Special Offers
Press Room

As Seen In the Eagle Tribune - Monday, July 25, 2005

What was your first summer job?

By Rushmie A. Kalke
Staff writer

Take me directly to the piece about Visiting Geeks Cofounder, Sharron Senter

Every day, executives and business owners make decisions about weighty issues such as earnings potential, strategic development or sales targets. They hire, they fire and they move co-workers into different positions, judging their ability and potential to do the job.

But rising to the top didn't happen overnight. Many of the area's shakers and movers started with summer jobs doing less-than-glamorous tasks such as bagging groceries or busing tables. Despite decidedly humble beginnings, these successful local men and women say the experiences in their first jobs taught them invaluable lessons they use in their current positions.

They also have advice for today's youth plying the workplace for the first time. Think creatively. Accept responsibility and learn from your mistakes. And try to have fun, no matter how awful the job seems right now. After all, they said, there's always next summer.

Anne Davis
Executive vice president of administration at New Balance, the athletic apparel and footwear firm with operations in Lawrence

Davis began working as a cashier at the Butcher Boy Market, located on Route 28 in Salem, N.H., when she was 161/2.

Q. Why did you take the job?

A. I knew that I wanted to attend college after high school, so I realized early on that I needed to start saving money as soon as possible. I started at $1.00 an hour. It was my goal to make $50 a week. My thought was if I worked 10 weeks during the summer then I could raise $500 which was about half the cost of a year of college tuition in those days.

Q. A memorable moment?

A. One day a woman and her young daughter were checking out. The young girl was very cute, so I was paying more attention to her giving her a lollipop and not focusing on the transaction. It turns out I may have given the woman the wrong change and she claimed that I still owed her $5. As I was not sure who was in the wrong, and I didn't want to endure the embarrassment of having the manager come close my register down during a busy time in the store to see if my drawer was off by $5, so I ended up giving her $5 of my own money. It saved me the embarrassment but was equivalent to five hours of work.

Q. Lessons learned?

A. This experience made me realize that you really need to focus on the task at hand. Concentration, attention to detail, and hard work are a must.

Q. Advice for young job seekers?

A. No matter what job you are undertaking be it one that you are excited for, or not so much, give it all your effort, work hard, be disciplined, and it will most likely provide you with a good learning experience. It can teach you a lot about yourself, your work ethic, what you enjoy doing and what you don't, and lead you in the direction of future career paths to pursue.

Chip Will
Owner of Learning Express, a toyshop on Park Street in Andover

At 16, Will began working at the Demoulas Market Basket on Essex Street in Lawrence, earning $2.10 an hour to stock shelves.

Q. Lessons learned?

A. I had a really good boss who taught me a lot about people. He was a relationship guy. Customers walked in and considered him a friend. For instance, there was an elderly housing place nearby, and if the (residents) came short of money, he would pay for them. Or there were characters in the neighborhood and he could diffuse situations. His first reaction was to be nice to them. The outcome would have turned out worse if he wasn't handling it.

Q. Perks of the job?

A. I met my wife there! I still keep up with my former boss. In fact, we just went to a 25th wedding anniversary party of a couple who met while working there.

Q. Has your first job helped you today?

A. I have definitely taken what I learned from my boss and applied it here, especially with the teenage help. Teenagers are always testing limits and I deal with it a lot better based on what he taught me. The kids here know they are important to us.

Q. Advice to young job seekers?

A. Even if you don't like a job or you don't have a good boss, you can learn something. Kids today don't value having a job today as much as they should. Their experience at work is just as valuable than if they are playing sports. They learn a lot of real-life lessons like dealing with people. I tell all the kids to study hard or they'll end up in the toy business.

Sharron L. Senter
Executive vice president of marketing at Visiting Geeks LLC, a computer networking consulting firm in Merrimac

Senter began working as a nurses aide (called "Blue Girls"), when she was 16 at the former Hale Hospital in Haverhill (now the Merrimack Valley Hospital).

Q. What were your wages?

A. I was paid $7 an hour, and banked $50 a week at the credit union for college. I earned enough to pay for the first semester of college on my own.

Q. Memorable moment?

A. I grew up really fast because there is life and death all around at a hospital. One of the most shaking moments happened early on. I was walking around with water for patients. One patient had his call bell on so I went to see him. He was essentially lifeless. He had gone into cardiac arrest right during shift changes and I was the only one on the floor. I yelled out, 'There is a man dying!' All these people showed up and brought him back to life. I learned early on about how delicate life is.

Q. How did your experience affect later career choices?

A. I matured early and took on supervisory roles while I was young. That catapulted my career. I got more promotions and eventually started my own business. I wanted to lead and have an impact on decisions. My experience at the hospital allowed me to be a leader, have an opinion and make a difference.

Q. Advice to teens?

A. That they take any job seriously. You have to get some experience working with the public. At a fast food place, you are dealing with the public, and with angry customers you have to learn how to win them back. If you don't try various jobs, how will you know your passions? It makes sense to do your homework when you're young.

Fred Fehrmann
Co-owner of National Fiber Technology, a Lawrence-based hair and fur fabric manufacturer

Before making products that have appeared in Hollywood feature films, including "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith" and "The Cat in the Hat," Fehrmann worked at the Albert Pick Motel in Nashville, Tenn. He earned $3.75 an hour for hotel maintenance washing dishes, clearing tables and cleaning the pool when he was 14 years old.

Q. Memorable moment?

A. NASCAR drivers Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip and their crews used to stay at the hotel when they raced at Nashville Speedway. They were real nice. Also, we would leave the pool open late into the season. The Canadian farmers would come down to see the Grand Ole Opry after harvest time and they loved to go swimming in what they said was a "warm pool"!

Q. Lessons learned?

A. The maintenance supervisor was patient (enough) when I brought problems that occurred around the motel to his attention. However, I found out that he liked me more when I had thought of two to three workable solutions to that problem before I presented it to him. I also learned a lot about customer service, respecting people's privacy, and making things right the first time.

Q. Did the job impact later career decisions?

A. Absolutely! I now supervise and maintain all of the machinery at NFT.

Q. Advice?

A. Listen. Pay attention. Ask lots of questions. And never lose your sense of humor.