My first day at IBM

29 04 2012

When I joined IBM I had never met my new boss. He had taken the advice of his counterpart in Memphis, TN that I would be a good hire so Bryan hired me for the Jackson, MS office sight unseen. We talked on the phone but my first visit with him would be my very first day of work.

I remember getting to the office 15 minutes early. Bryan told me to come in at 8:30am and we would get started. I show up at 8:15am, but the doors weren’t open yet, , , they didn’t unlock the main doors until 8:30am. Oh well, I’m standing on the front porch of the IBM building looking pretty dumb (I’m thinking) as car after car passes me on their way to the back parking lot. They were all IBMers coming in for work and they entered the building via a back door I didn’t realize was there, , , wouldn’t have mattered because I couldn’t have gotten in anyway.

Finally, I meet Bryan Hathcock, , , a big gray haired gentleman with a rough exterior. Later, I would learn he was just a big teddy bear and someone I would look to as one of the best managers of my career.

After a short meeting, Bryan showed me around and introduced me to the IBMers of our division who were in the office that day. It was a very friendly group and very professional as I remember. The guys all wore white shirts and pinstripe suits in those days and so did I although my suits were on the inexpensive side at that point.

Bryan told me to make a copy of some paperwork and I made a big mistake by asking him, “Where is the Xerox?” He quickly made me understand that we used IBM copiers, not Xerox, , , I never made that mistake again.

Bryan gave me a piece of advice that first day that I have used throughout my career and I still use today. He said, “Mike, I’m going to pair you up to make client calls with some of our senior System Engineers (SE) and Marketing Reps. When you’re with them, observe how they do things, , , how they organize their time, how they plan for a client call, how they deal with client issues, etc. What you need to do is learn from them and incorporate the best of what you see into how you do things. If you see something that works really well, use it to your advantage and become the best you can be.”

I’ve done this my entire life and many of the things I do today are because I observed how well they worked for someone else. It was very good advice.


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