“Ask one more question, try one more time” ... from a Southern California School to Silicon Valley during the recession of the mid 1970s.
“When we meet brick walls in life, don’t be depressed. Brick walls are there for a reason – they let us prove how badly we want things. Brick walls are there to distinguish people who don’t really want things.” - Randy Pausch (Thanks to Joseph Ding from Dalian China for sending the quote)
Story Line: “Ask one more question, try one more time” -Pravin R. Shah
Here is a story of the fellow I know who got admitted for BS in Electrical Engineering at a University in Los Angeles. He already had a BS degree in Physics, but the University did not recognize his previous school program and had asked him to spend four years for Bachelor’s program.
On the second day, while waiting for his first meeting with the advisor, he noticed a poster by the department announcing a new masters degree program with focus on Semiconductors, an emerging technology. Looking at the details, he noticed that the prerequisite was background in Physics. He got very interested and inquired further - and after a few meetings with two professors he was sent to the department head for final interview. The head expressed concern that he did not have BS degree from an approved university, to which the fellow replied, “How about if you give me chance for one semester and if I fail, send me back to BS program. I assume the risk of one semester worth of time and lost fees.”
18 months from then, he graduated with a Masters degree instead of spending four years getting a BS. The next challenge was to find a job during the extremely bad economic conditions.
It so happened that a few months before graduating, he had attended a seminar at UCLA, a school across town, where two guest speakers were executives from Silicon Valley - then an emerging area for Semiconductor companies. After the seminar, he talked to the guest speakers and asked “How can I get more information about Silicon Valley?” They were gracious enough to give him their business cards, and so he followed up with periodic phone calls to inquire about Silicon Valley.
As soon as the graduation ceremony was over, the fellow went to Silicon Valley. He called the people he had met at UCLA. Both of them were kind enough to invite him to their companies for a short chat. Both gave him a good orientation about Silicon Valley, but told him that it will be challenging to find a job in the extremely bad economic situation. While leaving one of their offices, he asked “There are not many job ads in the papers. Is there any other thing I should try?” Francis suggested looking at postings at local university placement offices.
What happened then may seem unreal or a dream, but I know it to be absolutely true. He stopped by Santa Clara University on the way back and found a fresh job posting by a company in Mountain View, looking for a student to work on a project for VATE process technology. Unimaginable, in his Masters program, the fellow had worked on Convergent Geometry diode using VATE type processing.
The interviews went very well, but then the next hurdle surfaced. The job was approved for only a junior engineer/technician level person, and they did not have budget for Masters level salaries. But this fellow asked the hiring manager “What if I take what you can afford, take Junior Engineer title and still give you what is expected from Masters level candidate?”
The final thing that came up was that the Human Resources department wanted a character reference from a local person. A strange request, but many strange things happen with some departments ...
He called Francis and told him about the request. Again Francis was too generous, and agreed to give the reference and directly called the hiring manager.
Months after he had established himself in the company and developed excellent credibility, this fellow asked his boss about what Francis had said about him. This is verbatim from the boss: "Francis told me about how you met. You were one of very few who approached him after the seminar. Only two kept in touch and you came down to see him. You asked many questions and even while leaving his office you still kept inquiring about things. Francis said that he did not know your technical ability but he can attest to your persistence, inquisitiveness and interest in keeping relationships. He told me: Charlie, it is worth taking chance on this kid. He will do good.”
Nine months into the job, Charlie called this fellow in his office and handed over an envelope. This fellow has shown me what was inside and I have made a copy with his permission. Two words on that evaluation paper have stuck with me: “Policy Exception” signed by the Chief Executive of the division of that Fortune 50 company. You can guess what else was in that envelope.
“Ask one more question, try one more time.”