My First Programmer Analyst Job: Good Luck or What?
In the distant past I received my Associate Degree (2 year degree) in Computer Science. The field was new in those ancient days. I was lucky, and quickly found a job only a few minutes away from my home in Pasadena, California. It wasn’t a programmer analyst job, however.
It was with a small engineering company. Just up my alley because I had started college as a commercial art major, then switched to an engineering major. My job there was a computer “digitizer” and I operated a drafting board contraption.
It allowed me to digitize whatever images or drawings I put on the drafting board. It was an interesting sort of thing and I quickly became a master of it.
It was an interesting job. Not because of the digitizing work I was doing, but for several other reasons:
- The images I digitized were run through a powerful (at that time) computer and the result was an digital image of potential places underground where oil would likely be found.
- I was the person that ran the computer program. The FORTRAN program was virtually all mathematics.
- It was very interesting how they used underground sonic waves to discover oil.
- I got to mingle with all the young PHDs where I worked.
- Lasers were brand new in those days and I got involved with laser experiments. I even built my own laser.
I got a Job Offer for a Computer Operator
But less than a year later another engineering company, a “stones throw” away, offered me a nice computer operator position which I kindly obliged. It was the same company where I had run my oil analysis in my previous job.
It was a great job at Optical Research Associates, in my opinion, because I got to know lots of engineers and run their jobs on the company’s powerful (in those days) IBM 360/44 scientific computer.
I doubt there are computer operator jobs anymore. I would imagine they disappeared like keypunch jobs did long ago. I worked there almost four years, learned Fortran, ran their proprietary Code V optical design program. I also ran many other sophisticated engineering problems on their computer which they time shared with other companies.
I Quit my Job to Finish College
I wanted to finish college, however, and had gone to night school at Cal State University, Los Angeles part of the time I worked at Optical Research.
It got to the point where I had one class left to take to get my BA and unfortunately the class I needed was around noontime. It wasn’t offered at night and Cal State wasn’t close to where I worked, so I did the only thing I could do. I quit my job to finish college.
Cal State was on the quarter system so three months later I finished school and got my degree. Unfortunately only a couple of schools in the US had 4 yr computer science degrees back then, Cal State didn’t but I had the same classes that degree would have offered, but they were considered business classes.
I felt being a computer operator was essentially a dead end job so I made up my mind to become a programmer analyst. It was a better, more challenging job, and salaries were higher. Unfortunately, back in those days, like now, most companies required paid experience for most technical jobs and no programming jobs for new college graduates were available.
I Searched for a Computer Programmer Job
I looked and looked for any programming job I could find, but none seemed to be available. I did have a disadvantage, besides being a minority. I was much older than most new college graduates. I was 31, about 10 years older than most new graduates.
I doubt that age difference had much importance since that was still considered relatively young. No, paid experience meant you were already trained and seasoned in programming and that’s what employers were looking for. That field has a learning curve even if you had a degree in it.
I had sent out a lot of resumes and searched the numerous job listings in the Los Angeles times for programmers. A normal Sunday paper usually had about 18 -20 pages of programmer ads. Several hundreds of ads for programmers, mostly business programmers, but a few scientific programmers as well. What a difference compared to today!
No Job was to be Found but I made Money Anyway
To make a much longer story short I looked for a programmer position for about a year and a half, but to no avail. I was looking for any type of programmer/analyst position I could find. During that time I was occupied, however, making good use of my previous and current research on betting horses.
I got so good at picking longshots that I was making a lot more money than I had made as a computer operator – and my previous computer operator job was not what one might call a low paying job. I had been doing research on thoroughbred horseracing betting systems for about 3 years so I knew what I was doing.
I never did land a programmer job or any job during those eighteen months of looking. In spite of the money I was making betting on horses, I felt I needed a job and didn’t want to depend on the horses for a living. Betting on horses is very inconsistent and things change so that a profitable method of selecting horses usually does not last long.
Bye Bye to Horses and Programming
So I said bye bye to going to the race track most days and to a bookie other days. I also gave up looking for a programmer analyst position.
I set my sights back on electronics, which I was also very familiar, having been an electronics technician for a half dozen years or more. However, I continued doing research on horseracing systems, and betting when I got the chance.
Once I made up my mind to go back into electronics I immediately got three interviews that week. I was offered an electronics technician job at each company. I chose the company in El Monte, California, close to where I lived. That job also happened to be the most complicated and challenging job offer.
I Landed a Senior Electronics Technician Position
I was a senior electronics technician where I diagnosed aircraft navigation computers. I had to find the problems that caused them to malfunction and then repaired them. Those computers were essentially the speedometers for jets that told them their speed. That’s when I learned all about integrated circuits, often called chips, and exactly how computers worked.
