Friday, June 8, 2007

My First Job Interview

(this is an entry from my lumang baul, circa November 1992)

It’s Tuesday, and I am in Manila. That Sunday I have scanned the Manila Bulletin to look for a job, I saw one for AutoCAD Operator. Location: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Employer : ABV Rock Group, Agency: ISD (International Skills Development), Agency Location: Corner P. Faura and Taft Avenue (In front of NBI).

Now, that’s easy. Knew the place, so here I am at the ISD Building and I was given a pre-interview by a lady with a half-munched up apple. She’s just flipping the content of my dossier to see if they are properly placed and in order. There’s nothing much there. Aside from the two-paged resume, there’s a couple of citations and awards and of course, two Diplomas, BSCE and CAD Training.

The lady asked if I could remain for the day because the employers will be arriving and will conduct the real interview at 11:00 P.M. Further, there is only one more applicant for the job. Only two of us, how great, right? Look at my watch and it says, smiling 9:00 A.M. on the mark. Got a lot of time to kill. So I’ve looked at their bulletin board and there were a lot of jobs being offered. Look for the keyword CAD and there’s only one entry, the one I am applying for.

One thing that’s noticeable was the smell. Smell of human who needs a bath. There were a lot of them, about 15 or so. Noticeable also was the fact that most of them are wearing boots. Some are sleeping seated. Two guys are in front of another interviewer, and I noticed that one guy is writing down whatever the other guy is saying. I figure that the second guy doesn’t know how to write.

Cannot contain my curiosity any longer, I asked one what are they there for. He said, that they are signing a contract to work in Saudi. He told me that they are miners from Baguio and Kalinga and that they have been there for two days now. They slept at the PNR Station and that they are out of job after the rescue mission. Luckily they were noticed and here they are, they’re given jobs.

Wow! I remember now, there was an earthquake last July and it’s a devastating one. Mines caved in (are there any, still?), buildings reduced to rubble, and these miners were the heroes. I asked him which one of them was the one who followed a fly to rescue a woman trapped beneath the rubble. He ain’t there.

Soon enough I was having a conversation with a lot of them. They told me a lot of stories of their experience during the rescue mission. How some of their colleagues died just to save others. Kinda made me teary eyed.

I said to myself, breath in deep with your nose, oti. This is the smell of real life heroes, so breathe in deep down, inhale it all. Put it into your system.

Then came these three Caucasian Gigantors, and the miners all stood and said “Good morning, sirs!” The CG’s good-morninged back. Oh, no! The employers, the ABV Rock Group! But, instead of guitars and drums, they have with their entourage two locals, one carrying a computer, one a monitor. Pleasantries exchanged. And there goes those platoons of butterflies on my stomach flying all over. Nervous? No, I’m just hyperventilating!

20 looong minutes later, I was asked by the apple wielding woman to follow her. I did, half-collapsing, half-staggering, one-fourth nauseating, two-thirds in deep vertigo. She showed me a hand-sketched plan of some pipes and gears with lines showing dimensions. She told me to draw them on the computer right in front of me, gave me a time limit of thirty minutes. Looked at the plan, said to myself, 15 minutes will do. The computer was already turned on. The blimping-blinking DOS is already there. Did the usual cd\ enter cd acad\ enter acad.exe enter and there goes AutoCAD. Only it’s different. It looks better. Typed in ver on the acad prompt and I got Rel.12.0.

I’ll be damned. I know Rel. 9 and Rel.10, and these Rhinos got Rel.12 already. Anyway, the clock tic-tocked by and sure enough I’ve finished the plan in less than 15 minutes. Might as well make the plan looked more impressive. Made layers, made em colorful, made em kinda looked lithographed if that could be done. Save the file and closed acad. Done said I.

And then apple-less lady came back followed by the other candidate whose skin looked like tanned leather. I know right then there that this guy have been deep in the trenches. Been there done that thing. My heart sank, I’m done. Oti has lost his composure. My ears made tinnitus sounds. Impaired not comprehending what the lady was saying I went back to the seat where I was before.

The miners were asking me things, and I was just nodding and smiling. But I wasn’t really there. Moments passed, and passed. I reckoned that the leather boy is taking too long a time in doing that plan. Thirty minutes just flew by and… Oti gained his composure. I’m better than he is, I thought. Better, faster. That’s a ray of hope. I’ll get this job, surely.

Minutes gone by, one Gigantor Rhino just nodded to me and beckoned that I follow him. So I did. Sat down on a chair in front of him and he asked me. When did I graduated (easy), where did I learn CAD (easy) and…

… have I’ve ever been employed as an AutoCAD Operator (oh my gout!). Told him truthfully that this will be the first time job I will have. My only job experience was as an apprentice at my father’s motorcycle shop and I get not much pay for it. I’ve just newly graduated from college. And while I am waiting for the board exam I enrolled at a CAD school in Sampaloc, because I knew that computers will be in the forefront. I told him I also knew LISP programming. I told him a lot. I got a wife and a kid to feed. I was practically begging him to hire me.

(ad lib: Swedes got a guttural, pitched Visayan accent when they speak English)

He told me bluntly, I am good because I’ve finished that plan in record time. That is a real great factor, more in less time. And if he had his way, I should get the job. But, the BIG BUT remains, I HAVE NO JOB EXPERIENCE to talk about. And their company is looking for someone who has a job experience and at least a year of job experience on CAD. He told me that I am still young, and that I may get homesick since I already have a family. The job is in the desert of K.S.A., and he had already seen at least one of their workers going loco from homesickness.

Oti lost his composure again. And he blurted out. “If it could be done, I would like that you give me a six month probationary period at half the $ 850.00 monthly salary”. The big Albino Rhino gave me a wide grin and said, “You’re very persistent, aren’t you? I’ll take that into consideration, but please, you have to note that I am just following our company policy on hiring. Gain more experience young man. And here’s my calling card. Please do get a calling card from the ISD staff and tell them to put your name in the database”. He gave me back my dossier.

Oti is now numb. Oti is now immersed in liquid nitrogen. Oti doesn’t matter anymore. But he put on a smile and did just that. Asked for a card and my name and details were put on a database. As I was doing that, the other candidate sat where I’ve previously sat and the Big Remote Controlled Rhino put the guy’s folder in front of him. That folder is about an inch thick. The Big Remote Controlled Albino Rhino looked my way and made three pendulum swing with his head. I’ve looked at my folder which is about 5 millimeter and said to myself, “Ay Dugo”.

Went out of the building like an automaton in slow motion, went inside this telephone boot. And change to my Superman costume and up up and away!

Actually, I went to the phone boot. Got the phone off it’s cradle, a tear escaped one of my eye and followed by another on the other eye. Then they came into rushes… and I…

…wept wept and away.

Looking back from that experience, on November 1990 (two years ago, today), I kind of made peace with myself. The Swede may be right; I may go loony in the desert. I should gain more experience locally before tackling a job very far, far away. I passed their trade test, spoke fluently during the interview. I am now working for the DPWH-MPR-PMO. The strange thing is this. Those miners got their job abroad because of a catastrophe. This job I have now at the DPWH-MPR-PMO was also brought about by a catastrophe. After the clearing operations on lahar land and the PMO gets dissolved, I may get a job abroad. I still got the calling cards.

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