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Getting Hired at IBM

My experience in getting hired at IBM was something of a fluke. Actually I believe it was arranged by God - you are welcome to believe what you like.

When I was a senior at Ohio State, I had registered in the placement office of the Engineering Department, and one day in the winter, I was sitting in my office when the phone rang. It was a guy from IBM asking if I wanted to come for an interview. I said, I had seen that they would be there, but that they were looking for Winter graduates and I wouldn't be graduating until Spring. He said that was no problem, he had some extra time, could I come and interview. I said that I didn't have my suit on and that I didn't have my portfolio with me. (I guess I was just stupid giving him reasons why I couldn't be there). He said, can you get them and come for an interview? So finally I said, ok.

I remember showing him drawings I had made at Worthington Steel of a machine I had designed, and he said, "You did this?" I thought that was a strange question. Why the heck would I be showing him drawings someone else did? I took it that he was impressed with what I had done, and assured him, yes I had designed the machine.

I soon had an offer to go down to the Lexington, Kentucky plant and interview there. I could remember going through the Blue Grass region of Kentucky when I was a kid on vacation and thinking, "I wouldn't mind living here. This is a really neat area." So off we went for the interview.

I was interested in working as a plant engineer. I had that all over my resume and on the listing I had in the placement office. IBM was looking for a product engineer. Tom Slaughter was the guy who interviewed me on campus and he wanted me working in his area I believe (that's where I eventually wound up). I don't really remember any of the interviews I had there. I know they were in different buildings all over the plant. What we do remember is the guy who hosted Connie and I - Virgil Bowler. He was a very personable fellow. He met us for breakfast, took me all around to the interviews and then drove us around and showed us a bit of the town afterward. Then he took us to dinner at Columbia Steak House. When he sat down in the restaurant, the chair collapsed under him. He jumped up and we all laughed about it. He was really a humble and nice fellow. The food at Columbia's was excellent and we enjoyed talking with Virgil.

I interviewed with twelve different companies and had offers from five others. Connie wanted me to take the offer at IBM. I wasn't sure that's what I wanted to do - it wasn't plant engineering, but Connie really liked IBM (all she really knew about it was Lexington, Kentucky and Virgil Bowler for gosh sakes).

I remember being in a classroom at Ohio State with a bunch of other senior ME students. We were talking about who was interviewing where and where we hoped to be able to get a job. At the time I had the offer from IBM but had not accepted it. One of the guys was saying how he had two places he really wanted to work... IBM and Coor's Brewery. He talked about the research he had done on different companies and IBM was the number one place he wanted to work. He liked Coors because it was in Golden, Colorado and he loved beer.

He had gone for an interview before I did and still had not gotten an offer. I was thinking, wow I've got an offer and didn't really think that much about it. This guy has done research and would give his eye teeth to go to work at IBM. Maybe I better think about this more seriously. He never did get an offer, and I never did tell him that I had.

I called IBM and told them I thought I'd take the job, but was wondering what exactly I'd be doing, what exact department I'd be working in. Well, the HR guy said, they hadn't determined that yet. He said he could let me know when they did. I said great. I waited a couple of weeks and not hearing from them, called him again. They still hadn't decided, but he'd call me when they did. More weeks went by, and I called again. No, they still hadn't decided. At that point, it was almost June, I was getting worried that they might change their mind if I didn't take the job.

So I didn't know what exactly I would be doing but was pretty certain it would be product engineering and not plant engineering because all of my interviews were with product engineering folks. I can't say that I was excited about the prospect of being a product engineer but I knew how much the other guy wanted to work at IBM and I knew that Connie wanted me to take the job, and none of the other job offers I had were really that exciting either. I was getting nervous that if I didn't take the offer pretty soon, IBM might change their minds, so I called them and told them I'd take the job, whatever it was. He said ok, he'd let me know what day to start. We did finally get a start date (June 20, 1977) but I didn't know what department I'd be in or exactly what I'd be doing until the day I started.

I think everyone I've talked to about their job aquisition process with IBM has some goofy story to tell. I've actually interview for IBM jobs four other times and they were all goofy. Those stories are coming up.