my account. It quickly

lost half of its value, and then three-fourth, and so on. But it didn’t go down

to zero! In fact, I never held onto any stock for a long time. Even though some

stocks went to zero, my losses were limited. But I would try to recover the loss

from another stock which would also go down. And the losses added up. I guess

some people never learn. But slowly my trading activities stopped and I have to

be content with my account balance which is now only fraction its peak value.

On the job front, having spent almost decade in industry, I feel I am at the square one

again sometime. I find it difficult to find jobs. Probably I will not find any job at a

time when all jobs will be lost to outsourcing. But I will not go hungry, I have

enough to live in India happily. I also think of starting a company with my ideas. If some angel investor or venture capital will give some money, may be I

will do just that. I also write occasionally. Having written a few poems, short

stories and articles like this I sometime feel like writing a full length novel

and become a writer full time.

Who knows what I will be doing in future? But whatever I

end up doing, I will never forget the way I landed my first job and the chain

of events surrounding it and the few months I lived in the company apartment (the guest house). Hope you enjoyed reading it.

Copyright © 2005 Gautam Dev. All rights reserved


Source by Gautam Dev

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