This month’s T-SQL Tuesday is being hosted by Kenneth Fisher (blog|twitter). The subject is your first technical job. As Kenneth describes it, “I’d like to hear about your first technical job(s). I know most DBAs don’t start out working with databases so tell us how you did start“. This post will be my contribution for T-SQL Tuesday #150 – My First Technical Job.
My First Technical Job
My first technical job was as a Visual Basic 3 and Microsoft Access 2.0 developer for Keane. Keane was a consulting company out of Boston that has been absorbed by NTT DATA, after several intervening acquisitions. This was in 1995.
My first and only gig with Keane was working at the Taco Bell Corporate Headquarters in Irvine, CA. This was not as dire as it sounds, since Taco Bell ended up hiring me as a full-time employee.
This was when Pepsi still owned Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, Chevy’s Fresh Mex and California Pizza Kitchen. It was before Tricon Global Restaurants was formed, which later became YUM! Brands.
What Was My Job?
I was an internal corporate developer working on client/server applications for the Restaurant Development department. They were in charge of selecting sites for new Taco Bell restaurants and then managing the construction process. Back then, a typical new Taco Bell location would cost about $750K to $1000K, including the property.
We used SQL Server 6.0 and 6.5 as a back-end, with VB3, VB4 or Access as front-end. My first encounter with a DBA was a guy named Rex. He was a little scary and he liked to say no a lot. Rex smoked and he liked to take smoke breaks, so we learned it was better to ask him for something immediately after a smoke break.
One of the applications I remember working on was called Site Notification. This application was used to try to understand the impact that a new Taco Bell would have on the existing locations in the vicinity. For example, a new company-owned Taco Bell was not allowed to be too close to an existing franchisee Taco Bell.
One very valuable lesson I learned from that job was to pay close attention to your end users. Most of our end users were just a couple of floors away in the building, and I spent a lot of time helping them out, talking to them, and watching how they actually used our applications. This was incredibly useful to me as a developer, since it blew away my assumptions.
It also gave me lots of empathy for the end users. If some poor end user had to endure a poorly written, slow application for eight hours a day, that could be soul crushing. Imagine clicking on a save button or search button and having to wait many seconds for the application to respond. This is bad enough once, but having to do it all day, every day is a nightmare!
I ended up doing a lot of non-developer stuff while I was at Taco Bell. For example, I helped out with the Windows 95 rollout. I also wrote an installation program that would apply a BIOS update and install a new anti-virus program on all of the corporate Toshiba Tecra laptops.
Taco Bell liked to give out little financial rewards called “Taco Bell Bucks”, where nearly any employee could fill out a little blue and yellow certificate that detailed why someone had done a great job on something. Their manager would approve it, and then you would get $150 (that they would gross up), along with the certificate to hang in your cubicle. I collected quite a few of these.
This first technical job led to the rest of my career and where I am today.
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