19 - JOB OFFERS GALORE
by BERNARD A HODSON
The work I was doing attracted considerable attention and I began to receive a number of requests from various parts of the world to see if I would be interested in joining them. I have already mentioned the position I was offered at Aldermaston, the hydrogen bomb site. I also expected that many of my staff would receive job offers and I encouraged them to pursue them, but none did. I would, at least once a year, suggest to them they look around to advance their own career, offering to help them in any way that I could, but no one budged, I had zero turnover except in the "marriage chair". I had two secretaries, one of Ukrainian heritage, and a second secretary who worked in what came to be known as the "marriage chair" because every incumbent lasted only a few months, after which marriage called.
After I left the new Director insisted that every decision go through him and staff had no freedom for initiative. Within a very short time of his arrival the staff formed a union, went on strike and sabotaged the computer equipment. Many of them also left, some of whom I was able to assist with good references. One went to work at the University in Cork, Ireland, another took a senior position in the Computer Centre at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, others joined government facilities. The new Director was another example of the poor doctoral education at Universities, which rarely equips them for the real world.
One of the early attempts at my seduction was the offer of a full professorship at the University of Saskatchewan, where one of the computer pioneers, Dr. A. D. Booth contacted me to pursue the matter. I think I visited Saskatoon, where the University was located, but did not follow through. Another position offered was at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence, Kansas. The interview consisted of my presenting a paper, if I recall it was on the predecessor of GENETIX. The day I arrived in Lawrence was also the day that Sputnik was launched and we spent part of the evening looking at this marvel orbiting across the Kansas sky. At the time many US Universities were looking for staff in computer science and another offer I received was from the University of Texas, in Austin, Texas. At the time I was not very enthused about a move to the USA so did not accept either of the American offers.
A more intriguing possibility, which I also did not accept, was to head the medical computing facility at the well known medical school in Columbia, Missouri. They were well regarded medically and were doing considerable research into medical automation, including some interesting work in computer aided radiology. I presented a paper on the work I was doing in hospitals, which was very well received. I had also been invited earlier, by my former UNIVAC colleague, Rocky Martino, to join him at Mauchly Associates (Mauchly, with Eckert was the designer of the UNIVAC) where they were doing consulting in Critical Path Method (CPM) and its related technique called PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique).
I received an invitation to give a paper on hospital automation in Eindhoven, Holland, to medical people and to members of the well known Philips company, whose headquarters is there. I gave a well received paper, receiving a pleasantly surprising honorarium, at which point Philips asked me if I would consider joining their organisation. I agreed to think about it and they said I could come back to Holland for a week of interviews. On returning to Canada I felt that I should at least pursue the matter, returning to Holland for a series of interviews a few weeks later.
During the week of interviews I met a considerable number of managers within the organisation, and learned of the unique management structure within the company. For any senior position they have two managers, one for the technical side and one for the business side. These two managers work together. On paper it would seem not to be workable but apparently it was very successful. I was concerned that I would have some problems in managing people when I did not speak their language but company policy was that if there was one person in a group who did not speak Dutch then conversation had to be in English. They also showed me where they had built clandestine radios during the German occupation and mentioned the terrible stress that existed on their staff in case it was found out. The persons responsible for my interview, Drs. Combee and Huygens, had themselves been involved with the development of X-ray equipment.
I was offered a very healthy salary for those days (1968) of 67,000 guilders, which is even quite a respectable salary in these days. On top of that they would have provided full transport of housing effects, as well as moving costs for the family. Two positions were offered, both very tempting. One was to set up for them company a world wide hospital automation capability, for the company, the other to head up their computing science research effort. For the latter position I would be given a full day shift on an IBM 360/50 computer, to which I could add anything I desired and do whatever I felt was useful, including the support staff for these endeavours. A later chapter outlines why I declined their offer, much to their disappointment.
Yet another offer resulted from my seminar to London and Cambridge computer scientists at London University. Some time after that seminar I was taken to lunch by Dr Wolfenden, from London University. He advised me that the University was upgrading a position from that of Reader to that of Full Professor and would I be willing to have my name put forward for the position. I said that had I known one month earlier my answer would have been a resounding yes but, unfortunately, I had just made a commitment which I could not break. At the University I would have been actively involved with their state of the art (for that time) supercomputer.