Very Secure

My First Summer In The Saltmines

I entered the saltmines for the first time at 17. I had picked up a few programming skills at a younger age that helped me land a job over the summer. The first skill I acquired, which still helps me to this day, is the ability to type quickly. In early middle school I had a weekly class where we used a program called Type To Learn. Doing exercises from that program formed habits that permit me a 110wpm typing speed. Towards the end of middle school, I took my first programming class. I used RealBasic to program some interactive visual animations. I remember distinctly making a ball bounce on a screen; it grew and shrank as it went up and down since its size was defined as a function of its y coordinate. With some free time I played with Autoscript V3, a programming language for windows that had readily available functions for simulating key presses and mouse movements. Then later I learned a bit of scheme and java in high school classes. During free time in high school I taught myself some python and set up a web server running django. The programming experience I obtained by 17 is much less than a kid can/should have at that age, but it was more than most do.

So with these basic skills I got an internship at Morgan Stanley through my high school Stuyvesant. The internship was a mentorship program where I met for lunch weekly with one employee while working for a separate team within the company. My mentor was the salesman type. He told me to read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. According to him, that was the most important book to succeed in business. I learned from the book something akin to the idea that people do what they think is in there best interest. But I partially blame Mr. Carnegie for my having picked up the bad habit of bending what I say to match what I believe people want to hear.

For the job portion of the mentorship program, I was assigned to a team of three close friends. They had joined Morgan Stanley together and, unlike my social mentor, kept separate from the other employees. In the only meeting I went to with them, they got into a loud fight with another team.

We worked on a project called TAP, Temporary Access Protocol. Morgan Stanley had just gone through a merger or some other major bureaucratic event that had changed compliance rules throughout the company. I was supposed to help the team build a unix tool where users could request permission to access files and a superior could grant that permission for a set period of time. The work they gave me was first to teach myself perl and then do some exercises to learn how to write regular expressions. The team also had me study the Kerberos authentication protocol. So for a big chunk of the internship I was getting paid $15/hour to learn. Eventually I had to write a piece of code that sent out an email when an event happened, and I ended the internship doing some QA testing for the team.

My cubicle was positioned next to this loud, fat lady. While I was teaching myself perl she just filed her nails, making a phone call now and then. Naive to the way of the world, I was surprised that someone could work in an amazing company like Morgan Stanley while doing jack shit. At lunch one day I asked my team leader just what is it she does here. He explained to me that there were many people in the company who did nothing, and those who did do something could usually have their jobs replaced by a script.1

There was more ridiculousness I saw go on within the walls of Morgan Stanley's skyscraper at One New York Plaza near Bowling Green. My classmate at Stuyvesant who also got an internship there had been abandoned by his team. His manager never gave him any assignment, so he would just come to work for 40 hours a week and be paid to do whatever he liked at his desk. He used his paid free time to work on some graphic art and make a video game. Recalling the insanity at Morgan Stanley only serves to reinforce my "extract from" rather than "work for" attitude towards the salt mines.

  1. He warned that it was not good politics to write said scripts. []

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