Can you trace back a major life decision to a specific point and time?
When it comes to my career, I can. I like to think that it chose me.
I recently uncovered a crumpled up piece of paper in my desk while I was cleaning last week. It was the original Help Wanted ad from my local newspaper dated Dec 18th, 1992.
“Wanted: Sales assistant for innovative software company in PA/NJ area. Must have some computer knowledge and a strong will to succeed in a fast-paced industry. Call J. @ xxx-xxx-xxxx.”
Simple and somewhat intriguing. So I called J., a sweet Southerner from Georgia who agreed to meet me for an interview. We met the week after the New Year, and she offered me the job on the spot. I confessed that my computer knowledge was limited (EVERYONE’s was in 1992), but she said she had a good feeling about me.
And so I entered the corporate world on that day. With only my bachelor’s degree and a two-years post graduate work history that included retail and a stint at my Dad’s construction company. What she saw in me, I have no idea.
My first day, I was assigned a HUGE desktop computer and a cube to sit in. I had never seen the Windows Operating System in my life, in fact, the only time I touched a real computer was in college to print out assignments (and it was JUST a Word Processing machine). And a little bit of dabbling in MS-DOS. That was college in 1986-1990.
In 1992, the Internet was still a foreign concept. Few companies were using e-mail systems, and the company I worked for had only one competitor. But we were good, we were the “Google” of the time. Our competitor hated us because our e-mail and desktop software was infinitely better. And in the early 90’s companies were banging down our doors for software and services. Our door.
That translated to profit. A lot. And one of the perks of my job was I also served as the person who set up team meetings and conferences. I had no budget. I traveled everywhere with my team. Exclusive hotels, spas, locations. Dinners at exclusive restaurants. It was an embarrassment of riches, and even though my paycheck was minuscule compared to the sales folks, I got to ride the wave with them. I got Tiffany jewelry and clocks for awards. I met celebrities. I saw and did more in those years than I would ever in my life.
In my twenties, no less… heaven.
Then, in the mid-90’s we were acquired by a conservative technology company. We kicked and screamed for years until they finally completed the acquisition. Some of my co-workers jumped ship to start their own companies, some of us hung on. Some failed in their start-ups, some came back. Some retired. Software sales was a dog-eat-dog world, and the mantra was work hard, play hard… 24/7.
It was exciting to be a participant in the revolution of the Internet, Messaging, and Collaboration. I went from a naive young girl with no computer experience to an expert… trained in the trenches with my teammates.
As time went on, the climate changed. The perks went away. The travel went away. I lost my job no less than 3 times, and was lucky enough to find another position within the company each time.
17 years later, I am still hanging on.
And I can’t believe that this all started from a 5-line Help Wanted ad.
And J., who saw that light in me and took a chance on a young and inexperienced girl with no career direction.
What decisions have you made that permanently altered your life’s path?