Day One

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“Environmental Science”, Kanak touted as our bachelors degree of choice. It sounded like a good idea. It had the word “science” in it, afterall. And it was surely better than the run-of-the-mill Business Administration degrees my fellow trust fund, “G-dub” alums were pursuing. Plus, Kanak was one of those bright minds you met in college that you tended not to disagree with when it came to academia. Of course, he went on to get his M.D. … Me? I graduated to a post-collegiate life of gas masks and Tyvek suits. I scored myself a killer gig at an environmental monitoring firm that “specialized in tracking and sequestering lead and asbestos abatement work”. Yeah, that’s how the owner of the company explained it to me, too, on my first round interview which also happened to be the first interview I’d ever been on. What can I say? It was the first job ever offered to me, and it was $23,000 per year more than I had ever claimed on my own, in my young life.

That lasted no more than three months.

For someone being fresh out of the womb of cushy college life, I knew that a career watching overpaid, overweight government contractors spread cancer-causing asbestos around plastic-lined hallways was not for me. Still, I was kinda bummed I didn’t get to keep the gas mask. Eventually, I’d get over it.

My days at GW were drawing to a close.  I had taken a five year detour in Washington, DC. Five years of acting out every personality I found living inside my head.  Five years of partying with strangers that became friends, and are strangers again. Five years since my Mom had cried so hard in my arms that I felt her body tremble as she hugged her little boy goodbye for the last time. And, certainly, five long years since I had a penny to my name. My own pennies. Not pennies donated to me from Dad. It was time to head home and get on with my life.

I admit it, I sweat Angelina Jolie back then pretty hard. She co-starred in a movie called Hackers during my sophomore year in school. After seeing it I spent the next several months investing in and poring over Security Tricks & Hacks books that I discovered in the backs of bottom shelf computer mags at Barnes & Noble. Trying my mightiest to hack my way into the school registrar’s office, I was beyond n00b, and my plans to have students pay me to upgrade their GPA’s and ultimately overthrow GW’s inner-workings, failed.

Flash forward three years and I’m sitting in the administration department of Chubb Computer Institute in Parsippany, NJ applying for an intense, 8-month programming course. My once obsessive lusting over the full-lipped, sinfully sexy Angie, AKA Hacker’s “Acid Burn”, had actually led me (in real life!) to pursue a potential career in software engineering. And maybe, some hacking on the side.

I spent the next 8 months working half-days in my Dad’s warehouse, at his company, Melfast. It was then that I patented (in my mind) the 15-minute power nap. This phenomena took place just after my routine of Melfast, lunch, and shower, and just before my nightly 4.5 hour sessions at Chubb. My evenings were devoted to reading reams of code and programming best practices. From COBOL, to DB/2, to VB5, and ending somewhere inbetween C/C++ and Java.

I can’t say that I ever pursued a single act of hackerdom in the process or since, but I did graduate from Chubb, with flying colors I might add. Then what? Again, I was in limbo. $11k in additional student loan debt with a diploma that no decent development shop in their right mind would acknowledge as enough real-world coding practice to dole out a salary and cube to call my own. Desperate, I signed into Chubb’s IT consulting practice which was offered to a select few of graduates; the esteemed “Top Flight” program. Another couple months of in-class learning and graduation day came (again). This time, I was recruited out of Chubb on a right-to-hire basis from Andersen Consulting, a-la today’s Rolls Royce of technology consulting practices, Accenture.

I had done it. I had somehow plodded and fumbled my way through countless years of books, tests, professors and graduation ceremonies, and landed in the world of corporate cubism. I was part of the machine that would reward me for the next decade with soul-wrenching work weeks, negligent managers and a lifetime’s worth of multi-syllabic $10 words that were often strung together and turned into an endless sea of corporate acronyms.

It was day one of my long trek out of the cube.

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