The summer of 1988, school was done and dusted. I attended a Youth Training Scheme, paying school leavers a pittance to work and 'train'. At 16 I was earning an amazing £27 a week and I paid half back in rent to my parents! There were old IBM XT machines, a few non working Apple systems, and a pile of old ICL terminals in the toilets. I learnt about Dbase, Supercalc and Wordstar, along with the concepts of basic office technology.
I moved on to Minerva Software in Sidwell Street. still within the YTS. The interview was one of the first I had to endure, and I was very nervous. I wore a black pin-stripe suit and a yellow tie, in which I felt most uncomfortable. During the interview, the Managing Director told me that I’d have to cut my hair and ‘lose the Devon accent’ - this would be classed as discrimination nowadays. Well I must have cut my hair, and tried to talk more refined, as I became the most junior member of staff, making coffee, sending out literature, duplicating disks and other tasks. In a short time, training at the Itec became non-existant, and I was left to get on with it at Minerva.
I thought it was a 'cool' place to work. I was on the 'middle' floor -below us was a furniture shop – Stoneman & Bowkers. Upstairs the programmers lived. I swear some of them ate, slept and woke up there. I didn't entirely understand what went on there, it all seemed very serious and important. Things were happening with the development of 'something', and I felt important to be part of it. At the top was the kitchen where coffee was made, and manuals and product cases stored. I'd escape up there for lunch and use the phone to call friends, without getting caught by the boss. It was the warmest room in the whole building, the sun shone through, and the heat from the rest of the building seem to linger here. It smelt musty though, and the décor was tired. The cheap brown cord carpet was long past it's sell by date. The steps creaked as you stood on them, as did certain floorboards too – but I learnt where those were.
Across the street I can remember the post office, but this sadly closed down. We were one of it's bigger customers with a daily posting of letters and packets, although this wasn't my job – except when the post girl was ill.
Time moved on and I found myself an established member of the company, but still on YTS money. At least I was until I decided to ask for a pay rise in a drunken state at my 18th birthday party, which also doubled as a Minerva Christmas staff party. We were at an Italian restaurant called Ginos Restaurant above the Ironbridge. I don't really remember much about it - just reminded of it for the next few months! But it worked - I was called in the following morning, in no fit state for work, and was given a 'proper' job with 'proper' wages. Not that they were, but it seemed like it at the time – this was my first career breakthrough! I was taking on new responsibilities, writing manuals, giving technical support, and evaluating new software.
Minerva left its cramped Sidwell Street offices and moved to a plush house in Baring Crescent a lovely Georgian terrace overlooking a private park. We all had a bit more space there. It was a cold building, really icy in the winter, with a spooky cellar. Shortly after moving in, the boss said there was a £10 note down there, so we all scurried around in the cellar looking for it. Then the lights went out... and there was no tenner!
After three years, I left to pursue my own business.
Minerva was over Stoneman & Bowker Ginos Restaurant, Bartholomew Street The chimney for the malt kiln at Ginos
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