Changepoint part 2
I had been at Changepoint for 4 years, I was 59 and thought I would retire from here. But my world turned upside down one day at 10 a.m. when we were summoned to a meeting at the company cafeteria. The company had around 90 employees. Sixty or so were in the cafeteria, the rest in the meeting room. Everybody in the boardroom were sent home, and those in the cafeteria were told that the company had been sold and we were chosen to stay.
As an idea, this was not a disaster; it is known that in any company if you carefully choose 30% of the employees and fire them, the company can move on without repercussions. The 20/80 rule is the same all over the world, that is, 20% of the employees do 80% of the work, and you have to know who those 20% are and don’t touch them.
The bad news was that the new owner was a “hedge funds” company. Most of the world’s billionaires are hedge fund managers. And they are also the most hated businesspeople in the world. The main way to make money is to buy companies at the water line and make a lot of money by destroying them. You may be wondering how that’s possible, but it’s possible, and now I know how it’s done, but when I left, I signed a non-disclosure document that forbids me from saying what happened there.
The one hired as the transition president was a guy from the USA. His main quality was how to lie believably: “We cut everything that needed to be cut; from now on, we are profitable, and we will all increase in value and salaries, blah, blah blah.”
I didn’t believe a word he said, his eyes squinted mockingly when he spoke. But I wanted to stay until the end. The reason was that I wanted to receive the severance package. The law stated that when the employment contract is terminated due to company policy (not fired, which is different), employees receive 2 more weeks’ wages for each year worked, and those with managerial positions 3 weeks for each year worked (where I also belonged ). But if the employees could prove they were very useful, one more week was added for each year worked. That was a strange legal provision and difficult to prove, so these things were cleared up in court. Most of the time, the judges ruled in favor of the employees. In our case, the chance of winning against the new owner was even higher because it was a “hedge fund” that everybody hates. So, I expected 4 weeks’ salary for every year worked. In the first wave of layoffs, they gave the legal minimum but were immediately sued by some employees. The employees won, and the donkeys learned their lesson.
After a few months, the president of Changepoint that we had before the transition left, taking a big paycheck due to her collaboration. Just a few days before the transaction, he told us what a bright future we have thanks to the running projects (the one with Dell was in first place). Of course, she knew what would come, but the only thing that interested her was to leave with pockets full. I never liked her. A few months later, the vice president with whom I was in those technical meetings described in the previous post also resigned. The man has always been a gentleman to me. Although quiet and reserved, whenever we met at the company cafeteria, he would come over to chat (only a few sentences) about this and that.
What I expected happened a year and a half later: 60 percent lost their jobs, and I was among them.
I must admit that in the market economy, “hedge funds” also have a role. Some companies are wiped off the face of the earth by these people, and others appear in their place, starting with modern, more effective strategies and technologies. Those professionals who want to survive must continuously adapt their knowledge to stand a chance of being hired by new companies. Well, progress requires effort.
Although I knew what was coming, I was hoping to be in the group chosen tgo stay. It didn’t happen, and I felt like it was kicked in the but.
I was already 60 by that time.
I signed the agreement with the company for 5 months, three days and a half pay (they calculated to the minute those four weeks pay for every year worked). I didn’t want to go to court to ask for more. I’ve never been before a judge, and I thought I’d find a job in 5 months. I had no idea how significant this 60-year barrier was; I was no longer the one playing the music.
My delicate situation with jobs for the next few years begins with the next post.
I was 60 and did not need headaches with my job finding. Well, fate decided otherwise.
Where it all started:
Changepoint part 1
Real professionals worked at Changepoint. I learned a lot here, although I thought I had nothing more to add to my knowledge of SQL Server. I worked as the head of the DBA team.
Their main product was Changepoint, an application used to control the business of various. Among the important customers were Dell, major financial companies (Mastercard, Sun Life), and even Microsoft was a Changepoint customer.
I took it upon myself to check the code developers wrote in Transact SQL (the database language) and modify them to obtain increased performance. Another role was to check what the other DBAs were doing. The most prestigious part was technical support level 4, which was rarely reached; probably in the five and a half years I worked there, I was needed 7 or 8 times. Level 1 was the help desk who answered the phone, level 2 was the technical support team, level 3 was a few developers who knew the app inside out, and I was level 4, mostly because when the problems were severe, they were always in databases - and I also had experience as a developer.
