Back in the early 1990s, toward the end of the administration of George H. W. Bush and into the beginning of the Clinton administration, we were in a bit of a recession. It was not as bad as things are right now but, to someone who had just graduated from college, it was a tough environment. Even the US Government had a hiring freeze on. There was just no work to be had.
In the summer of 1993, I was bartender at the Chili’s in Waldorf, MD. I had about 8 years of restaurant experience and a freshly minted degree in Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and very little else to recommend me in the face of so many college graduates and laid-off people with experience also looking for work.
One of our regulars was a guy named Mark. He wasn’t my regular so much as Ed’s, who was the senior bartender that I worked with on Fridays. He and his girlfriend (future wife) would come in for dinner and have a beer or two while waiting for a table. Waldorf was much smaller then and Chili’s was really the only game in town at the time.
Mark would also come in maybe once or twice a week after work and have a beer or two during the week. It was during one of these visits that he told me about a contract his company had just gotten digitizing Army bases for the chemical weapons treaty. I mentioned my degree and expressed interest if he was hiring and, a few days later, sent him my resume. Until he got my resume, he didn’t know my last name and I didn’t know his.
Eventually, I landed that job working for Mark Quasius at Applied Ordnance Technology (AOT). It got me started in a field that I had heard mentioned once, in passing, during a lecture in college: geographic information systems. During that job, I got exposed to AutoCAD, MapInfo, ARC/INFO (6.something), and ArcView 2.0. I got to do some programming in AML, MapBasic and a little bit of Clipper. I met a lot of really good and patient people, did some cool stuff, made some mistakes, learned from it all and moved on after about three years.
During my time at AOT, Mark got assigned to the Crystal City office and we didn’t work directly together as much. After I left, I lost touch with him but usually heard when he changed jobs and heard that he was having health problems a few years back. Yesterday, I learned that Mark Quasius passed away on August 9, too young, at the age of 45 after a long battle with cancer. Here is his obituary.
When I was leaving AOT, Mark told me the story of how I got that first job. Essentially, he had a big stack of resumes from applicants, many of whom looked stronger on paper. He felt he had something of an impression about me from our interactions at Chili’s and decided to take a chance on me. That decision earned him some quizzical looks from the owners but they left the decision up to him.
So Mark Quasius gave me my first “real job” in the summer of 1993 and set me off on a career that I didn’t expect. For that, I will always be grateful to him. At the risk of sounding cliche, he should have had more time. Goodbye, Mark and thank you.