Okay, there’s a funny, even ironic, story about how a Physics student got to work at IBM.
So it’s 1982. I’m doing 4th Year and spending a lot of time doing research work in a lab at Monash University. To be honest, my heart is not really in it. I’m using the same (paper!) notebook that the last Honours (4th year) student used. So I asked the excellent PhD-candidate who shared my lab “what did Andrew end up doing?”
Jim said: “he went to IBM”. And thus I did say “what, typewriters?” (true)
“No, computers. He’s doing some sort of marketing job”
To which I reply: “Wow, do IBM make computers?” (again, true)
But also my head is now spinning with ideas. You see not that long before this, a very influential person had said something to me in passing. Physics Professor H.C. Bolton (born 1921) used to take the time to just chat to me in his office. This kind man had actually met Einstein! Anyway, he said that I had a great ability to explain complex or technical things to people at the appropriate level. I was a good communicator.
So, a few weeks later, when Jim said that about IBM, I was off.
It was late in the year, but it wasn’t time to start writing up my Honours Thesis just yet. I decided to write to IBM – and 12 other companies – offering to be a “Technical Journalist”. The lovely ladies in the Physics Department typed the 13 letters for me, for free!
IBM got back to me in a flash, with a form letter inviting me in for an interview to be a DPA. “Sweet” thinks I, “ that must be their term for Technical Journalist”.
DPA was actually Data Processing Assistant. That is: graduate trainee for a technical/marketing role. I had an IQ test and the standard 5 interviews, then the Location Manager – in his huge office (it seems) – offered me a job.
IBM moved quickly. The funny thing was I had the job confirmed, in writing, before I had started to write up the Thesis. Needless to say it was pretty crappy when I did get around to it. The 12 rejection letters trickled in about then too.
So on January 10th 1983, I put on my Roger David blue suit (with regulation white shirt and red tie) and marched up the stairs of 60 Market St, to begin work in the prestigious Finance and Retail branch of IBM. It was a shock as we were all graduates, but it was clear we were at the bottom of the ladder in there. It was literally back to school, for a solid year of graduate training. An invaluable experience. I still refer to it today, 30+years on.
The irony is that – through no great plan – I am now doing just what Professor Bolton said I would: Technical Communications (Documentation, Training etc). And somewhat akin to “Technical Journalist”.