In those few interventions of mine (when we were connecting to a server at the client), the company’s vice president was also participating. He was careful that I didn’t say anything that would compromise the company (he would have kicked me under the table - it never happened). He wanted to be present mainly because no troubleshooting level was higher than 4. So he had to know that it was no longer a quick technical solution, only a political one (I’m talking about company policy), and that involved talking to executives at the client about how to modify the application in that segment to satisfy the client. Well, that never happened, I managed to solve them all.
I also attended a few meetings where the company wanted to sign contracts with certain clients, and those projects were mainly database projects.
I remember a project with Dell where a Changepoint team traveled to the USA to the Dell headquarters to discuss their requirements and proposed solutions. The Dell software team were Brazilians from a small town south of Brazil who also came to the USA for the meeting.
The meeting seemed somewhat at a standstill. Two Brazilians exchanged some words in Portuguese (which I didn’t understand), but I nodded, smiling as I understood. They looked at me. I know some words in Spanish (even a few in Portuguese) as I have traveled a lot in South America and have tried to learn some phrases and words. Sometimes, I exchange learned phrases with my wife here and there to have fun and remember what we’ve been through. “Tudo bem” (everything’s all right in Portuguese) is one of them. So “Tudo bem” came out of my mouth involuntarily, and then I said in Spanish, “I understand a little Brazilian and Spanish”.
They asked me how I knew Portuguese and Spanish, which was greatly exaggerated, and I continued in English. I told them that I traveled to South America, and even a year ago, I was in the Amazon jungle in Manaus, Brazil. They really liked to hear their country being talked about nicely (who doesn’t?). They asked me how I learned Spanish. I told them the truth: I had a Mexican colleague who, finding out that I was interested in Spanish, only spoke to me in Spanish when we saw each other occasionally in the company but insisted on teaching me, especially tricky (ugly?) sentences. The Brazilians wanted me to tell them a stupid thing I learned from the Mexican.
I said, "Me gustan las chicas con mucha carne y grandes tetas." I won’t translate because it’s rude to the ladies, but it was 100% true, the Mexican told me that a few times, I think he had an obsession.
All the Brazilians burst into laughter. The atmosphere immediately relaxed.
I don’t know if that helped us sign the contract (several million dollars), but it helped me greatly when the project started. Only I worked on the project on behalf of Changepoint, and for Dell it was my casual friends, the Brazilians. I must mention that those Brazilians were good professionals, I was impressed. The project was brilliantly done. It was a project to transactionally replicate the Changepoint database, with the goal of automatically switching Dell applications to the replica if the primary database went down.
In the next post I will describe the embarrassing way I left Changepoint.
Where it all started:
My next stop after TMC was Ingenium, a company of architects.
At Ingenium, there were a lot of Romanians, architects, structural engineers, construction engineers, installation engineers, in sales, and IT. The most important project then was Burj Khalifa Dubai, the tallest building in the world. I didn’t work directly on that project, only tangentially.
Many architectural firms worked on the Burj Khalifa Dubai project. A US company made the design. Ingenium hired other architect companies or construction companies to build the tower, sort of a management company.
When I worked there, we celebrated reaching the 100th floor. A few years later (I was no longer working at Ingenium), I also visited Dubai and saw the city from the 124th floor, where the whole floor was organized for this purpose - for tourists.
My boss at Ingenium was Stephen Maclean. His grandfather had the successful magazine Maclean’s, which he sold and got rich. Maclean’s kid (Stephen’s father) was a kind of bum whose only concern was spending his daddy’s fortune. Stephen told me that he had nothing left of his grandfather’s fortune, so he had to work a 9 to 5 job all his life.
Stephen was a difficult, irascible, and suspicious man. The others shunned him, but I got along well with him; we were the same age.
Two years later, Stephen died of throat cancer.
A few months later, an email out of the blue offered me a position at a software company, Changepoint. They saw my RESUME on Indeed, a job search site.
I resigned from Ingenium and joined Changepoint, the end of a period of prosperity and the beginning of some troubles.
