'Old-Timer' in a Demanding Domain
By Mark Leibovich
You can tell Andy Newton works for an on-the-move Internet company. As he sits in borrowed office space, he is often interrupted by people who want the room. "We're always scrambling here," Newton says.
It is the day-to-day reality at Network Solutions Inc., the Herndon firm that engineers much of the Internet's address, or "domain," registration process. Network Solutions is growing at the same hyperspeed as the industry, becoming one of the area's most closely watched companies.
A software engineer with crew cut and goatee, Newton came to Washington from his native Georgia in 1997. He last worked at Automated Logic Corp., an Atlanta firm that specializes in heating and ventilation control systems for large buildings.
Newton's year-and-a-half stint at Network Solutions makes him an "old-timer" by the standards of Internet companies.
He typically finds himself the employee with the most seniority in meetings. When new people arrive, an almost-daily occurrence, he's frequently displaced to a new office.
"Sometimes you get doubled up, sometimes you get your own office, sometimes you get a window," he says with a soft Southern accent.
Newton is part of the region's growing technology sector. About 250,000 are employed at the area's high-tech firms about twice the number of sales clerks in the region. And like Newton, the region's computer professionals are young (72 percent of them are younger than 45) and well compensated, earning an average of $87,200 a year.
Newton's job assignment changes a lot. He recently completed a World Wide Web site that lets customers register domain names online. The project required balancing competing interests: The finance people needed the site to accept certain international credit cards, the marketing people wanted a certain "look and feel" and the "usability consultant" had strong ideas about user-friendliness. Newton's work requires both diplomatic and technical acumen.
But the upsides are many, beginning with compensation. Newton is paid well. Like many people here, he holds options to buy thousands of shares in Network Solutions stock, which closed Friday at $80, down sharply from its 52-week high of $153.75 just last month but up from just $10.50 in September.
Newton sleeps six hours a night, bikes in his spare time (more than 4,000 miles last year) and attends Catholic church every Sunday. Last month, he cashed in a block of options and bought his first home, a white brick Colonial where he lives with his wife, cat and four computers. He paid $250,000 for the house. For that same amount in Georgia, Newton said, he could get "a house with a seven-car garage." He's exaggerating, but the point is clear.
Still, Newton spends much of his time at the office, typically 11 hours to 14 hours a day. This includes an against-traffic commute in his 1994 Saturn.
Despite the long hours, life is good. Newton plays soccer twice a week at lunch with some pals. That kind of workplace fun is a new experience for him. So are stock options.
"I had heard of [stock options] before I came here," he said. "But I never really knew what they were."
Experience can be a rich teacher indeed.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company