Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thank you Sun for the babies

In the summer of 1999 I was at my wits' end. I was working for a start-up localization company in Monterey, California and the overtime was killing me.

It wasn't just normal overtime, it was unexpected unplanned "honey-i-don't-know-when-I'll-be-home-go-ahead-and-go-to-bed" overtime.

For example a client would call me at 4pm and complain about a delivery and suddenly the whole team had to stay in the office until we fixed it, which could sometimes be 10pm or midnight or 1am or God knows how many times I saw the sun rise through the windows of our conference room.

Now I'll admit that I might have been able to manage our clients' expectations a little bit better and spared myself and our team some of that over time but I was a green project manager and these nuances were beyond me at the time.

When I say green, I mean really green. This localization company took me in with absolutely no experience in project management and they taught me a LOT in 18 months. Seriously, when I walked through the doors on my first day there, I didn't understand how a computer's file system worked. I didn't know how to save things to disks. I didn't know the difference between Microsoft Office and Windows. It was bad. But they took me in and they taught me and for that, I will be forever grateful.

In exchange for everything they gave me I managed $1.6 million dollars worth of projects for them in 18 months. Not bad for a green project manager.

But in the summer of 1999 I turned 30 and my biological clock was ticking. Buddy and I had been married for two years and we wanted a family. But my job was so demanding that I could not imagine how a baby would fit into the picture.

When this sudden overtime would rear its ugly head I would often wonder, "What if I needed to pick a baby up at daycare right now?" I had heard of daycares that charged a dollar for every minute you were late picking your kid up and I calculated what it would cost if I picked my baby up at 2am.

It would be $480.

I looked around me and wondered how my colleagues managed to care for a family and work in this environment.

And it hit me.

None of them had families. Seriously, not one single person had children under the age of 18. Except for Stayce and she was a wonder woman. And I wouldn't even write about her except one of my colleagues from that localization company will read this post and leave me a comment reminding me about Stayce. And I would feel bad if she thought I had forgotten her.

Anyway, that's when I realized that if we were going to start a family, I needed to get out of this job.

Because there is no Wonder Woman hiding inside of me.

I applied for a job with one of our clients, whose office was an hour north in Silicon Valley. I went for an interview one Monday and asked the hiring manager to be sure not to tell my current employer that I was interviewing with him because I hadn't let my current employer know that I was interviewing outside.

He assured me that he and his team would keep it confidential.

On Tuesday I walked into work at 7:00am. 7:00am. That's early, right? Well, the news about my interview had made it to the office before I did. One of my co-workers stopped me before I even got to my desk.

"I hear someone's been interviewing at (an unscrupulous company that can't keep their word when it comes to confidentiality)."

I thought maybe playing dumb would work for me.

"Oh really? Who?" I asked.

"You!" he said.

Playing dumb has never worked for me. Which is too bad because I often do really dumb things.

Naturally, things were a little uncomfortable for me from that point on. One night I was crying on Buddy's shoulder and he said, "Why don't you just quit?"

"Quit? Without knowing where I'll go next?!" I asked. I have never been a risk-taker when it comes to this sort of thing.

I mean, I put a snake around my neck in Thailand. I rode on a motorcycle with no helmet in India. I stood on the left side of an escalator in Germany. But it would not be like me to quit a job without knowing where I'm going next.

"Sure!" he said.

Buddy is a very "sure" kind of guy. Things always work out for him and I'm sure it's because he expects them to. "They're hiring like crazy in Silicon Valley. You can get a new job. Don't worry."

I looked deep into his brown eyes and realized he was right. So I took a deep breath, stopped crying, and turned in my resignation the next day.

Naturally as my last day approached I had to tell my clients that I was leaving the company. One of my clients was Sun so during our weekly progress con-call I told my contact, Michele, that I was leaving the company. As soon as the call was over my phone rang. It was Michele and she wanted to know where I was going next. When I told her I didn't know yet she invited me to come in and interview for a program management job at Sun.

And that was a monumental event in my life.

One week later I accepted an offer from Sun.

Two weeks later I was working for Sun and their wonderful health insurance kicked in.

Four weeks later I was pregnant.


Anonymous said...

great post Mel, I love this story. Seems like everything happens for a reason, and really funny quips too btw. :-)

But I think you're more of a risk-taker than you let did up and move to China! - Dalton

Melanie Gao said...

Thanks Dalton! You're right, things do happen for a reason.

Forrest said...

I like to read some story like this one. That make me know what is common things between U.S and China. It looks like we are approaching with each other. The world is getting flatter.

Sun is my first foreign employer. At that time, I think all of the U.S companies are really different with the local ones. After I left it, I was aware of that she is the special one no matter in U.S or China.

BTW, you didn't blog many recently. Look forward more blog from you. I really like your story about your children, your family and yourself.

Sin-Yaw Wang said...

I think Sun has a better deal with you than yourself.

Melanie Gao said...

Thanks Sin-Yaw, that means a lot to me.

Forrest, Sun really was a special place, wasn't it? And it was because of people like you.

Ulyana said...

Melanie, thank you so much for sharing this with us!!!! This post is a good reminder not to wait for things to happen but to make them happen. And also, good work always gets rewarded...

Melanie Gao said...

So sweet, thanks Ulyana. I don't know you well but I get the impression you make things happen in your life.