Where it all started:
Rich people own many companies. They close the ones that aren’t doing well and grow the profitable ones. I was working at one of the small-medium companies, Chariots (41 employees) owned by a billionaire (John Francis) or at least a multi-millionaire. It took 2 years for the company to become profitable, but it didn’t happen. It was 1999. The company was just a website (Chariots.ca) that sold new cars online, doing a deal with the stores that sold new cars. He fired 21 people. The site was working, the application was already written, he didn’t need all of us anyway.
I was a manager in the database maintenance team. Even though only 20 of us left, the company wasn’t profitable and he laid off 11 more, 9 left. A few months later, John decided to shut it down altogether, and he wanted to interview all 9 of the remaining employees to see if he needed them at one of his other companies.
I knew he lost some money with the company, probably a pittance for his money.
He asked me, “What do you think about how things are going in the company?”
John was not very technical, and I knew that people like him think differently than other people. I had to say something to show that I understood what was going on and was available for any opening.
I said a quote, “Did you lose money? You haven’t lost anything. Have you lost your honor? You lost something. Have you lost hope? You lost everything.”
The man liked it.
He fired everyone but 2 people, my boss, the director, to sort out the business side before closing the company, and me. I had to automate all the channels through which we received data from the car shops. After I did that, the site was running as if the company was still going strong, even though it was closed since data on its web pages was refreshed daily.
John hired me at his parent company as a database administrator. The company was Trader Media Corporation (better known as Autotrader) - for the province of Ontario only, because the TMC brand is all over the world, and he wasn’t that big…
One day, to the amazement of my colleagues who froze, John came to my office, pulled up a chair, and wanted to talk. No big deal. I knew he wasn’t technical, and he hired me in a technical position without asking anyone. I was somewhat intrigued. I asked him why he hired me.
He told me, “I saw a value in you, and in my company, every value finds its place.”
Bang! He suggested we go to lunch, and I declined because I’ve never felt comfortable around people with too much power. I think I was a fool. He put me on a team that had to move his entire business online.
Four years later, he sold that company for $430 million. The calculation was like this: the sales value was 10 times the profit per year. He was spending 90 million a year with the company and had over 130 million in revenue. He sold it on time. In two years, the value of the company reached a fraction of the sales value due to online competition.
The new owner changed the management, and I didn’t really get along with my new boss (in my opinion he was a jerk) so I resigned from there as well.
In my new post it would be a job where I had to deal with architects.
Where it all started:
It was pretty easy to find my first job in Toronto. The company that hired me was looking for a Delphi developer, and that’s what I was good at.
I’m not going to say the name of the “company” because I don’t know who will read the post, and I don’t want trouble because I won’t say nice things about their business. It was a company with tens of thousands of employees worldwide, and the owners became billionaires by manipulating the world market. They had thousands of customers spread all over the world. Customers who called on their services saw their sales volume increase. That’s because they had to follow the instructions of the “company”, which asked them to do business with other clients of theirs, and that’s how the money wheel turned, the clients growing and expanding the circle, the company grew like an octopus. These people did not create anything useful and got rich by expanding the circle of their relationships.
I know how businesses run in Canada. Each office had its own application. They expanded so quickly that they did not have time to make a unique application to be deployed everywhere.
I was hired to develop an application to manage transactions in a unified way for all the offices in Canada. It seems complicated, but it wasn’t. The app I wrote had a single big button in the middle of the screen that said “Start”. At 6 p.m., an employee pressed that button. The application would connect to all offices in Canada, collect the data from local databases, put them together, and deposit them in a server in the USA, from where another application (from their headquarters) would retrieve it and dump the transactions in a bank. I added a panel at the bottom of the screen where the app displayed what it’s doing, i.e., where it’s connected, the number of transactions, how many were submitted, and how many were rejected. That wasn’t mandatory, but I thought that showed that the app was working, it didn’t freeze. The app would run for an hour or two before it finished the job. At the end, the panel would turn green, write “DONE” on it, and showed on the screen the current day, the time the job started and the time it finished, the total number of transactions resolved, and the rejected ones (most often the number of rejected was zero). Also all that data e=was kept in a file.