Those aircraft navigation computers were very sophisticated high speed digital computers with many thousands of parts all jammed into a relatively small lightweight box. It was a real challenge to determine the failure.
It was usually a bad electronic component and sometimes a chip (an integrated circuit) or IC which had thousands of parts within it.
I Received a Mysterious Phone Call
I had given up the idea since I couldn’t find a programmer analyst job and the Sr. Electronic Technician job I had was a very good one and close to my home.
I asked the caller how he got my name and phone number, but he wouldn’t divulge that and belabored the seemingly fact, that if I went to have an interview for the programmer trainee job he was talking about that I would get it. Of course I didn’t believe him, still wondering how he got my name, let alone how he knew where I was working.
I only had a few friends so I figured one of them told him. But when I asked them all said they didn’t tell him and none even knew of them. That person who called me was a headhunter, but I had never used him or any other recruiter to get a job back in those days.
I Agreed to a Programmer Trainee Interview
I reluctantly had told him I would go on the interview for that programmer trainee job.
I didn’t know what to expect, but having nothing to lose I went on the interview. It was in downtown Los Angeles at the Transamerica building. Back then I think it was the tallest building in Los Angeles. It was only about 32 stories or so, but at the top it seemed pretty tall.
The interview went well. After it was finished I got the usual “we’ll call you” or we’ll let you know our decision. I had heard that so many times before on job interviews when I looked for my first technician job back in Chicago after I got out the army. I never got a job after lots of interviews there.
They Offered Me a Programming Job!
A short time later, I think only a couple of days had passed when they called me and offered me a job. I was shocked! How could that be? Could I be so lucky? I had looked for almost two years for a programmer position and was unable to find any programming job. That’s why I had gone back into electronics.
Was this a stroke of luck or what? My position was a programmer analyst trainee. Me along with ten or eleven others would start the next week, working in the Transamerica building in downtown LA. If I remember correctly, it was a three month half training, half working scenario where we learned COBOL programming and exactly what we’d be doing as programmers.
I already knew COBOL programming so it was very easy those three months. I was the oldest trainee, being either 31 or 32 years old and there was one other girl who was about 30. All the rest of the ten or so remaining people were from 18 – 26, most were directly out of college. A college degree, in anything was the only prerequisite for the job.
That Job Started a 35 Year Computer Programming Career
That programmer/analyst job started what was to be about a 35 year computer programming career, my second career, the first being an electronic technician. Was I lucky to get that job or not? That career served me nicely. I eventually worked for many large corporations and a few small ones. I did mostly business computer programming.
In later years all my jobs or consulting positions were in online manufacturing. Shortly after PCs were invented I got a few contracts using PCs. After that everyplace used PCs to program. All the way to 2007 when I retired mainframes actually ran the jobs or online terminals.
The last half-dozen years or so that I worked, both mainframe computers and servers were used in the relatively small company I worked for. I programmed a few internet/mainframe/server online programs which was good for me because I always wanted to use the latest technology if I could.
Although I was Lucky – another Factor was at Play
One last thing regarding luck and getting that programmer trainee job. After I had been working there a very short period of time I found out one reason I had been so lucky to get that job. It turned out that from what I heard about 1100 people had applied for those dozen or so positions.
A selected group from those had been chosen to have actual interviews. Out of those the dozen were chosen, or supposedly.
Well I was not one of the thousand or more that actually applied for the job. It turned out that myself and one other girl, the only minorities in the chosen group, were almost certainly chosen because we were minorities.
Some years before, there were laws passed that forced large corporations to hire some minorities. It was an equal opportunities laws and all large corporations had to comply. So my guess is I was lucky mostly because I was a minority. But how was I singled out from others to land that job? I’ll never know.
So I still consider myself lucky because there had to be lots of other minorities qualified they could have interviewed or chosen. Why did that headhunter that told me to go on the interview choose me? Don’t know. So I count myself lucky to have had an interesting career as a computer programmer working for a lot of different types of companies in all the latest technology of the times.
Commercial Art – Real Estate – Electronics and More
When I started my college days I switched from commercial art to engineering, to computer programming. Plus I had lots of real estate classes, business law, electronics, accounting, astronomy, photography and other interesting subjects during the over dozen years I virtually lived in college.
Although I only had one electronics class in college I had a very challenging job in electronics, received a Commercial Radio Telephone License which allows me to operate commercial TV and radio station transmitters in the USA, was the president of PCC(Pasadena City College) Amateur Radio Club, and operated my own Amateur radio station from my home and car for years.
I doubt, however, that I would have ever considered computer programming if I hadn’t had my first two jobs as a computer digitizer and computer operator. But both those jobs never would have happened had I had not taken those initial two years of computer science at Pasadena City College.
Has any one else ever landed a good job due to some lucky circumstance? If so, send me your story so I can publish it.