This is the next installment in an ongoing series where I talk about my history in business, starting all the way back when I was a child to now, my mid-forties. Feel free to read parts zero, one, two, and three if you haven’t yet to get some context.
We last left off in 1991, just a few days before my 19th birthday, when I got my first corporate job…
My dream had finally come true! At age 18 (or pretty much 19 since my 19th birthday was only a few days away) I had a job in the exact area I wanted (computers) with, what was back then, a growing and dynamic company (Central Point Software), at a huge salary: $27,000 per year, which is almost $50,000 per year in today’s dollars… all while I was still a teenager with no college degree.
Here I was, at age 19, making more money than the teachers I had in high school who said I wouldn’t amount to anything because I wasn’t going to college. Here I was, working at a real company, in a real office, instead of at a fast food restaurant or construction site like all of my other teenage buddies.
I was so excited I could barely contain myself.
I went to work in the technical support department, answering questions about DOS utilities. This was before software companies outsourced everything to India (though this was about to happen, as you’ll soon see).
I threw myself into my work. I read everything I could about computers, DOS, Windows (which was Windows version 3.1 back then; ah, the memories!), networking, hardware, memory, everything. I stayed late after work, learning as much as I could. I built my own computers on weekends. I read books. On my breaks at work I drilled the older guys regarding all the questions I had (and I had many) and took notes. I worked overtime whenever I could, on weeknights and weekends, and dumped all the money I made into paying off my car and other debts.
It was such an exciting time! (Not as exciting as now, but still very exciting!) I knew that if I was going to make big income as a computer consultant, the first leg of knowledge would have to be computers, specifically IBM-compatible PCs rather than Macintosh, since Mac market share was much less back then.
I kept working. Every day, I would read my goals taped up on my bathroom mirror. My biggest one: to make $100,000 a year.
I didn’t date. I didn’t have sex. I didn’t travel. I didn’t hang out with friends. Nope. I just put my head down and learned and worked. I wanted that $100,000. I always reminded myself what it was like to grow up poor and to be poor. The thought disgusted me. I never wanted to go back to that again. So I kept working.
By age 20 I purchased my first piece of real estate, a condominium. Shortly after that, I had a cool sports car (a black Datsun 280Z, a car that actually talked). Shortly after that, I had seven computers in my condo. Shortly after that, I had zero debt.
I spent three and a half years at Central Point Software. At about two years, I had pretty much everything mastered on the computer side. I actually became an official resource for other employees even though I was the youngest person in the entire company of 400 employees.
At about this time, I started getting jaded. I started to think I knew how to better run the department than the managers and supervisors. Also, the company started to outsource many tech support functions, as well as dumping extra work on us techs. I learned very quickly that the technical side of a company was the worst place to be; it was the salespeople who got all the perks. We in the tech area hated the sales people, but I made sure to note that the company kissed the salespeople’s asses while treating us techs like shit.
At around this time I started doing little computer consulting odd jobs on the side. Eventually, I lined up a commission-only job as a full-time computer consultant, but I decided (for some reason) that I needed more money in savings before I did this.
In a very stupid move, I started reading business books at work instead of working. I found out a way to trick the phone tracking system into reporting to the supervisors that I was making my required phone calls when I actually wasn’t, spending time reading my business books instead. I would actually wear my headset and occasionally talk into it as if I was on a real call, when in fact I was just reading one of my success books. Oh, the silly shit we do when we’re young…
It took several months before the management staff figured out what I was doing. When they did, I was fired. I felt bad that day, but the next day I was excited, since I already had my computer consultant job lined up. I called the new company and said I would start work next week.
Finally, now I could be a real computer consultant! Now I wouldn’t be stuck being paid on salary, and could make as much money as I wanted…
To be continued…