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Tech Bisnow
August 29, 2012
Men's First Jobs

Before they led companies, divisions, and investment funds, they worked cash registers, toasters, and pizza ovens. Last issue, we brought you the very first jobs of six top female execs; today, we turn to the gentlemen.
Toast Boy
FedSavvy Strategies CEO Brian Lindholm
FedSavvy Strategies CEO Brian Lindholm was 16 when his parents decided he needed a stronger work ethic. While most teens have perfected the art of ignoring, Brian got himself a job as a toast boy at Busy Corner in his hometown of Pekin, Ill. Job requirements: making all the toast for the breakfast dishes. Shockingly he lasted a week or two before he begged his parents to let him quit. “I’ve never looked at food service or toast the same way since,” Brian says.
Deltek (Citizant) MTECH
Pizza Maker
MailerMailer CEO Raj Khera
MailerMailer CEO Raj Khera smelled like pepperoni most evenings as a teen. What other odor would you have after making pizza for hours at the first Chuck E. Cheese in Rockville, Md? Unfortunately, the company only gave him one company shirt, making it tough (especially when you’re a teen) to wear something new everyday. Raj learned an important lesson: schmoozing the boss gets you promoted.
Gas Attendant
Grotech's Don Rainey
Some kids need to be convinced to go to college. For Grotech general partner Don Rainey, it took working with “two of the most vulgar men” at a gas station 89 hours a week to convince him. Their stories of deviant behavior that Don pretended to understand, combined with one of them having a full set of removable teeth, gave Don the higher-ed nudge. Word to the wise: the ruder you are when you ask for directions, the less accurate they will be.
Spudnut Salesboy
DHS' Mike Nicholson
Sure, Mike Nicholson delivered the Roswell Daily Record as a kid. (Its famous cover story seen here.) But before that, the DHS interagency interoperability and integration staff director was a Spudnut salesboy in Roswell, N.M. These potato flour doughnuts were sold in half dozen packages—flavored glazed, chocolate, or caramel—for 25 cents. Eleven-year-old Mike competed with the non-stop bell ringing Sno-cone guy for customers. “It bothered me to see the other kids lined up waiting for Sno-cones while I was trudging around the real deal,” he recalls.
Fax Machine Salesman
Red Hat's Paul Smith
Before Exxon was all about the oil business, it also sold office equipment through its Office Systems division. Red Hat public sector VP and GM Paul Smith sold the first commercial fax machines called QUIP as a Baltimore-based sales rep. Most embarrassing moment: going on a sales call with the boss in Paul’s old AC-less Chevy on a hot day. Dry-rotted seats caused small particles of cardboard to fly around the car and stick to Paul’s and his boss’ sweaty faces. (We're cringing with you, Paul.)
Undesignated Seaman
Three Pillar Global's Scott Heydorn
Way before Scott Heydorn became operations support VP at Three Pillar Global, he was an undesignated seaman in the Navy, which means doing everything no one else wants to do. But at 18, and only a year of college under his belt, the $7,000 a year and free room and board wasn’t so bad. Lessons learned: anything and everything can be cleaned (and cleaned again) and push-ups can solve any problem, even at midnight.
Grotech's Steve Frederick
Grotech general partner Steve Fredrick lasted four days as a commercial landscaper in the mid-'80s in Howard County, Md. College called to him as he spent hours digging holes for 60-foot trees, shoveling dirt, and planting ivy around a pool complex. (At least he learned how to drive a front-end loader.) Best lesson learned: supervising eight inmates on work release, who would only listen to Steve if he had something to offer them: “Great practice for work as a VC, where that same reality applies.”
Newspaper Delivery Boy
MicroPact EVP Mike Cerniglia
Sure MicroPact EVP and CTO Mike Cerniglia is credited with transitioning his company from services to enterprise software and services. But before that he delivered the Washington Post to readers in Sterling, Va. He made a few hundred dollars a month plus cookies and candy from appreciative customers. Hard lesson learned: You don't have to deliver the paper during a blizzard. Too bad he didn't know that when the first one hit.
Camp Counselor
Boy Scouts of America's Peter Johnson
Boy Scouts of America development director Peter Johnson spent a summer as a camp counselor at a Boys & Girls Camp in Mobile, Ala. The co-ed camp gave the kids a chance to sleep in tents on the last night with the boys on one side of the pond and the girls on the other. His job: making sure the boys stayed on their side by dressing up as a deranged old woman who wandered the woods at night. Parents in Alabama are still thanking him for his service.
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