Do you remember your first job out of college? More importantly do you remember your first manager? Yes that person who decided to give you a chance. I was on vacation during the July 4th holiday weekend in Maine and had a chance encounter. This young person named Pat R., who was working the concierge service, was off in the corner being quiet on a slow night. My wife Ellen and I along with our gang of three Michael, Michelle and Mikayla (are all versions of the name Michael) were the only guests having an early evening snack. So I struck up a conversation with Pat. I asked him if he was from Maine and was this his summer job, to which he said yes to both questions. I also found out that he was entering his senior year at Colorado College. I asked Pat what was his major and he replied Computer Science. Bingo… my wife and kids were probably thinking: "we are going to be here for a while…" I told Pat I worked at Sun Microsystems and then he started talking about Java, Java and more Java. Pat admitted to being a Xbox 360 heavy user, especially at college. My son really liked this part as I pester him for his diligent practice of his Xbox dexterous skill. My son enjoyed that Pat was a Halo 3 and Call of Duty player as well. As we left to go back to our room I wished Pat good luck and we agreed to keep in touch via Facebook or Linkedin since he is a member of both networks. Even though I only interacted with Pat for a short period of time I sensed he was well rounded and envision him doing well in his future.
There are many stories throughout the world from people who speak of remembering that first chance that “someone” gave them. Through all walks of life from business, entertainment, sports, cuisine, medicine, etc. there are instances of people not forgetting that initial opportunity that started their climb in life. I was in New Zealand recently and was told a story by my driver of his friend. His friend is the sole provider of beef in New Zealand for a large U.S. based fast food franchise. Many years ago this gentleman responded to a small local newspaper advertisement. He eventually won the contract over much larger companies in New Zealand because the decision maker had a good instinctive feeling about him and was willing to give him a chance.
I’ve been fortunate to have given several college graduates their first chance in their career and it is one of the most satisfying parts of the job. To be able to watch young college graduates transform into seasoned industry veterans is similar to watching your own children grow into adults. Listening to graduates from all over the world tell their story of what education has enabled for their lives is humbling. It reminds me of the stories of my grandparents when they immigrated to the U.S. They too got that first chance which eventually led to my own first chance in the working world here in the U.S.
As an engineering undergraduate I had to complete 2 years of full time work experience in order to graduate from Northeastern University. In 1979 Tom Seiker gave me my first cooperative education job at AVCO Research Laboratory in Everett, MA. I also completed cooperative education at the Mitre Corporation in Bedford, MA. Bob Preuss, Dr. Greg Robertshaw, John Roberts and Dr. B.N. Suresh Babu all gave me a chance at Mitre. In fact, Bob Preuss made me do an official daily written status report that was logged and filed as part of the company record. As you can imagine few engineers enjoy writing words, myself included, but because of his insistence writing became much easier for me.
My cooperative education was mostly working on classified projects that required a secret clearance, so I naturally interviewed with the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). I decided that the commercial industry was right for me. Ten companies wanted to give me a chance and I picked Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Bob Raspallo, Jim Scott and Mike Pennington gave me my first chance at DEC. Thank you, I have not forgotten and continue with what you started with me.