There was still a lot of work to do because the data around Canada was in all kinds of databases (Access, Interbase, SQL Server or text files for UNIX servers).
One day, we had a meeting where we were told that the head office in the USA asked the Canadians to consolidate all the databases in SQL Server servers. They were looking for a volunteer to take on this project. Scaffolding was so complicated due to the diversity of media and database engines at the time that it could be a neck-breaking project.
I saw this as an opportunity to grow my status as an expert by taking a step into database administration. DBAs (database administrators) are better paid, not because their job is more complicated than a developer, but because of the responsibility: companies leave their data only in good hands because those companies that lose their data go bankrupt. Everything we see on the screens of computers, tablets, cell phones, and billboards on the street comes from a database. If the databases go down, everything stops.
I went to my boss and offered to take over the project on the condition that after I finished, he would change my status from developer to DBA. He accepted and sent me to a one-month course in SQL Server. I took that course and then paid for (from my pocket) 4 Microsoft exams to become a Microsoft Certified DBA. The exams were tough; I failed one and had to repeat it.
By the way: only a certain percentage of the participants could pass the Microsoft exams, there was no fixed passing grade (as far as I understood), and I had to compete with Indians and Chinese who exchanged information with each other to prepare for the exam. They became so expert that they were learning all the answers to all possible questions by heart. I wonder how the hell it was easier to memorize thousands of answers instead of understanding how the SQL Server engine works. Anyway, I ended up getting my Microsoft certificate. A few years later, Microsoft took steps to combat the phenomenon of external echo learning, but I don’t know exactly how.
I did the database consolidation project well, but the boss still treated me like a developer who knew more about SQL Server. I asked him to raise my salary, as I had not had a raise in the year and a half that I had been with them, and I had increased responsibilities. He increased my salary by $1000 a year, well below the inflation rate, so my pay went down in terms of market value.
I resigned, looking for a DBA position as my next job.
I kept in touch with a colleague. We are still friends today. He told me my boss was fired a month after I left. In his opinion, the main reason was that I resigned - they didn’t have an immediate solution for a DBA, and the people who took over the integration project made by me were still learning what was there, and I was nowhere near explaining it to them.
Next post is about starting as a DBA, back to a small company.
Working for a billionaire:
Where it all started:
I will continue my journey in Canada, namely how I found my second job. It was an adventure, and I think it’s worth telling.
As described in prior posts my first job. My instinct told me that I had to look for another place. I still didn’t know French well and didn’t practice English because I worked for a French-speaking company.
Before my first job, I lost many interviews because I didn’t know what to do when I couldn’t remember a word in French or English. Even at interviews in French, replacing a word with the English version was no problem; many practiced it, willingly or out of necessity; this combination was called Franglish.
My problem was when I didn’t know the word in either language. Looking for the in the ceiling was a disaster. Trying to get around it with lots of other words was even worse because I was confusing everyone, including me, who forgot where I started. The idea was to speak with conviction and confidence and my mouth to run like diarrhea. My strategy was to say the word in Romanian with a French ending (both French and Romanian are of Latin origin). If a word in a sentence did not fit, the interviewer would correct it in his mind, or ask “isn’t this?” and he would say the word, and I would hurry to say, “Yes, yes” and repeat the sentence with the word suggested by the interviewer.
So that was the strategy, which backfired strangely in the next interview.
So, I sent out RESUMES. I received a call from a company looking for a Delphi developer (which I became an expert in) for a project managing iron ore loading onto ships at the Sept Iles seaport in northern Quebec.
The building where the company was located was only two blocks away from the building where I worked. So that the boss wouldn’t find out that I was going to the interview, I asked him to schedule me at lunchtime. They agreed to noon and told me that the interviewer’s name was Jean-Francois.
I showed up for the interview (the company’s name was Novasys), but the secretary told me that Jean-Francois was out to get a sandwich and he’d be back in 5-10 minutes. Then he invited me to wait in the meeting room.
At one point, a man in his 50s who saw me through the glass door, waiting, entered.
He holds out his hand and says in French, “I’m Mario, the president of Novasys.”
