It was 10:30PM and Felix had finally arrived home after a long day at the office. As he entered his apartment, the amber glow of his machine's new message light greeted him. He hit play.

"Felix! Where have you been?!" the voice opened with faux-casual enthusiasm, "listen - I've got a great gig for you! It's a legal services firm, and they're looking for a fresh-thinking problem-solver to help them leverage their IT infrastructure to maximum efficiency. Give me a call, we'll make it happen! Ciao."

Felix's current employer was staring down the barrel of a long and potentially messy merger with a much larger behemoth. As much as he despised talking to yet another recruiter, he thought it prudent to investigate the opportunity as a lifeboat should the need arrive to jump ship. After a brief phone interview, Felix set-up an in-person interview for the following week.

Upon his arrival, Felix was led into a waiting room of sorts with a few couches and a coffee table stacked with years-old trade magazines. It was nothing out of the ordinary, except for the two others in the room waiting with him. They, too, were interviewing for the job. One was a clean-cut, thirty-something man in formal atire, and the other was a young blonde whose dropped head and somber expression lead Felix to wonder how she came to be here.

"Sounds like it's going to be a tough gig to get," Felix stated to nobody in particular, hoping that the ensuing banter might help him gain some measure of his adversaries. The 20-something shifted her eyes toward him and Felix responded in kind.

"Have you had many computer jobs" came her rather meek inquiriy.

As Felix briefly detailed his studies and resulting employment, her eyes rapidly enveloped in a glaze of cluelessness. Jolted from her stasis by a piercing silence, she exclaimed "that sounds hard," before lowering her head and returning to the copy of "People" she had requisitioned from the coffee table.

His male adversary glanced at the blonde for a moment, an expression of pity painted upon his face. "My current gig pays okay," he opened, "but management has just changed. Unfortunately the new manager is rather hands-on and would much prefer to maintain our existing investment in Access, despite the fact that we outgrew Access several versions ago. My project lead almost had them convinced to let us try MySQL, but the new guy convinced management that Access just needs to be 'optimized for our scenario' I've spent enough of my life trying to optimize Access, so here I am. I don't know that I'll get this one though, as I don't have a degree."

Satisfied that these people posed no threat, Felix spent the next few minutes considering questions that may be asked of him and forming responses. Several minutes later, a senior suit from human resources arrived to escort them on a tour of the facility and conduct a final resume check. This was the last stop for the well-dressed fellow, as the company insisted on a degree. This left only Felix and the 20-something to be vetted by a mysterious figure the suit referred to only as The Guru.

The Brains of the Operation

"My name..." he began slowly, "is Marcus... It is my job to make sure this company actually runs." He paused for a moment, reveling in the ecstasy he'd just achieved courtesy of the sound of his own voice. "The IT department forms the vital organs of this company, and the Head of IT and I are the two hemispheres of its brain. One of you will be its hands. While you may write the code, it is up to the brain, not the hands, to decide what action to take."

The Guru dramatically stood up behind his desk and began the questioning. His eyes locked squarely on the 20-something. "Would R-A-I-D help us?"

While Felix considered what such a vague question would mean, the 20-something's quizzical look rapidly sublimated from trepidation to utter hopeless defeat. After allowing her to suffer a second, he motioned to the suit to remove her.

As she was led out, Felix's eyes fell upon The Guru's desk. Atop a pile of papers sat an invoice to Inititech Consulting with a four-figure total signed by "Chief Programmer Marcus McNaulty" and "Head of IT, Marcus McNaulty Senior". Felix knew that name, but from where?

He quickly glanced around the office. As his eyes scanned over the back of Marcus' plush leatherette chair, he recognized a jacket with the very distinctive insignia of his university. And that's when it hit him. It was the same Marcus McNaulty who dropped out of computer studies to pursue a career in welding. The same Marcus McNaulty who proclaimed that building things in the real world was "much easier and more important than computers would ever be." And of course, the same Marcus McNaulty who was rumored to never have passed an exam. Felix had not heard from Marcus after that, though it was pretty obvious that the "Head of IT" McNaulty played a part in hiring the "Chief Programmer" McNaulty.

Not a moment later, an older suit walked in the room and beckoned The Guru. "Excuse me," Marcus said, "the Head of IT and I need to consult." The two hemispheres left the room, leaving Felix to wonder what the now-complete brain was pondering.

Fifteen mintues later, The Guru reappeared. "We would like to offer you the position of Junior Programmer," he said, "do you have any questions before we get the formalities under way?"

That was actually the first question Felix was asked by The Guru. Not sure where to even start, he opened with "how big is the development team?"

"At the moment, we hire consultants to do our development work. You would be our first Junior Developer. You will report to us both directly so we can review your code before it goes into production."

The words Junior Developer echoed in Felix's mind. He remembered the countless hours spent in class hand-holding The Guru through a simple linked-list implementation and wondered how such a person became qualified to review other people's code, let alone earn the title The Guru.

"And what would I be working on?" Felix inquired, not entirely sure he wanted to know the answer.

"Various things," he responded, "at the moment, we have about 10TB of data and access times are very slow. Your assignment is to fix that by building a SAN. You'll be given the full support of the company and a budget of $10,000. This is mission critical so you'll have to work to a strict two week deadline."

Felix was surprised with not only the specificity of the answer, but also the answer itself. Though he had never built a SAN, he remembered the network admin at his current job had spent a lot longer than two weeks on the planning alone, and the total cost was at least a magnitude more than budget proposed by The Guru.

While Felix thought this through, the Chief Programmer asked, "have you any further questions?"

Shrugging, Felix responded, "no, not really."

The Guru smiled broadly and asked "so, will you be our hands?"

Felix hesitated for a moment, forming the most diplomatic answer he could. "Thank you for the offer, but I don't think I'd be a good fit for this position."

"What?!" Marcus shrieked in frustration, "but we didn't even discuss pay!"

"Okay," he paused, "what's the pay?"

The Guru answered with a figure that was about half of what Felix was currently earning. "We have a salary cap for Junior Programmers," he added in a very matter-of-fact tone.

Still not compelled by the offer, Felix explained that he wanted to focus on development and this seemed like a step back, especially with regards to pay.

Completely flustered, The Guru got up and stormed out of his own office. "You're making a big mistake," he angrily said as he left the room. Fortunately, not a moment later, the HR suit entered to escort Felix out.

It was the last Felix heard from the company... until later that evening. "Hey buddy," a cheerfully fake voice on his answering machine said, "I heard your interview went G-R-E-A-T great! Good work, buddy. Call me, and we'll set this up. Ciao."

And then the next day, "Hello Felix, this is Marcus. I wanted to follow up and see what we could do to get started."

And then the day after that, "Felix-man! Hey, listen, I haven't heard from you, and Marcus mentioned you might be interested? Let me know. Ciao."

In all, Felix had three additional conversations with The Guru, and in none of those was he willing to make a better offer. Months later, after Felix's job survived his company's merger, he took a quick peek at the legal service firm's website; turns out they had gone belly-up and were in bankruptcy liquidation. No word on whether the leatherette chair or the insignia'd jacket were on the auction block as well.