Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Job

Five years ago I got a call that saved me, or at least put me on the right path. It was from a recruiter and due to being unemployed for over a half a year, I was feeling pretty low. That recruiter, who I met the day before, wanted to know how proficient I was with Quickbooks. If you have ever worked with Quickbooks you know that it was kind of a funny question, because it's a real simple accounting software that anyone can master in an hour. I'm not being cocky either. It's real simple, so of course I told him I was an expert, even though I hadn't worked with it in like 5 years prior to that call.

The recruiter told me about this little company in the Sorrento Valley that needed somebody with Quickbooks experience. The pay was way lower than the compensation that I was used to, but being out of work for so long I thought, fuck it. I have nothing else going on. If I don't like it, I can leave. So I asked for the address and off I went.

When I first arrived, I thought I may be lost. The company's sign was barely visible and all these Asian people were running around in the parking lot. The chaos of it all made me wonder if I was in another country. Even though this was in San Diego, it felt more like Shanghai.

I walked through what I thought was entryway. There was a reception desk, but no receptionist. After few minutes a short Asian man greeted me and asked if I needed anything. I told him I had an appointment with a Tom Hawkins. With his smile and a request to follow him, I knew I was in the right place.

He led me through this maze of doors until I came to Tom's office. He told Tom that he had a visitor. Tom thanked him and invited me in. Tom interviewed me for a bit and then decided that I was worth a shot. So he then gave me a tour of the place and quickly explained their manufacturing process. I retained none of it, because this place was a chaotic maze.

On the tour, he introduced me to this sweet little Asian woman named Jin. He explained that she and her husband Dr. Wu, the man who first greeted me, founded this company and sold it to a large international conglomerate.

After the tour, Tom gave me some work. It was simple bookkeeping stuff, but again, what else was I going to do with my day? He explained my role would be more on the cost accountant side. The last time I ever did any cost accounting was in school. I did well in that class.

With my lack of experience and willingness to take a chance in hand, I went at it. I dug for all of the product details and started putting it all together on paper and then into the system. I costed all the raw materials into the sub-assemblies and then into the final product. It was like playing with an old erector set and Tom gave me a ton of autonomy, which made it even easier. I found this process therapeutic.

Putting this together, I had to do a lot of measurement conversions. My dad was an engineer who could do measurement conversions in his head, and doing this reminded me of him. There were so many moments I wished that I would have taken a job like this when he was still alive. I so wanted to pick some sort of cosmic phone to talk with him. I felt closer to his memory than I had ever felt before. It felt wonderful.

After a lot of work, I had all the sub-assemblies and finished goods broken down and entered in the system. I created a costing schedule that was able to give us a very accurate costing of all of our products, which impressed Tom and Steve, the CFO of the toxicology branch of our parent company.

I still remember Steve, telling me that he was impressed, especially since I didn't have any costing experience before. I wore that as a badge of honor, and I knew this low paying position would lead to better things.

After a year of working as a temp, I had to do something I didn't want to do. I had to start looking for another job. Even though Tom would always tell me he has no reason to let me go. I couldn't keep working at a low wage. He was always honest with me though. He told me it took a year to convert him from temp to permanent. He kept telling me to hang on.

Even though I did trust Tom at his word, fundamentally speaking, you should always look for another job if have been a temp for a year. So I started interviewing. I would come to work in my suit and go off on interviews during my lunch hour.

On one particular day, I went into the lunch area with my suit on to get some water. I saw Jin sitting there having lunch. She glanced up at me and saw me in my suit. Her head then dropped down as if she was sad.

The next day we had a big meeting at the parent company's campus up the street. Tom asked me to stay after the meeting. He needed to go over some items with me. So obliged.

Tom sat me down and with a huge smile told me that they will be giving me a substantial raise and bring me to permanent when the new year comes. I had a number in my head that I would negotiate for. I based it on what they were paying the temp agency for my services. I knew that percentage because working in the accounting department has it perks. However, I didn't have to negotiate because they hit my number.

It was the greatest feeling. I was so damn happy, considering my prior employer, Upper Deck,“Let me go” a month or so after my dad died. Upper Deck said I was performing poorly. Go figure I performed poorly. I watched my dad die a slow death for half a year. That was a hard situation to work through. It's hard not to perform poorly through that situation, especially when they never really gave me much support. However, with this raise and promise, I felt redeemed. I was worth something again.

After our meeting, I drove back to my office. I saw Jin and she had a huge smile on her face when she looked at me. I went up to her, thanked her and gave her a hug.

She and Dr. Wu were like the parents of this company. They treated all of their employees with a respect and love that I have never seen in an employer. Part of the purchase agreement of their company included a large annual R&D bonus for a certain amount of years. They would take a large portion of that bonus, and bonus out the employees with it. They actually bonused the employees with their own money. I have never seen anything like that before in my life. Being treated like that made it hard for me not to work hard for them.

The Wu's are no longer there, but those who are in charge now are great. I couldn't ask for a better group of people. They are big on developing talent. I am no longer the Cost Accountant. I am now the Senior Buyer in charge of establishing supply and quality agreements with our vendors. It sounds boring, but it's actually really fun. So it's safe to say that this place bleeds with opportunity, which I am hoping to take more advantage of.

A lot has changed since that first day and due to our growth, we're currently moving into a newer much larger facility. Now that we are moving into this new facility, I am feeling a bit reminiscent. I miss the Wu's and I will miss this chaotic maze of a facility from another dimension. If you sit between both buildings, it's like watching some Scooby Doo door chase scene with all the doors opening and closing.

We have had our ups and downs, but unlike with my past companies, I have never started the morning sitting in my car cringing about going to work. They have given me a lot. I cannot think of a company I would rather work for, because this place gave me a new lease on life. 5 years ago I was in a dark place, and today I am not.

I know one day this will end. All good things do, but I'm going to enjoy it while I am here.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Now that I am a part of the 40-year club I have to admit that I have actually been getting pretty comfortable with growing older. I’m enjoying it. Wisdom from experience is cool a thing when it slowly starts to reveal itself. That being said I discovered something frightening, shocking and a bit hard to believe, and I feel the need to disclose it.

I noticed it about a month ago. This magnificent mane of mine is starting to lose its brilliance. It’s thinning. I know this may be a bit unfathomable to you all. Even I was in denial at first. But I noticed more and more hair around my bathroom sink and shower. I was even told my cat’s hair was all over my sweater, but I don’t even own a cat! The evidence has been overwhelming and undeniable.

I cannot close my eyes forever and nor should you. Don’t get discouraged, because discouragement is the devil's tool for claiming your soul. We must accept this new reality and learn how to adjust our lives accordingly. I don’t see the thinning of my hair as a sign of my decay. I see it more as entering a new stage in life, a second puberty if you will. I may be losing some hair up top, but I am gaining it in other places.

We’ll get through this, because my lustrous plume has not seen its last day. It will be a long while before it does, so let’s take this an opportunity to bask in its scintillating glory while it’s still with us. I know I will.

Have a beautiful day!