Right after my graduation at UIC, I was in a hurry to get a job and put aside plans of going abroad. I know experience is a great teacher, so I decided to stay put and look for employment within Davao City.
In my fourth year, I had an on the job training at Rhine Marketing, a local dealer of computers and accessories. Together with Raul Ramirez and Rizza Rizada, we fixed broken motherboards, assemble computer sets and carry stocks from the warehouse to the showroom. It was a good learning experience but tend to pull me away from what I wanted to do; I prefer to become a programmer than to be a technician.
Ironically, the day before our graduation, I had my first interview at PowerTech, a local dealer of Apple computers. Cecile Anghag, my classmate and childhood friend, already worked there, so that felt a bit reassuring. As a fresh graduate — officially the next day — not much was expected from me as a significant contributor. I haven’t had the chance to use an iMac before. In our college projects, we’ve relied on 486s and Pentiums of Jose Punongbayan, Ronald Celestial, and Jonathan Ambong.
The role I applied for was after-sales support, which means I will be involved in troubleshooting, software installation, and demo to clients and prospects. My experience at Rhine probably got me into the interview. But honestly, I didn’t consider this application to be a promising one with my zero product knowledge.
After the graduation ceremony was held at Davao Convention and Trade Center, classmates organized a celebratory party to be held in Kidapawan, where hometown kids Bibiano Tee Jr, Vincent Guerra, and Elmer De Vera were willing hosts. There were drinks, music, and plenty of stories. It was a great night that got me intoxicated. The plan was to extend the celebration the following day, but I soon got a call from UIC Computer Center for a job interview. I submitted my job application as a programmer during the last week of the school year. So I took the bus the following morning back to Davao and hope to do the interview as soon as I arrive.
The interviewer was Engr Randy Gamboa, an engineer who used to teach at the Engineering department though he never taught me one subject. With his straight-talking demeanor, a candidate caught off-guard by his random philosophical questions would possibly be left speechless and give up. But if you keep your cool, he’ll lighten up and even start to display his brand of sense of humor. At my interview, I was tense but held on to finish the interrogation. He was then joined by Noel Laud, a systems administrator, and Jovy Cabrera, a senior programmer, whose approach to interviews is quite similar to Paula Abdul at American Idol.
A couple of weeks later, I got the job offer and got ready for my first-ever full-time job. My previous credential was only the half-semester stint at Rhine. I never had any part-time work and previously failed at all attempts to get summer jobs. I soon found out I was admitted along with Michael Cagape, a family relative, and batchmate at UIC, Edison Escala, another familiar face from uni, Brendon Rojas, fellow UIC alumni, and a Cecilbeth ‘Pie’ I., a Computer Science graduate from Ateneo de Davao. With our addition, the UIC Computer Center’s staff population doubled.
Other members of the team are Maricar Ramos, a presentations guru proceeding with her Master’s degree and Tammy Rogers, demure yet reliable Über-Programmer who occupies the corner desk.
I was then assigned to program the Teacher’s Behavioral Inventory, a landmark project I maintained up to the time I left the Center. As the users of this program are the staff of the Guidance Center, I occasionally spend time going to their offices to explain the progress of the program, fix their printer, or engage in short chat. During the process, I got to meet new friends, the same as from Cashier, Registrar, Grade School, Library, and the RVM sisters.
Although our tasks vary from programmer to network administrator, we were given a few teaching loads to help the understaffed Computer Science department. Enrollment time in May is the most stressful time as a Computer Center staff as each of us would wear our technician’s hat as we connect cables, carry computer monitors, and set up local area networks. On some days, we have to stay late to diagnose network problems and troubleshoot wonky computer units.
As with the teaching job, I taught Differential and Integral and Differential Calculus, Algebra, and computer subjects. In some semesters, I need to cross to the Bonifacio campus to teach EDP to Commerce students. While programming was relatively relaxing of a job — except deadlines and code review sessions — teaching was a tough task to deal with. Sometimes I have to skip lunch to prepare test questions or check exam papers. Another challenging aspect of it is when my class is a mixed bag of brilliant and below-average students. In such a case, I needed to strike a balance on approach and lesson outline. In any way, I am bound to make someone fall into boredom or extreme agitation. The worst part of my teaching experience is when I have to recommend students to repeat the subject for not making the grade. I was once approached by the mother of a student who pleaded. I pass her son; I offered sympathy but was firm in my earlier decision.
I spent three years at UIC before moving to Manila and eventually settling down in Hong Kong.
Among the most memorable times I had at UIC Computer Center are:
This is the part of life at the Computer Center I miss the most. Whether it’s towards Ate Jovy, Comp Sci teacher Liza Ruth Faune, or with the laboratory folks Albert Burgos, and Jerry Tuston, we could never get enough of Brendon’s antics. Notable ones I can remember: a) You killed my teacher! A standard story plot of a kung fu film where the protege plots revenge on gangsters over the death of his teacher. b) Brendon’s father asking the family to close their eyes while saying graces before meals: Lord, please open our eyes.
Travels disguised as recollections.
Because I officially belong to UIC Computer Center, I am also a part of the Non-teaching Personnel, even if I have a few teaching units. This means I join the rest of UIC Comcen ‘peeps’ in annual recollections often held far away — for maximum retreat experience. In my brief stay with NTP, we traveled to Cebu and Guimaras/Boracay. Those trips might have triggered my passion for travel.
Meeting new friends.
Just the same as described above, being the all-around technician in the whole university is bound to get rewarded with new friends. It also built my confidence in meeting people, which was useful in fighting stage fright I encounter once in a while during my Computer Science classes. With these friends at work, I rarely get out of place during gatherings like acquaintance parties, Christmas parties, NTP meetings, and casual encounters in the corridor.
When Engr Jun Jayme joined the Computer Center, the rest of us were bound to embarrass ourselves during events where we are expected to showcase our talents. As a talented dancer, he prodded us to join him onstage. One unforgettable experience was when Michael, Brendon, Jonathan Tuburan, and Jun danced to the tune of Time After Time by Inoj.
Not only we go out as part of non-teaching personnel, but Sir Randy — often known as Bossing — organizes the team for a quick break during summer. We usually spend overnight at a beach resort not necessarily to swim but to deliberate on things I thought were not even necessary. (To this day, I still fail to see the importance of being reminded about an organization’s mission and vision every year.) But other than that, it’s great to be out of the office for a change.
Richard Camelo Base and Jerry Flores, who joined Comcen a year after us to fill the void left by Edison and Pie, were even more casual and light-hearted jokes became a more prevalent topic during meetings. It was during their time that I was hooked to StarCraft for the first time. Day time or night time, we conspired to play the game during lunch breaks, after office hours, and even stayed almost midnight to finish a session. Brendon, Michael, Jonathan, and I eventually joined alliances and teamed up to play.
My stay at UIC Computer Center was a great learning experience. It was like extending my five-year Computer Engineering career with three more. Although I didn’t get to focus on one specialty nor finish the TBI program, I got out of the door more confident to talk about my skills — at least until I realized I have a lot more to learn. Connecting BNC cables for enrollment, building my first website, running a Novell Netware network structure, fixing and assembling computers for the computer laboratory, Norton Commander and Windows 95 were among those I learned in addition to my daily tasks.
After 38 months, I said goodbye to UIC Computer Center to find what life out there has in store for me.
P.S. 1 – Engr. Randy Gamboa became one of our principal wedding sponsors.
P.S. 2 – My wife wanted to attend Computer Science at UIC but instead enrolled at Ateneo. If she studied at UIC, she would possibly become my student, and I don’t know how destiny would be redefined. We got to meet only after we started working in Hong Kong.