Ryan Frantz
My Career Starts

“Networks!” she exlaimed as we popped out of Ft. Pitt Tunnel westbound. I felt like Benjamin Braddock in ‘The Graduate’. [1] My placement advisor continued on, “A few years ago it was databases. Now it’s all about networks. You’re gonna love this place.” I believed her. After all, aside from learning a trade at a reasonable price (compared to a 4-year degree program), I had chosen this particular 2-year technical school based on it’s near 100% job placement of graduates. At the time, getting a good paying job and being self-sufficient was top of mind.

We pulled up to the office, a shining gold cube of a building that reminded me of the old Polaroid Magicubes (one-time use flash bulbs). I walked around it until I found the door and entered, not quite sure what to expect for a professional interview. Sure, I’d interviewed for jobs before, but it’s relatively easy to convince a restaurant manager that I could be on time, wipe tables, and sling clean utensils. Here I’d need to express to my potential employer why I could “work on computers” having only supplemented my coax networking and Windows 95 classes with black and white TV repair. [2]

I met with the team manager first and he explained what the job looked like. I don’t remember the pitch, but I do remember it sounded better than bussing tables. I met with a few more members of the team. First, was a man who seemed a bit eccentric and knowledgeable. He asked me why I wanted to “work on computers.” I think I managed to string some coherent sentences together using phrases like “cutting edge”, “inter-networks”, and “the movie Hackers inspired me”. At the end of his interview, he gave me some hope saying, “we need someone with your enthusiasm.” I decided against throwing out some choice Acid Burn quotes.

Two more team members interviewed me. One I didn’t remember, except for the way his last name made me think “whiffle”, as in plastic bats. The latter asked me deep questions to understand my technical prowess. He started with, “We install 27-inch monitors. Can you lift 50 pounds regularly?” He finished by asking me if I liked to eat; what my favorite cuisines were; had I been to such-and-such bakery with these amazing cookies shaped like flamingo heads and slathered in icing.

The next day I got the call on my new AT&T Nokia flip phone. I’d finally set up a mobile account so folks, especially future employers, could reach me. They offered me a job and I was so excited I took it on the spot. I started immediately the next week. I didn’t bother giving any notice at the restaurant.

I had finally started my career. My salary was $22,000. It was Pittsburgh in 1998.


[1] Mr. McGuire pulls Ben aside to give him direction after college by uttering a single word: “Plastics”.

[2] You read that right. It was mandatory to learn how to repair black and white TVs at my technical school. It was actually fun to learn.