I jumped like a spring, shook his hand firmly, and roared like thunder, “And I’m Eliade, and I came for the project with...”
But I couldn’t remember how to say boats in either French or English, so I applied the solution for moments of catastrophe - the Romanian word with a French ending, “vapeurs”.
My problem was that “vapeurs” is a valid French word and means vapors (steams) in no way boats. In the clearest French, my sentence meant, “And I’m Eliade, and I came for the steam project.”
I saw Mario’s jaw drop and his eyes bulge like a frog’s.
Enter Jean-Francois. Mario waved him authoritatively out of the room, then went out and closed the door. I could see them discussing through the glass door of the meeting room. After the chat ended,
Jean-Francois accompanied me in the meeting room.
He started asking me questions about the weather, how Romania is, and if I settled in Montreal, but no technical questions. In my mind, he was acting like I was crazy and had to be careful.
At one point, Jean-Francois said to me, “Let’s stop this nonsense. Mario told me to hire you.”
That’s how I started at Novasys. I found out the mystery shortly after hiring. Novasys had 54 employees and was Mario’s company. He made his wife vice president. They were negotiating with a potential customer about a project where a computerized system had to control steam pressure in a boiler. Only he and his wife knew about that project. Mario thought that the client sent me and hiring me was a guarantee that he would get the project. I wonder how Mario’s eyes bulged when he told the client “I hired your man” and they told him they didn’t send anyone. And that project did not materialize.
Mario didn’t fire me anyway, and I did a good job on that project with the boats loading iron at Sept Iles. I really stood out. The others were good developers, but they were in a gang, all Quebecois, they didn’t contradict each other even if the solution was worth discussing. I would wake up, a naïve Romanian, saying, “it doesn’t work like that,” and most of the time, the discussion that started would come up with a better solution.
I resigned two years later to move to Toronto. Mario was devastated by my decision (I am not kidding), and told me he wanted to open an office in Toronto to get me back. I said yes, but that didn’t happen. In fact, Mario had to sell the company after the “boats” project because he couldn’t find any project good enough to pay the salaries.
With Novasys started a good period with jobs, but later on it turned nasty.
Next post would be about my first job in Toronto.
Where it all started:
Today, I will finish talking about my first job.
When I handed Louis the notice of resignation, he was upset but invited me to have lunch together.
I found out how little he cared for himself. Almost all the money went to the company or paying off debts. The two associates took over the reins, with the adventurous Bruno pulling the strings in the company and the other guy handling new contracts, ditching the two Englishmen (the marketing guys) because they were asking monstrously much money for their services. Louis’s health no longer allowed him thrills.
Louis told me that he would double my salary if I stayed with him in the company, but I did not back down, I had already signed the employment documents at the new company.
On leaving, I asked Bruno for a written recommendation in English, which he gave me, and it was very flattering. It helped me get my first job in Toronto when we moved there.
A few years later, Louis’ company was sold, swallowed by a super-conglomerate, and the application I worked on ended up being one of the thousands of applications such a multinational has. And probably no one remembers what its originator, Louis, went through with heart attacks, the emotions he went through when he was on the verge of bankruptcy, day and night, connected to the problems that came one after another. I remember Louis because it was my first job.
With the money left, Louis was able to retire, but not as he deserved. I think it would have turned out much better for him if he had remained a clerk at the hospital.
As for me, I worked for 14 companies until I retired in August 2022, and I witnessed many other events that define the world of “wild capitalism” where, as everyone knows, there are no feelings, only interests. Things got even more interesting with my new job, starting a reasonable period before hard times came my way. I will talk about them all. Soon.
About JOB 2 next time.
Sometimes tricks play in our favour.
Where it all started:
How was my first job?
I’ll start with the end, about how Louis’s company looked a year and a half after he hired me when I resigned to go to JOB 2 in Canada.
The company had 11 permanent employees and two paid by the hour (those guys were paid for one hour as much as my salary for a month, and rightfully so, because they brought the business). The company had firm contracts with hospitals and doctor’s offices and a very (a whole page very) lucrative one with pharmaceutical giant Glaxo. Louis paid off his bank debt and began repaying the government the 2 million he received three years earlier.
