Nineteen years ago today, a 22 year-old version of myself walked in the doors of an office building in Santa Monica, California for my first day of work. I had graduated from the University of California, Riverside only 4 months earlier. I had spend the last 4 months running back and forth between L.A. and Riverside, doing computer work for the dorm cafeteria. I’d worked for the dorm cafeteria for the entire four years of my stay at Riverside. The job in Santa Monica was my first post-college job. I started at the company helpdesk. At the time, I didn’t know if the job would last a year, let alone 19 years.
My memory of that first day has grown fuzzy, although my memory of the people I met on that day has not. A few of them are still here, but most are gone. On October 17, 1994, the Internet was still in its infancy. I remember how excited and amazed I was at the first work computer I had: An IBM 386 with 40 MB of disk space (spread over 2 hard disks) and 16 MB of RAM. It seemed incredible to me! I remember the programs we used for email, which was entirely UNIX-based. Windows 95 was on the horizon, but had not yet been deployed within the company. Gopher was more popular than any web browser.
I ate lunch on that first day with a bunch of my new coworkers in one of the many courtyards we had in our old building. I was given an office on the 4th floor, facing northeast toward Westwood. Looking across the hallway, I could see the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica pier. It was my first office, and one of only two offices that I’ve had in 19 years. I moved to my second office 8 years later, when I moved from our Santa Monica office to our Washington, D.C. office in the summer of 2002.
For a long time, I thought of myself as a “Santa Monica” person, because that is where I started with the company and that is where I “grew up.” But I have now been in the Washington, D.C. office for 11 years, and am at best a Santa Monica transplant.
People tell me that it is rare these days for a person to stay at one company for their entire career. I know a lot of people here who have done just that, but I suppose it is rare nevertheless. Next year will be a real milestone, 20 years, but 2016 will be the more significant milestone in my mind. On October 17, 2016, I will have been at the company for 22 years. I will be 44 years old. That means I will have been at the company for exactly half of my entire lifetime.
One telling thing that I have seen in my 19 years is the relatively quick pace with which technology changes. From that first IBM 386, I have moved through a dozen or more computers and now use a Dell laptop with multiple processors, 64 MB of memory and lots of bells and whistles that wouldn’t have been thought possible 19 years ago. The Internet, too, has come a long way. I remember delivering talks at the company on a new browser called Netscape. This was back in 1995, and while the roots of the Internet were there, things looked and behaved a lot differently than they do today.
I have seen a lot of people come through. Some are still here at the company, others passes through, staying for months, years, a decade, before moving on. It is the people that make this place worth sticking around. As I get older, I find more of them are leaving, some of them even retiring, and that makes things a little sad, but I’m comforted by the history I have here, and the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made. Back in college, I would have never imagined getting a job like that and seeing it last as long as it has lasted. I think that kid would be pretty surprised to find me still here today.