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To Old-Time Techies, Dot-Com Troubles Ignore the Lessons of History

"It's been an illusion the past four or five years," he says. "Everything's happened too easy."

But in the technology sector, which devotes itself to the pursuit of the new, it's particularly easy to forget history. Consider the prevalence of all those networking events for young techies--a phenomenon that irks Goldberg, 53, to no end.

"It just precludes learning from people from whom you can learn the most," he says.

Some high-tech workers "have never seen a market downturn," he says. "They've never been in a situation where the phone wasn't ringing."

The tech sector teaches its denizens similar lessons about risk and reward, no matter the year, the veterans point out.

In a move reminiscent of the job hopping and boomeranging of recent times, Goldberg recalls being wined and dined to leave Mitre Corp. back in 1975. He spent two days at the new company, only to call his boss and ask to return to the firm--and quick.

"It was exactly a month, portal to portal, round trip," he says.

The moral, according to Goldberg: "Pay attention, but most things are not irreversible."

Vint Cerf, senior vice president of Internet architecture and technology at WorldCom Inc., says his biggest challenge has been letting go of the familiar opportunity in favor of one with a riskier flavor. He initially turned down the job managing DARPA, the Defense Department unit where the Internet was born, thinking, "This is one of those jobs where if you screw up, it's really visible."

Cerf, 57, eventually took the position and spent six years there. Years later, he won a prestigious technology medal from President Clinton for his work on the project.


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