That was my first engagement with SPSS when I applied for the job as a sales rep. I had no idea what I was getting into. A flat mate showed me a book describing SPSS PC + to help me prepare for my interview with the hiring manager. After I opened the book and saw all the formulas, I decided to read just the introduction text on the jacket. Needless to say, I was not well prepared. Somehow, I passed the interview and was invited to come in for three days to work without pay to see if I was a good fit in that environment.
It was fun training to sell SPSS's statistical software — with no clue what I was doing. The colleague who trained me laughed the entire time I was trying to create a sales conversation.
My second day on the job was also my 30th birthday, and I asked if I could leave a bit early — remember, I was working for no pay.
“Yes, no problem,” my colleague replied. After waiting for hours, I thought he would come back to me and let me know when I could leave, but nothing happened. So, I decided to ask again, as the clock struck 5 o’clock. He had completely forgotten about my request, and I was annoyed — how could he forget that I needed to celebrate my 30th birthday?! Grrrr.
My third day on the job, nothing special happened, except that my Windows computer slowed down more and more, and I had no idea why. After a while, I could barely work anymore and told my colleague about the problem. After examining the computer, he determined that MS Word was opened 12 plus times, and the CRM System A/S — some self-designed application with black background and white and blue letters — was opened a dozen times, too. The working memory could not handle the load, so it slowed down. I didn’t know to use Alt+Tab to switch between programs; no one told me.
Something similar happened at a later date, as I tried to write an offer using MS Word. While I was away from my computer, someone turned my font colour to white. As I typed, nothing appeared on the screen! White characters on a white background will do that, apparently. Again, I asked for help, while the team-mates laughed their heads off.
After all they hired me. I passed the working days trial, and the pendulum they used to find out if I was the right person circulated in the correct direction (this was told me much much later). I got the job!
SPSS Germany was located in two 4-5 rooms flats, 1st floor in the Steinsdorfstrasse in Munich, with bathroom, kitchen, balcony. The sales team 4 people - sat in a small room - just big enough for four desks. We got telephones without headset, so you clamp the earpiece between your head and shoulder. A real adventure was calling to Eastern Germany in the early 90s. You needed to type the phone number very very slow, even more slower, and made a break after every number. If you dialed too fast the line was busy and you could start again.
For offer creation I needed to print out every offer I wrote and present it to the colleague to get his corrections.
This was a good thing to start with. He wrote down his corrections, and I implemented them and printed it out again. Next proofreading session. After a week it gets cumbersome. And after a while my trainer found a hard time to find something he could correct. Finally he did not found anything anymore, still he told me, here is a paragraph too much - that was the time I told him, that I think I am good enough to do that on my own in the future. And so I did.
In the early 90s the sales reps did everything - offer creation, cold calling, first level support, and creation of licensecodes using an application in MS Dos. And the first time I heard the word “dongle”. Licensecodes were valid until 2013 which seems to be far far away in the future. And now that’s already 5 years ago.
The sales reps group I worked in, was only allowed to talk to small revenue customers. For clients, which seemed to make more money there was another sales team who sat in a separate room. As soon the amount of revenue got too high you had to hand that over to the other group. That was sometimes frustrating. I also let the sales manager know, that it would be good to know what the software exactly does, and how it works, and if I could have some training on it. But the answer of our sales manager was always, you do not have to understand the software, just sell it. Much later I got the trainings for the software I requested, and I was right, because I helped a lot to improve selling and performance.
SPSS Germany in the beginning was a full service company, from offer and invoice creation, telephone support, training and delivery. But again – the company was located in an appartement building, so whenever there was a delivery, the entire company (except some special people, who always duck out) needed to go outside and help to carry all the stuff inside – from copy paper, books, software - despite of rain, snow, sun.
SPSS was a great place to work. We got free breakfast, lunch and drinks. This time we got an italian cook. Unfortunately I often found her hair in my food. Not what I really expected. But the cooks at SPSS was a very special story.
We got flat hierarchy, but the one and only leader was the founder of SPSS Germany. Whatever she said, you better do not disagree – even if she insulted you, and told that this button on the copy machine is for the stupid. And she had bias against people with the zodiac sign Libra. Some men with that zodiac disappointed her – so were the rumours. But was that anything of my business?
After a long working day it was much appreciated it you stayed longer than 6pm. Not for work. Leadership and the higher sales reps plus some tech people often sat together and drank wine from Frankonia. No matter if you started work at 7am because you were super busy - that did not count at all - everything after 6pm was gold and much appreciated - and if you had plans to keep your job you would better join from time to time. So you sat there, listened to their stories, and hoped you could go as soon as possible without getting into much trouble.
SPSS grew more and more, and at some point we needed to move into bigger rooms. So after 1,5 years we moved to real office rooms just a few streets away in the so called Motorama. I was really happy they did engage a moving company. I suspected that we need to pack our stuff ourselves.
Motorama was the legendary milestone in the history of SPSS Germany. From an upcoming company, which distributed software in the daytime, to a party location after work. Now we got plenty of space, and a huge terrace to sit outside, for after-work-beer, barbeque lunch, icebar parties and snowball fights.
Nearly every week we found any reason to party. Birthdays, revenue, good weather. We got an extra fridge in the canteen, full of beer and wine. And if we ran out of drinks, the grocery stores in the basement floor were still open until 8pm - you just make sure you did not miss this deadline. Most of the time the parties ended at 21.00 h, but some never stopped. Sometimes you could find your colleagues sleeping below their desks, because they could not make their way home anymore, and missed the last train.
After such a night you need to start slow into your day – so not to forget out smokers room. This was a tiny little room, big enough for a beer bench and a little palm tree. That’s where you got your first cigarette after taken your free coffee, and spent a little time to read the newspaper. Or complete the crosswords. The little palm found a hard time in this room – the leaves were coloured yellow from all the smoke, but it survived it all. It has now a place at IBM.