I have told many heart-warming and faith filled stories. I have written many stories and posts about my deep and abiding love for my family and friends. I haven’t told too many stories about my time spent as a corporate up-and-comer. For those not familiar with that term, I am talking about a time in my corporate career when I was rising rapidly through the ranks. I was working for a company that had a great system set up for eager professionals in their 20’s who were fresh out of college and super-dedicated to their jobs. I was willing to relocate at the drop of a hat. I learned job requirements rapidly, as I was a quick study. I would set up systems for the tasks so that I could train my replacement quickly. The company quickly identified the ones who were the super stars. I was one of those.
Now I don’t mean I broke through to the super high paying ranks of upper management. Instead, I was in the group that got put in charge of all kinds of fascinating, exciting special projects. That was absolutely perfect for me. At one point I was one of about 20 similar-minded enthusiastic people nationwide that was put in charge of a very cool project. I worked for a computer company that manufactured and sold mainframes and minicomputers. This was in the days in the computer industry before PCs. Various managers of sales branches across the country had been accumulating equipment in ‘secret warehouses’. The special group had to go and ‘seize’ the equipment, have their people refurbish it and then make it available for customer contracts. The branch managers were against the project. Our group had to meet with the branch managers in our particular region, ‘sell the program’ and subsequently arrange to travel to each sales branch and reacquire the equipment.
I was assigned to a region that I had already worked in. So I knew these branch managers to a certain extent. I met with them at their regional meeting and gave a presentation about the program. This was before the days of Power Point. We are talking transparencies and overhead projector. Their I was in my big girl power suit and big girl tie. I had on my platform shoes that made me feel like I was in charge of the world. I was VERY excited about my shiny new pointer to use during my presentation. It was a telescoping pointer, and fit in my inside suit jacket pocket. I know, Katie bar the door, it was really cool. So I was using my pointer and giving just an awesome speech.
I was walking around in the front of the room, maintaining eye contact,giving my speech, and using my pointer to point out different things on the movie screen. I grew more and more excited, walking faster, and gesturing excitedly at the screen with my pointer. As I moved toward the center of the room, I walked quickly—and tumbled. Yep, tumbled, in a partial somersault. My shiny pointer bent, and I came right out of my shoes. Yeh, I really did. One shoe flew in one direction, the other in another direction. Some of the men half stood up and looked over their tables to see if I was hurt. There was a very awkward silence in the room.
Me being me, I jumped right up. I flung my arms in the air like an Olympic gymnast–and said ‘not only can I do that, but I WILL consolidate the equipment in the region. My guys WILL refurbish the equipment. You can count on my dedication—and I will be the consummate professional.
The men in the room were so stunned that they laughed and burst into applause. I laughed heartily as well. You have to be able to laugh at yourself when you make a complete idiot of yourself. They couldn’t resist. They couldn’t maintain their ‘who can trust women’ mentality that they originally held. I guess they figured if I wasn’t going to collapse into a pool of tears after embarrassing myself then maybe I could be in the sandbox with the big boys. They were right, of course. I could handle it just fine. :-). When my husband and I became parents, I left that world behind to be home with my son.
My eagerness to roll with the punches in many situations did not begin that day, of course. Tomorrow perhaps I will tell you a parallel story from my childhood that shows you the seeds of my ‘i can take it’ mindset. I hope my story today brought some laughter and light to your day. It was a very silly moment in my life. What a contrast—walk in the room as ‘corporate hotshot’—finish the presentation as Mary Lou Retton. 🙂