Gulf Coast Oilfield Equipment – Fall 1987

Spring of 1987 was my most successful semester at Rice; I did well in all of my courses, including Algorithms and my retake of Introduction to Computer Architecture. That summer, I worked at StyleWare, writing a little Calendar desk accessory (kind of like an modern app), which was training for programming on the Apple IIGS and its operating system, GS/OS. I had one semester left to finish school, and that semester eventually went very well. I even got a “B” in Guido Contini’s Numerical Analysis course!

I was working part-time at StyleWare during that semester while I finished up, but was still open to other opportunities, so I went to the Rice Placement Office again, and prepared for that grueling routine. Except that the management of the Placement Office had changed. Ms. Overbearing was gone, replaced by Ms. Corporate. No longer did students line up and sign up for interview on a first-come, first-serve basis. No, instead, the student submitted their resume to the department’s pile. The resume was then put in binders. A prospective employer would then browse the binder, and pick out interesting resumes. The Placement Office would then contact those students, and setup the interview.

I did have a 3.0+ semester under my belt now, and I had real programming experience in my summer and present job, so the resume looked much better than the previous year. It wasn’t enough. I got no interviews through the Placement Office in Fall of 1987.

Was resigned to StyleWare. It had its good points, but I hated working in assembly language, particularly 65C816 assembly language. It was clear, also, that StyleWare was a startup and expected the engineers to work all hours and take no vacations until the next big product shipped, projected to happen in the Spring of 1988. So I was still open to possibilities.

I was a member of a board and table-top role playing group at Rice (War And Role-Playing club, or WARP), and I became very good at a game called Star Fleet Battles. We had a hard-core group of SFB players in Houston, and we were official playtesters.

One Friday night, I was playing SFB with one of my friends when I mentioned the fact that I wasn’t getting any nibbles from the Placement Office. He told me he knew somebody who was looking for a software engineer, and asked for my phone number.

Monday moring, a nice lady from Gulf Coast Oilfield Equipment (not the real name; I don’t remember what their name was) called me, and asked me to fax her my resume. I did so. On Wednesday, a man from Gulf Coast called me. We talked about what he was looking for, and asked me some rudimentary C datatype questions, and asked if I was interested in coming out to Sugar Land for an interview. I said “Yes,” of course.

A few days later, I drove out there. I talked to three people. The hiring manager himself was maybe four years older than me. He talked to me for about 2 hours, and we talked about general things (no whiteboard interviews, no code reviews, none of that. Different times…) The position was writing embedded software for computer-controlled oil equipment for pipelines, refineries, tankers, and floating rigs (I was remined about my discussion I had had about embedded software when I interviewed for National Instruments). The manager really liked my assembly language work at StyleWare. I thought the interview went well.

A few days later, the original guy, the manager’s boss, called me back, and told me that they had hired somebody else, but asked if they could keep my resume on file. I said “Yes,” of course.

Looking more like StyleWare was going to be permanent come January. Still did not have formal offer, though…


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