My First Programmer Analyst Job Plus Good Luck Betting Horses
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 where I operated a drafting board contraption. It allowed me to digitize whatever images or drawings I put on the drafting board. On it I traced plotted lines of sound waves on long sheets of graph paper. It was an interesting sort of thing and I quickly became a master of it.
Knowing my digitizing work would ultimately lead to finding oil locations underground was exciting. I never imagined I’d ever be working on something geologists would be using to find oil deposits.
It was an interesting job too. 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 Received a Job Offer for a Computer Operator Position
I was enjoying my job. It was quite interesting seeing the computerized image-like formations of rock structures underground. Certain formations were strong signals there was oil under those formations buried deep underground.
However, less than a year after I started 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. I was the one who ran their jobs on the company’s powerful (in those days) IBM 360/44 scientific computer.
Only a few companies had such a powerful computer. Comparing it to PCs nowadays it was also a 64 bit computer with very small memory, operating in the low nanosecond speed range.
The big difference was it was a half-room size monster needing a computer operator to manage it full-time running jobs one-at-a-time. The computer programs were on punched cards fed into a large card reader.
Here in 2018 I doubt there are any computer operator jobs anymore. I would imagine they disappeared like keypunch jobs did long long ago. I worked there close to four years. I learned Fortran where I ran their proprietary Code V optical design program.
All of the engineers whose computer programs I’d run were using the computer to optimize or determine lens or other optical properties of some instrument they were examining or testing. I also ran many other sophisticated engineering problems on their computer which they time shared with other companies. I even ran programs that analyzed rocks brought back from the moon.
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 only one class left in order to get my BA. 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 reluctantly I did the only thing I could do. I quit my job to finish college. Imagine I had to quit a very good and interesting job to take one lousy class in 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 Los Angeles didn’t. However, I had the same classes that degree would have offered, but they were considered business classes.
Even though I really enjoyed my previous job as a computer operator 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. At least I couldn’t find any.
I Searched for a Computer Programmer Job
I looked long and hard 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, that age probably wasn’t too important. Paid experience meant you were already trained and seasoned in programming. 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 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 very few scientific programmers positions were advertised. What a difference compared to recent times!
No Job was to be Found but I made Money Anyway Betting Horses
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, especially in engineering.
During that time I was occupied, however, making good use of my previous and ongoing research on betting thoroughbred 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. Things change. So any profitable method of selecting horses usually does not last long.
Temporary 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, of which I was also very familiar. I havd 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 went on three job interviews that week. I was offered an electronics technician job at each company. I chose Hoffman Electronics, an aviation 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 worked there at Hoffman Electronics for about eight months when I received a mysterious phone call on my job asking me if I wanted to be a computer programmer.
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. We learned COBOL programming and exactly what we’d be doing as programmers.
I already knew COBOL. 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 turned out 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 what? That programming career served me nicely.
I eventually worked for many large corporations and a few small ones. I did mostly business computer programming. Part of that time I was an employee at the various companies I worked for.
The other times I was a contract programmer working under a contract, which paid considerably more money.
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, every place used PCs to program.
All the way to 2007 when I retired, mainframes actually ran the jobs. But we used PCs to write the programs.
Before PCs were invented we used terminals connected directly to mainframe computers to write our programs.
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. From what I heard it turned out that 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 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? I Don’t know.
So I count myself lucky to have had an interesting career as a computer programmer. I worked 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 anywhere 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.
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Betting Horses Never interfered with my Jobs
On almost all of my electronics and programming jobs until 1995, I was doing research (on my own) on thoroughbred horserace racing. I was also researching and betting on horse races that whole time whenever I got the chance. However, I never let my betting activities interfere with my jobs.
When possible, I’d run my horseracing analysis and programs on the companies large IBM mainframe computers. Since that was easy analysis or systems testing, my jobs only took a minute or two to run.
When it was betting season in Southern California I’d drive to Santa Anita or Hollywood Park for early morning wagering which opened at 7:00 am. I’d make my bets and then drive to work. Santa Anita was usually only a few minutes away. Hollywood Park was another matter.
It was a long way from my job or house. But it was all worth it. Because of horseracing profits I was able to have money to take long periods off of work without running out of money. I was able to be a contract programmer without worrying about potential periods of no work. Actually time off from work I liked and always looked forward to it.
Oops! Betting Horses Once Interfered with my Job
How was I able to manage betting at the racetrack and work too? Well all my programming jobs offered flexible hours for programmers.
So as long as I put in my 8 hours I was fine. There was one exception. It was when my job location in Los Angeles was moved to The Miracle Mile on Wilshire Blvd also in Los Angeles. I had to start at their standard 8:00 am time and traffic was horrible.
When that happened and I couldn’t get flexible hours I immediately quit (after giving my two weeks notice). I immediately interviewed for two jobs and got good job offers from both. I reluctantly turned down one in Arcadia CA, where Santa Anita racetrack. It was to accept a better job at Southern California Edison.
That turned out to be a good turning point in my programming career. I learned a new programming language. I programmed a bit for a new first large scale solar system SCE put up in the Mohave Desert. Unfortunate, of rather fortunately three years later had to quit.
I did that because I couldn’t transfer to online manufacturing programming where I worked. Sounds bad, but it forced me to look for the more profitable online manufacturing programming for big corporations.
That’s exactly what I finally got into on my very next job in Monterey Park where I lived, a few minutes from my apartment. From there it was an easy drive to Hollywood Park and Santa Anita too. Life was good.
Being able to continue my betting at either track when the horses were running was great. My job at work was programming and running the entire online programming systems at a medium size company who had locations in several states. I was able to “kill two birds with one stone.”
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.
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