January 13, 2005
It was my husband’s birthday.
There was something surreal about driving north on the snow-covered NJ Turnpike with my mate of 38 years, en route to Manhattan for a meeting (interview); in the dead of winter, on a
Bob dutifully waited at “W” hotel, while I went to my meeting, treating himself to a birthday
breakfast. Rushing across Lexington, I deftly evaded a pigeon fluttering toward me, and managed to keep my footing on the icy crosswalk. Inside, my boot heels clicked conspicuously, echoing loudly as I approached the security guard on the other end of the (otherwise empty) lobby.
After signing in and posing for an ID photo, I stuck the self-adhesive name tag to the front of my well-pressed Pendleton suit. The elevator door squeaked closed and I was alone (praying that I wouldn’t be stuck in that claustrophobic box), mulling over the events that had led to this unlikely moment:
I’d undertaken the job search in October, and despite having taken early retirement from my career as Director of Supply Chain and Technical Procurement with ‘Big Pharma’, at 59 I wasn’t ready to retire. I didn’t ‘need’ another high level, stressful position that would require travel, and corporate politics. I’d already fulfilled my career aspirations, with all that implied. I’d surveyed the local job market and decided to lower my sights instead, toward a mid-management position. After all, I was a grandmother of two boys: My priorities had clearly shifted.
Friday had been a whirlwind round of interviews, that was to have to culminated in a meeting with the CEO. But he was ‘unavailable’ and I left, convinced that if they’d been interested, he would have made time for me.
Late that night, I received a phone call:
“Sure…Sunday morning…No problem….I’ll be there at ten am.” (I must be crazy)!
The elevator came to an abrupt stop and the door opened. The CEO was wearing an open-collared shirt and jeans, in stark contrast to my interview attire. The office was dark and quiet. We sat at one end of a large, oval table in a glass-walled conference room, called The Terrarium (I laugh now, as I recall that detail).
He was a likable, enthusiastic man, about 15 years my junior, and he spent the next two hours putting forth his vision, engaging in animated conversation, and using my three page resume as a white board to capture and embellish his idea maps. The result was worthy of a strategic marketing report. I had no concept of time passing. Neither did he.
No, I didn’t get the job; Manager of Contracts. Instead, I was offered a previously non-existent slot, that, within a few months, evolved into the Chief Procurement Officer position, reporting to (you guessed it) the ‘Sunday-in-Jeans” CEO. I spent the next seven years exploring previously untapped skill sets, while applying my construction, engineering and supply chain experience in ways and places that I never would have imagined.
On a snowy morning in December 2011, I faced him to give notice of my intentions. When he saw me in the doorway, he flashed a smile in my direction, launching into (now familiar) animated conversation. Then he stopped, realizing that I had something to tell him. Surprised at first, he refused to take my letter of resignation, pushing it back at me, unopened. Finally, he just let it rest, unopened, on his desk.
During the weeks and months that followed, his surprise gave way to acceptance and sincere well-wishes for a happy retirement.
On March 5, 2012, I retired from the corporate world, but I will never forget that very unusual and fortuitous meeting in the bleak mid-winter of 2005.
Though this post is the latest addition to my series, “An Engineer’s Journal”, I was inspired by “The Sunday Whirl“, suggesting that the writer incorporate the given words (a Wordle) into a post.