The ones who pulled him out of his shit were Lin and me, with considerable help from Lili, who did the quality control of the applications we were developing in Delphi. Tony’s C++ application slowly fell out of favor until it was no longer used, and Tony had to go.
Of the 13 who worked for Louis, only 2 were Quebecois, Louis (the owner), and Lili (the secretary), who were the nicest in that museum of Italians, Irish, Eastern Europeans, and the 2 English guys (those paid monstrously well).
And now about the start of work at Louis’s company, which was as clear as mud...
That’s how my conversation with Lin went on my first day at work. I asked him how long he has been working in the company.
Since we both had to know C++ and Delphi, my first questions could only be, “Do you know C++?”
“Do you know Delphi?”
“How do we tell Louis this?” I asked with wide-open eyes.
I was wondering if Louis’s idea of hiring people with academic achievements (not experienced developers) was good. I had a course at a college in Montreal (that had nothing to do with C++ and Delphi) and a Chinese with a PhD in paleontology.
“Shut up and do what you can,” said Lin. “For now, Louis relies on Tony’s app.”
The idea was simple. We needed to transfer the data from Tony’s application (his database was Access) to the one we were supposed to use with Delphi, Interbase. Then, with the Lili’s help (who was showing us the screens from Tony’s app) do the same in Delphi without having to understand his C++ code. It was as if we had stolen his idea, but in fact, that was what was required of us.
It took me a week to put a button and a textbox on the screen in which to bring data from the database by pressing the button. Once I understood how a Delphi application communicates with the database, everything started to flow like I was born with Delphi in my blood, genetically programmed to write applications.
A word about Lili. She graduated from theater arts school, but she told me that she did not look for roles in theater or film because she would have had to prostitute herself for even minor roles. So, she ended up being Louis’ secretary. At the company, she proved to be very useful, not only as a secretary and quality controller but also as the voice for the spoken part of the application because the questionnaire for asthma patients could also be completed on the phone, not just on the computer. Lili had a habit that puzzled me. Every time I finished another part of the application, he would hug me (and he had a prominent chest) and I would sit stiff as a dry stick, red as a beet, because I didn’t know what to do. My foolishness amused her greatly. Anyway, Lili, Lin, and I built a solid application.
With the signing of new contracts, the team increased with technical support, new developers, and analysts who knew the medical environment and told us exactly what needed to be done.
Louis was moved to tears, and his hands shook as he put his hand to the keyboard. Sometimes he would pull me aside, put his hands on his bald head, and say in a trembling voice, “I don’t know if I can handle this phenomenal growth.”
Louis wanted us to be friends. He invited me to his house and told me to bring my oldest boy, 12 years old because he also had a boy of the same age. But my boy solved the visiting problem in less than an hour when he punched Louis’ boy in the mouth.
On the way home, my boy told me that Louis’s boy deserved to be punched for being cocky and arogant.
The visits stopped, but Louis spoiled me by raising my salary every few months. However, the starting salary was very low, just a little above the living wage, as was welfare.
At some point, Louis hired Bruno to help him manage the company. Bruno was an adventurer, smart, ambitious, knew administration, business, programming, and had a lot of money. He put enough money on Louis’ table with the deal to be partners. I got on well with Bruno, but I didn’t know what was in his head.
A short time later, another business partner appeared, who had previously been a vice president at a multinational.
I understood that it was time to leave, and I will explain in the next post why, and what happened in the end with Louis’s company.
How did my first job end:
Where it all started:
I am now continuing my journey, looking for a job in Montreal.
I had a degree from the College de Maisonneuve, and after a year of scholarship, I knew passable French. But in the interviews that followed, I had failure after failure. A few times, when I realized I missed the interview, I asked how many applied for that position. The answer was something like 500-600-700 interview requests for that position.
I guessed the reason. After the Cold War, the economy went into recession, and the military industry suffered the most, and many specialists were looking for new jobs. In addition, Canada opened its arms wide to Eastern European immigrants. If there were 1000-2000 desperate people in Montreal sending resumes to all the newspaper ads with technical positions (like me), one could explain those numbers.
Time passed, days turned into weeks, then months, and we ran out of money.
