What was your first student job?
I had two very different student jobs. This was back in 1985. I was 15 years old, the legal working age at the time. Apart from the pay I was going to get, I wanted to discover different jobs to get an idea of my future. I started at Cerametal, which is now Ceratizit [editor’s note: a manufacturer of hard material products]. My job was to put the stock away.
Then I worked at KBL Bank in the coupon department. I remember my first day very well. I was presented with a trolley with the equivalent of 17,854 coupons that had to be recounted. Of course, an initial count had been made and it was correct. I don’t know what would have been worse: finding a mistake and starting the count again from scratch, or realising that the work I was doing was obviously not necessary. As you can imagine, by the end of the summer I had come to the conclusion that I had no desire to work in industry or in a bank. At the same time, however, I already had my “fanzine” that I edited in high school, which was my real passion.
How much did you earn at your student jobs?
Frankly, I don’t remember much about it. The minimum pay for students was fixed by a percentage of the minimum wage and varied according to age. For a month’s work, I think I must have received about 16,000 francs, which is about €400 today. I probably used this money to buy my first sound system and some vinyl records.
What was your first “real” job?
Ultimately, I’ve only had one real job in my life: that of a publisher. I chose it when I was eighteen and left high school to work full-time on my first professional magazine. It had become really difficult to juggle classes and school on the one hand, and clients, writing articles, doing layouts and distributing the magazines in town on the other.
What was your salary in those days?
I don’t know if we can talk about a salary. As a very young freelancer, you don’t get a “salary”. You juggle with income and expenses and hope that the balance is mostly positive. Obviously, this was not good news for my parents, but over the years it has paid off.
Today, what would you say to a young Mike Koedinger handing you a CV for a first job?
I would give him a challenge, in order to see a young person in action who is not afraid to take initiative and who is not afraid of the work needed to see it through.