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T-SQL Tuesday 150: My first technical job

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I am glad to be contributing to the 150th blog party started by Adam Machanic and has helped so many get our blogs going. This month’s T-SQL Tuesday is hosted by a dear friend Ken Fisher – Ken wants us to write on our first technical job.

The year was 1987. I was an engineering dropout who had learned some COBOL, and some DBASE at a tech school liked the latter better, and was looking for a job. It wasn’t an easy time to be a techie. Most tech jobs expected engineering degrees, it was much much later that non-engineers would be able to make their way into tech jobs. The transition from paper-based systems into the digital world was threatening to a lot of people. There were union-led strikes at banks and various government-run organizations with people objecting to the ‘new computers’ taking away their jobs. I made a few bucks teaching some COBOL on the side but was desperate otherwise to find a gig. In those days newspaper ads for jobs were very common. One ad caught my attention – a ‘Data Systems Manager’ role, at a textile company. I got my resume together and highlighted my experience with DBase and an accounts payable project that I had done learning it. Included some reports, printed on ribbon-based dot matrix printers, line by line – I can still hear them run in my head :). Two days later, I got a call for an interview. The interviewer was a 65-year-old man, an expat from the US, and getting ready to retire. He was the only person they could find who could ask me any tech questions 🙂 He asked me a few easy ones, and then asked – why DBase over COBOL? I like the GUI and ease with which I could play with data, I said. He was impressed. I got the job and started.

The first few months were fun, writing DBASE programs for their Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, and Payroll. After that, the pollution at the place got to me. They stored clothing, and there was a lot of dust. The building was old and there was plenty of mold. Two years later, I got really ill with severe allergies and lung congestion. I had to quit that job, learn more FoxPro and other software and move on to other stuff. I learned the hard way to never compromise on health for any job. It is like driving without time for gas. It never works.

That gig taught me about my passion for working with data though, and that carried me a long way. Thanks, Ken, for hosting.

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