First Job

iMahal Interview Series: Rahul Roy
August 22, 2002

iMahal: This sounds like your first ethical dilemma in the US. How did you handle it?

Roy: Well that’s when the business side of my mind came in. I said, “Look, I think I can. Do you have the manuals?” He said, “Oh yes, all the books.”

So I said, “Okay, give me the books. Are you expecting me to run this right away?” He said, “No, no. Last year we hired 3 guys, trained by IBM; they were here for 6 months and they could not make it work.”

I asked, “Are you sure the machine works?” He said, “Yes, but IBM sends technicians on an hourly basis to help us, and they are too expensive. Also, we need somebody to migrate the old accounting system onto the new system.”

I asked, “How much time are you willing to give me if the last guys did not work out after 6 months?” He said, “That’s a good question. Okay, let’s put it this way. If I see that your efforts are there and you’re making some progress I can live with 6 months.”

..my employers were very impressed..

I thought with 6 months I should be able to make a clone out of this. That’s how much confidence I had. Within 2 weeks time the machine was running.There were some bugs that I worked out with IBM tech support. And then keep in mind that my CA knowledge really helped me. I had to check some things in American accounting books, but the basic fundamentals were the same. And my employers were very impressed.

iMahal: This sounds like a good beginning in Silicon Valley. You must have been very pleased.

Roy: Yes and no. My first salary was $22,000 in 1984. And then I figured out that on that salary I could not afford the apartment I wanted to move into. I had a Nissan Sentra, the first car I bought with my own money.

..I can’t afford to live here..

So I went to my boss and said, “Look I have to go back, I can’t afford to live here. I came to this country to do better, but now I can’t even afford to bring my wife to live with me here on this salary.” This is after 90 days on the job. So my boss asks me how much I need to make. Here is the funny part. I did all the math and had written out a detailed presentation — here is what I have done for you; here is what I can do for you and save you money — I had a full laid out plan. My boss was very impressed with my efforts. She showed my analysis to her husband (the company was started and run by a husband and wife team) and he says, “Oh, he is asking for $28,000.” Of course in retrospect this was a very small increment to them, but it was big to me. They agreed to the salary increase.

In the next 2 years when I was there Kinetic Systems bought the company and my salary jumped to $36,000 and then $54,000. I was then making more than my brother, who had been in the US for 10 years.