First Seven Jobs

I’m going to play follow the leader this morning and blog my #firstsevenjobs on the back of Fred Wilson’s Fun Friday: First Seven Jobs post. I saw this meme go around last week while I was doubled up in the bathroom in Australia and thought it was cute but had no energy to participate. After telling my origin story during several interviews last week, I covered some new ground around first jobs so I thought it’d be fun to put it in one place.

#1: Curb Address Painter / Window Washer: I partnered with my tennis doubles partner Jon Zeitler and we painted street numbers on curbs for $2 / curb. There were lots of new houses being built in our neighborhood so we had plenty of leads, but we had to go door to door to sell, which was painful for two thirteen year olds. As a bonus, we occasionally washed windows. I remember procrastinating a lot. It was a hot and not very lucrative summer.

#2: Maintenance Worker: North Dallas Racquet Club: I cleaned the locker rooms, painted the building, picked up trash on the tennis courts, and knocked down wasp nests. My friend Jon (and others) got to work in the grill (which was probably 120 degrees, so I’m not sure that was a box of joy.) I got fired after two weeks for having a bad attitude.

#3: Fast Food: Potatoes, Etc.: The honors kids took over the Potatoes, Etc. in the Prestonwood Mall food court for a summer. I’d work for three hours and then go downstairs to the video game place and spend the $12 I made playing Tempest and Defender. I got fired for calling my manager a bitch in a moment of fury.

#4: Retail: Rave Electronics / Texas Instruments Retail Store: I spent 12 hours selling TVs one long summer day. I think I was on a combination of a very low salary and commission that theoretically would add up to something interesting. I quit after one day – I couldn’t stand it. I decided to try retail one more time with my best friend Kent and got a job at the Texas Instruments Retail Store (I think it was at Northpark Mall.) I thought I’d like selling computers more than TVs. Of course, I was selling TI 99/4A’s, which other than having sprites totally sucked, so that only lasted a day or two.

#5: Math SAT Tutoring: As a junior in high school I started tutoring for the Math SAT. I charged $30 / hour (instead of the $3 / hour my friends got working at retail stores) and had so much demand that I decided I would only tutor girls. Since I was a high school boy that seemed like a logical segmentation strategy. As a bonus, I was a junior and most of the girls I tutored were seniors. In addition to making a lot of money and only working a few hours a week, I ended up getting an 800 on the Math SAT.

#6: Programmer: Centronics (London): If you remember the parallel printer, you might remember the Centronics printer port (they invented the parallel printer port). My favorite dot matrix printer of all time was the P351 which I got as payment for spending the summer in London. living in Northfields and working in South Kensington, writing a character set generator for the P351 (and other Centronics printers) on an Apple II. It was a great job and the first work I ever did that I loved. I was lonely at times, being between my junior and senior year living far away from home, but it was an awesome adventure that shaped me in many ways.

#7: Programmer: PetCom Systems: I was the first employees of a husband and wife founded software company. At a time (1983) when almost all business software for the oil and gas industry was on minicomputers and mainframes (lots of IBM System/3xs), we wrote software for the Apple III and the IBM PC. I ended up writing two products over several years – PC Log and PC Economics – both of which I got paid $10 / hour + 5% of gross revenue. I learned about equity from this job, as I’d get monthly royalty checks in my first few years at MIT for amounts ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. It’s pretty awesome as a freshman, after getting the shit beat out of you in 8.02, to go to your mailbox and get a blue PetCom check for $5,000.

That was a fun walk for me down memory lane. I knew I sucked at working in stores but this reinforced it. To this day, I have trouble actually walking into a store to even shop. The web has been very good to me.


Also published on Medium.

  • I was also a programmer in 1983. Either GW-BASIC or MSBASIC (the memory fades) on a Kaypro 2. We used some other computers I don’t remember the brand names of, and backed up our data on 8″ floppies just like the US government still uses today.

    • I used PC Basic and the IBM Basic Compiler (both which were created by Microsoft). Btrieve was the database.

  • Tobacco Picker
    Babysitter
    Dishwasher
    Busboy
    Computer Programmer
    Gas Station Attendant
    Repo Man

  • That’s an interesting idea. I guess I can count chores that did not pay but helped my parents with money?

    1. Clean up cement floors of the house, first broom clean, then mop. Clean the brick floor with water using buckets. Wash dishes by hand, in running cold water, no hot water was available. Wash and dry clothes by hand, no machines first. Then graduated to machine that washed, but dry in the sun
    2. Knit sweaters for money – got paid 10 Indian rupees per sweater
    3. Hand tying cushion cover edges for money – got paid half Indian rupee per cover
    4. Help dad at the shop – wrapping clothes during the summers of 1982-1985. No pay
    5. Teach engineering math to my landlord’s kids, got reduced rent. I guess that technically counts as a paid job
    6. Field engineer overseeing technical aspects of installation of radio links
    7. Embedded system developer writing code for 6805

  • @bfeld:disqus and readers, what do you think about me putting my first seven jobs (or the ones I don’t generally talk about) onto my LinkedIn profile… Recently i’ve been thinking it’d be nice to go all the way back on to the beginning on LinkedIn.. Fast Food restaurants and Supermarkets is how you learn that’s not what you want to do.

  • Thanks for sharing @bfeld:disqus 🙂