Never Hurts to Ask—How I Got to Work at Bell Labs


As with all college students nearing their graduation date, the matter of finding my first full time job became part of my daily routine. However, in the Spring term of 1984, I took a chance during an interview; this chance turned into a wonderful summer job experience that has stayed with me throughout my engineering career.

Like all electrical engineering students, I knew the reputation of Bell Labs, the research branch of Ma Bell—AT&T. I had created a file at the career center which included professor’s letter of recommendation and a resume. This file would be used by recruiters to identify students to interview. Bell Labs came to campus to recruit and I was thrilled to receive an interview. I wore my brown interview suit and met with the recruiter, Howard S. The discussion seemed to go well and he was making some concluding remarks like “next steps will be…” Here’s my chance, I thought–“What about a summer job?” I reminded him that I didn’t graduate until December and was available for the summer. He thought a moment and told me he would look into it.

While I could return to NBS and work with George and Dean on the ellipsometer I knew it would be cool to work at Bell Labs. In fact, a number of my classmates had already gone on to work there, so I would also have company. A few weeks after the interview I received a call from a Jim Morris about a summer position, which I naturally accepted (link to the Bell labs doc posting.) Smiling, I told my professor, Bill Levine, that I got the job. He told me that Howard told him that he was impressed with me. I’m thinking that it was more than my academic record and that my attitude of “it never hurts to ask” for something you want, was part of it.

I found out more about how that summer job opportunity came to be at a lunch with Jim Morris’ manager. At a lunch with this manager and some of the other summer workers, the manager asked if we had any questions. I asked, “How did I get this summer position?” He answered that Howard had called him, said he had a bright student, and asked if his organization would have an opportunity. Howard also took a chance: he asked–and that’s how I landed a summer job at Bell Labs. You see, it never hurts to ask.

Have a productive day,

Anne Meixner

Dear Reader–What memory or question does this piece spark in you? How did you land that summer job? Have you taken a chance to ask for something at work? Please share your comments or stories below. You, too, can write for The Engineers’ Daughter–See Contribute for more information.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Stephanie says:

    A good reminder to all!

    1. Anne says:

      yeah it’s not just an engineer thing.

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