So, we asked for an interview with a government representative to ask for financial help. There, I also explained about my efforts. We got the financial help, and in addition, the agent at the counter gave me a recommendation saying that the company that would offer me my first job would be exempt from tax with the amount that represented my salary for the first two years with the company (or as long as I would have stayed there).
But the failures to find a job continued until one day in early 1995 when it was my lucky day.
I will first describe the situation in that company.
It was a small company of 6 employees, 4 programmers, the secretary (Lili), and the owner, Louis. Louis was a hospital clerk and got $2 million loan from the government to help his company develop an app for people with asthma. The application was supposed to be a questionnaire, and it was supposed to store the results in a database. The Quebec government was trying desperately to help local businesses.
Louis hired the “coolest” programmers in Montreal. By the way, they were all tough Quebecois, but they were dupes. But Louis could not check them because he knew nothing about computers. The 2 million was gone in two years, with salaries, paying rent, paying hospitals to get data, etc. But the app wasn’t ready. The programmers said they needed two more months. All they did was store (manually!!!) the data in EXCEL (with duplicates and missing data - garbage).
Louis took out a loan from the bank to cover the expenses, mortgaging his house.
After the 2 months, all four programmers resigned, leaving them on the secretary’s desk. That day, when Lili came to the office, she saw the resignations, and when Louis showed up a little later, he showed them to her. Louis had a heart attack on the spot.
After a month, he returned, but seeing the empty office, although he knew what awaited him, he had a mini-heart attack.
From that moment, he told himself that he would no longer hire the self-declared “coolest” programmers in the city but those who prove they have good scholarships. He hired an Italian, Tony, who started writing the application in C++ (a powerful language but a real developer’s nightmare). Tony couldn’t find anyone else who knew C++ (Louis didn’t understand anything anyway), so he hired a Chinese guy with a Ph.D. in paleontology who learned programming when he put his thesis on the computer then on the Internet.
They still needed another programmer.
When Louis called me for the interview, Tony wasn’t there. He told me he called me for the interview because he liked my insistence and received seven resumes from me. Of course, I didn’t tell him that if he had 100 ads in the paper, he would have received 100 resumes from me, because I no longer kept track of who I sent to.
Louis asked me to show him the diplomas. The Computer Science diploma and grades from Romania didn’t impress him (although there were many 100% there), but he really liked the diploma from Montreal College and its rates.
“What else can you tell me to convince me?” Louis asked.
It was not something technical he was looking for. I took out the recommendation with the financial benefits (the one that exempted him from taxes in the amount of the salary paid to me) signed by a government employee. That convinced him. It was not only the financial advantage but also the proof that I had the support of the government, so not a bandit.
“Okay, wait, ” he said.
He returned a minute later with a box of 20 floppy disks. 10 were numbered and had Toni’s application in C++.
“Tony told me that an installation kit needs to be made,” said Louis. “The numbered ones have Tony’s application, and the 10 blank floppies should have the installation kit for the app. Come in a week with the kit made.”
I got the Microsoft app to do something like this (can’t remember what it was called). Need I say it was hacked? To make a long story short, I’ll just say that I managed to make the kit in time.
On the second visit to the company, Tony was waiting for me.
He took the kit and gave it to Lili to install the app using it. If the kit was good, anyone could do the installation, inserting diskette after diskette, from 1 to 10. The kit went very well; Lili patted me on the back.
Tony said, “Do you know C++?
Tony was no fool. One question was enough to find out that I knew nothing about C++.
“No, ” I said quietly so that Louis wouldn’t hear from his office.
“We want to move the application to Delphi, continued Tony. Do you know Delphi? ”
How? It was the first time I had heard of Delphi. I growled through my teeth:
“No, but I learn quickly.”
Tony hired me. After all, I passed Louis’s filter a week ago. I made the kit, and he did not want to waste his time with interviews.
My problem was that from the next day, I had to know C++ and Delphi, which was impossible even if I was as bright as Einstein. With Tony, I had the feeling that I could handle it, he would have given me time to learn. He was very skilled and worked from home and only came to work when he felt like walking around downtown Montreal or giving Lili another part of the app to test. Lili was the one pressing the buttons to see if the application cracked somewhere.
