My First Silicon Valley Job

When I graduated high school (by the skin of my teeth), my big sister got me my first real job, at Oracle in Redwood City, California. I was overwhelmed arriving for my job interview at “Emerald City,” Oracle’s plush complex of mirrored skyscapers clustered around a lake…with a massive employee gym, laundry service, and Olympic-sized swimming pool. This was 1994.

Oracle noted my strong back and an honest face, so they hired me and sent me to my new office…a factory across the traintracks in the Belmont warehouse district. I spent the summer alongside Stanford and Berkeley graduates, operating an industrial book-binding machine for $8 an hour.

The trick was to yell “Fire-in-the-Hole” when you turned on the conveyor belt, and wear hard-toed boots when you loaded boxes. During breaks, I listened to the Stanford grads discuss the mathematical implications of Occam’s Razor.

In a sign of how cool Oracle was as a company, they bussed me and 400 other Oracle proletariat out to Emerald City one day to hear CFO Jeff Henley (now the Chairman of Oracle) discuss Oracle’s future. Henley described Oracle’s plans for a set top box that would turn your TV set into a computer. Henley said the age of paying hundreds of dollars for software was over. Users would rent their software for monthly fees over the internet.

The Internet?

You have to remember how abstract this was in 1994. Mosaic, let alone Netscape, did not exist yet. So the public had no conception of what the internet was. But Henley was offering a unique vision, and a way for Oracle to tople Microsoft once and for all. I was enthralled.

By summer’s end I had saved a wopping $2,500 by sleeping on my sister’s floor and living off Taco Bell. I took $740 and bought my first 15 shares of Oracle stock. I took another $300 and bought my first Mac, an Apple IIse. I headed down to Claremont in the fall to spend the rest of my money on school books and Round Table Pizza.

By the time I graduated college, I sold my Oracle stock for $3,200. Not a bad summer job. But I’m still waiting for my TV to turn into a computer.

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