The economy was worse than ever. All the new college grads were moving away from Boston because there were no jobs to be had around here. They were checking out the cool ‘new’ cities like Seattle and Portland, Oregon. (Grunge was just starting!) Job postings in marketing didn’t seem to exist. You couldn’t even get internships because the economy was that tight. (Today’s college grads I fear can relate a bit.)
No job -- Volunteer!
I decided to volunteer my time in the thing I really wanted to do in order to get it on my resume – Public Relations. I called the college where I got my bachelor’s and offered to work for them for free in the PR department. They said ‘Sure!” Ends up, I only worked for them for one day.
Help Wanted Ad Delivers -- EMC Calls
EMC called as a result of a help wanted ad I answered for a PR Account Manager. The ad said EMC was in the ‘computer storage’ business. I thought they made cardboard boxes for PCs … but I didn’t care. It was a PR job! I figured I’d sell myself like crazy to get in the door, stay there for a year to get a legitimate looking PR job on my resume and then move on to a real company!
[Necessary commercial plug]
For the record, EMC does not make cardboard boxes. We do information storage and management. We “assure information is available securely, quickly, and easily, anywhere at anytime.” We are a technology innovation company – home to really smart people who develop software; make intelligent hardware that serve as “electronic filing cabinets” (I tell my mom that) for the world’s digital bits; and provide professional services to help our customers manage their information like an asset. Learn more! Visit www.EMC.com. [End commercial.]
“Why are you hiring?”
During the interview process I asked my future boss why EMC was looking for a PR Manager. He said, “We’re just about to miss the September quarter. Shareholders who recently bought our stock are going to be mad at us. Customers who bought our product could be mad at us. Oh, and we’re going to have a layoff, so they’ll be some mad employees too.” (Silent mind moment: “Is that all?”) He continued, “We’re looking at you because we think you’ll pick up PR and this business fast enough, AND you know how to do advertising. We figure we’ll make you our in-house ad agency and the 10% commission we’ll save by placing our own ads should cover your $25,000 salary.”
On my first day my boss handed me a pile of tech pubs and told me to read up … not to worry that I had no tech experience. He said it will work like osmosis. I’d simply wake up one day and “Get it.” That’s what happened.
The “E” in Entrepreneur.
My first week on the job our Founder and CEO, Dick Egan, issued what would be the last news release he ever personally wrote for the company. As I recall, it contained just one sentence. “EMC will not make its fiscal Q3, 1991 quarter.” No explanation. No con call (no one did those yet). No estimated financial results. (Insert life wisdom: I later came to realize that for successful people who love winning, admitting any type of failure is especially painful and hard. Imagine having to issue a news release on it? Add to that most entrepreneurial CEOs think of their company as “their company,” whether it is public or not. … Having shareholders is something newly public CEOs need to get used to.) When one door closes another opens as they say. That EMC “failure” was the best thing that ever happened to me (and perhaps to EMC given the stringent quality procedures and customer service religion that swiftly followed this period in time). Not only because it brought me to them and them to me but because it introduced me to my next job – Investor Relations – something I lived and loved for the next 11 years of my life. To be continued … -
Has a tough situation at your company or on your job actually served to improve your life or career?