53) How I Snagged a Career with T-Shirt Advertising

In my last post you read about me driving from San Francisco to San Jose 4 nights per week in 1985 to attend school for my new career in semiconductor mask design. In this post you read about my self-promotion and good fortune of being selected for a new job in Silicon Valley, California.

Facing Down the Competition

Approximately five months after beginning a semiconductor layout design program at Masters Design and Technical Center in San Jose, California, a few of us noticed a poster on the student bulletin board which said something like: “Fourth Annual Mask Designer’s Picnic”.

Meanwhile, the student I was sitting next to in the IC Layout Design program seemed to instinctively  finish her high quality drawings more quickly and accurately than I  did. Many of the other students were also completing drawings that were more advanced than mine.

Noticing  my performance relative to the others in my class put me on edge. But I was still very confident that skills I developed while holding various positions in direct selling would serve me well in getting hired and working with the team that hired me. So, since it became clear I wouldn’t be in the top-tier of the graduating class, I needed a strategy to get noticed.

Then  I hatched  a plan. I would use it at the  Fourth Annual Mask Designer’s Picnic, where I was sure a few hiring managers would be in attendance.

Securing an Interview at Micro Linear in Milpitas, California

Attending the picnic in a T-Shirt with the following words on the back: “Hard-Working Mask Designer Needs A Job”, I was singularly focused; not on eating chicken and drinking beer but instead on “attraction marketing”. Outgoing and already customer-focused, I worked the crowd like a politician. My t-shirt tactic was so corny and outrageous that it was attracting quite a lot of attention. I was only able to get one phone number that day. But within two-weeks, I had secured an interview and an offer of employment to begin my new career. I was hired as a Mask Designer with Micro-Linear in Silicon Valley at a salary of $19,500. I was on my way.

Highly Proficient at Interviewing for Jobs

Job hoppers get pretty good at hiring interviews. I was no exception. In fact, I was becoming highly skilled at the art of job interviewing. At 34 I was able to say, I was hired for every job for which I interviewed. It was uncanny. If only I could pick the right jobs.

Another Move within San Francisco Then Onto San Jose

To be factually correct, although this is not as simple, Nadine and had moved again two blocks up the street – surrendering our apartment management gig – and had been living there during the time I was attending night school. Scoring a job in Milpitas with Micro-Linear meant we had to leave our city by the bay and move to San Jose. I had lived in San Francisco since 1975. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was to be the last time we lived in the city. I have been in mourning about this ever since.

San Jose – A Unique Experience

Were it not for my new career in Mask Design working at Micro-Linear, San Jose is one of the last places on earth, I would ever live. The spring of 1985 saw temperatures routinely rise to 95 degrees with above average humidity. Traffic was horrendous (it is far worse now), and rents were high, even then.

The Nature of Work at Micro Linear

img_chip_consultWork at Micro-Linear was going well. I was assigned to a splinter group working on an older process technology known as bipolar, working on gate-arrays. This is normally a method whereby the circuit elements are propositioned in silicon for optimal performance. The design team would then be responsible for connecting them – or rather, a representation of them using electronic design automation (EDA) software. Quite happy with doing whatever was being asked of me, I followed my trainer around closely to learn everything she knew. The other guys gave me static about this, but I didn’t care. Because I knew in a few more weeks I would assimilate everything she had to teach me and believed I would be in a position to work more independently, a key value for me in 1985.

Image: http://mielabs.com/images/img_chip_consult.jpg

Did you ever work at a computer all day designing stuff?

Next: Jenner E. Stanley

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