But what about the Lin? He was supposed to be the one to make the transition to Delphi.
What happened to my first job - next post.
How was my first job in Canada?
Where it all started:
I requested to emigrate to Canada (Quebec) in 1992 at the Canadian Embassy in Bucharest, Romania. I knew English and, to some degree, French. I studied English at school, and in high school, Russian was added. Only those with “relations”(that my family did not have) could choose a second Western language, so Russian was, by default, the second foreign language of study for me. But my dad forced us (my brother and I) to learn French from a book, “Learn French without a Teacher,” and he never joked about such things.
My wife knew French but nothing of English, so Quebec was the only option.
It took a year to complete all the emigration formalities, during which time “Learn French without a
Teacher” (that I still had from my childhood) was my only reading. I had a notebook where I wrote down the words I had to learn every day. A few times, I got run over by cars because the French conversation in my head was more important than what was happening on the street.
I sold the apartment for $10,000, loaded everything I could carry into seven suitcases, and bought one-way tickets for all of us - my wife, the two kids, and I.
We left Romania in 1993 and landed in Montreal, Quebec, where the official language was French.
I had a phone number from a colleague from Romania who got there a few months before. He gave us a phone number from a building administrator, a Romanian who had landed in Canada many years ago. That’s how we found accommodation.
The apartment was lovely and very clean, with two rooms and a living room, but unfurnished. We spent $2,000 to buy some furniture and a TV.
What I understood on the first day in Canada was that, in fact, I had no understanding of what those people were saying in their Quebecois accent. Zero.
After one month, I started to understand Quebecois, but we were worried about the money running out quickly. We had to survive a few months without financial help from the government, and I do not remember how much.
My wife signed up for the Pharmacist Licensing Exams, which would have taken a year, so the burden was on me to find some work, and I was completely disoriented.
Near our house was a community center with a public library, and there I also spotted a small office that I understood could help immigrants. One day, I entered the office to ask for clarification on how I could find work. I always had my immigration documents with me.
The clerk was a beautiful young woman in her twenties who smiled all the time. She sealed my fate in Canada, and I have never forgotten her name, even more than 30 years later, although I didn’t write it down anywhere, Emanuelle Marchant.
Emanuelle looked at the document I put on the desk.
The conversation that followed was bumpy, but I’ll describe the gist.
“What do you know to do?” She asked.
“I am an electronic engineer.”
“Do you know programming?”
So, she was not at all interested in what I said. The only programming I knew was that I wrote test programs in machine language for the Independent and Coral, computers no one had ever heard of in Canada. But it was an acute need for programmers in Canada then, and my engineering experience did not help me at all.
“A bit of Macro,” I said.
“Yeah. So you’re a programmer.”
“Not quite, not exactly.”
He ignored what I said again. And not because of my accent but because she had her plan.
“Look, for programmers, there is a French terminology refresher course at the College de Maisonneuve.”
I just couldn’t argue with her. He was looking at me as if to say, take my offer, you fool, don’t be shy.
So, I showed up at the college with Emanuelle’s referral.
A professor interviewing candidates for the course asked me, “What languages do you know?”
“Macro,” I said.
I thought of Emanuelle, who sent me there. “A little.”
“Next week is a 5-day course on dBase and macros in EXCEL followed by an exam” said the professor. “If you pass it, you follow a nine-month course (a school year), for updating in office applications and dBase.”
I paid $1,200 for an old computer to install dBase and EXCEL on it (piracy, of course). I had tears in my eyes for how fast the money was spent, but this was a chance I had to hold on to. Plus, if I took the course, I was paid by the government to take it, about as much as welfare would have been, meaning we had enough to live on without spending any of our own money for the duration of the course. worked on the computer day and night, and I passed that exam.
During those nine months, while the course lasted, I studied all day and night - even on the weekends. I took my final exams with an average of 95%.
Strange as it may seem, what followed after the course was much more challenging than what I had endured up to that point. At least during those nine months at the College de Maisonneuve, I knew what I had to do. The government helped the emigrants, but the principle was: “If you want to teach a child to swim, throw him into the water.”
And I will tell you that the water was ice cold, but about it in the next post.
How did I get the first job:
First job !!