Part V: The Interview at Telligent, 1981
In 1981, Michael’s company received a job to build part of a large industrial campus for the chip maker Telligent in Portland. After about five months working on the site, he met a manager from Telligent who came to inspect their work. Because his boss happened to be away, Michael had to fill in and explained to the man what was going on. At the end of the conversation, the man gave him a card and said, “We are hiring. If you want to change career when the work is done here, give me a call.” That was interesting. What do I know about building computer chips? Michael thought to himself.
That short encounter with Conrad, the manager from Telligent, stuck in his mind. When the work was scheduled to be finished before Christmas, Michael gave Conrad a call in November. Conrad remembered him and told him to send in a resume. One week before Christmas, Conrad called him in for an interview. Conrad said he had called one of Michael’s old Math professors at Portland College, whom Michael had put down as a reference, and was told that he was an A student in Math and all around, until all of a sudden he flunked out of school in his junior year.
“What happened in your junior year?”
“I fell in love and was dumped by my girl friend. I was heart-broken and flunked all my classes. That was kind of stupid, but that’s what happened. I wasn’t busted for drugs or anything.”
“You’ve always been a carpenter?”
“No, only for about three and a half years. John, the owner of the company, took me in as a gofer at first ‘cause I didn’t know anything about construction.”
“How did you learn to read building plans? Did you go to school for that?”
“No, I was just curious at first. And John is a nice guy; he taught me a few basic things like simple wiring and the foundation code. I went to the library once in a while to look things up for myself after that. By and large, it’s on the job training by John.”
“And he made you the assistant site manager last year?”
“Yeah, I guess he needed someone who could read the plans and speak gringo Spanish to some of the workers.”
“According to your resume, you have no computer experience.”
“No, I don’t. And I was going to ask you what I could do here.”
“You listed on your resume here that you took FORTRAN, BASIC, COBOL and “C.” How did you do in those classes?”
“I think I got 3 A’s and an F. I got the F in C Language when I broke up with my girlfriend. That wasn’t the brightest moment of my academic life.”
“You were a Math major. Why did you take those classes?”
“I was just curious.”
Two days later, Conrad called and offered Michael a job as a trainee starting in January 1982. He only had to work at the office 25 hours a week, as long as he was enrolled in certain computer-related classes designated by Telligent.
Conrad was his mentor. He would come by and see how Michael was doing once in a while.Many months later Michael asked Conrad why Conrad would hire an unknown quality like him. Conrad’s reply: “We like to hire curious kids here.”
*** To Be Continued ***
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