“Hey coolie, wanna grab a free lunch?” Kisan asked me.
"Of course” was the only possible answer any new college graduate loaded down with student debt could give to that question. And that is all it took for me to end up, minutes later, tagging along to my coworker’s job interview with Net Friends. Over the past 3 years, Kisan had thoroughly enjoyed dispatching me to just about any odd computer job that came up. I reported to him as a part-time Work Study student, making about $7.50/hour fixing Mac and PCs in both clinical and research units for the Department of Anesthesiology at Duke. On that fateful day in May 1999, I hadn't gotten serious about finding a job, much less launching a career, because I was still planning to head to grad school after a gap year.
On the short drive to the closest Chinese restaurant, Kisan briefed me on Net Friends. “They are growing like crazy. I heard they are trying to hire like 3-4 guys just this month. They’ve been after me awhile now for my Mac skills.” I was along for the ride on all levels, and back then there was no company website to check out or phone to look up anything with, so I just listened and looked forward to getting some food.
David was awaiting us when we arrived, and he readily went with the flow even though it was unheard of for anyone to bring along a friend to their job interview. It took me a minute too to adjust to the fact that I was essentially being interviewed myself, despite not being prepared nor dressed for the occasion – I was in a heavy metal band T-shirt, jean shorts, and sandals. To David’s credit, he gave me the benefit of the doubt, took things in stride, and just conducted the interview by directing the questions to both of us while lunch was ordered and served.
Some of the questions I recall fielding involved how to install Windows and the Mac OS, perform standard hardware upgrades, and connect peripherals. As a sign of the times, I don’t think a single security or networking question came up. Most of the questions centered around customer service and exploring how resourceful and self-sufficient I could be. David stressed that it was important any technician was able to solve problems on their own and be ready to “hit the ground running.” I did my best to project that I felt comfortable working with whatever came my way. One thing I remember strongly is that I really wanted to work for David, and he just seemed genuinely kind and gracious. The way he put me at ease, even while he was adjusting to a bizarre change of events in this interview, reflected his graciousness and adaptability.
I wore those same shorts and sandals two weeks later when David, introducing me to Belinda and Mary at the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke, said, “This is our newest Net Friend, John, and he will be setting up your new server.” Later that day, one of the first emails I received in my new email account was from David, which included the newly minted official Net Friends dress code policy (business casual, close-toed shoes).