Monthly Archives: March 2013

The ‘Other’ Thing The CEO Told Us

“What are these things like?”

That’s what Tyler asked me before the all-employees meeting at my company Friday. After he asked whether he could join me on the balcony overlooking the main lobby at our building. I told him sure, of course.

Tyler’s an analyst, one of many at our company. Even if I understood what he does (and I sort of do), I couldn’t really tell you. A great deal of what we do is proprietary, guided by the Tylers, Caties, Jessicas and Justins of the world, not to mention the Krissys, Chrissys and Christies.

Anyway, I had an answer for Tyler’s other question, too.

“They’re pretty good. I always leave them pretty inspired. And I’m not an ‘inspired’ kinda guy – I’m more of a cynic.”

He nodded, but I’m not sure he believed the old guy.

I should explain that we have all-employee meetings every month, usually after what’s called Business Reviews at our outfit. During Business Reviews, the CEO and senior management discuss relevant topics in each part of the organization – we call those parts clusters. Who can go to these discussions? Anyone. That’s right, even the most junior people in the company can – and are encouraged to – sit in on pretty high-level discussions of what’s going on.

At the all-employee meeting, the CEO, Ric, sort of gives an overview of where the company is (including let us know about pending deals). It’s pretty fascinating. Ric also usually has some words for us about life.

At Friday’s meeting, Ric talked about going to see his daughter – she’s in elementary school – sing at a school function. Let’s be honest, he bragged about how good she was. The point of this is that he referenced the plane crash he was in four years ago – the one where Captain Sully landed the plane in the Hudson River. You can see his Ted Talk about it here: I highly recommend it, and yes, I know I’ve linked and recommended it before. I can’t help it, I find it tres inspiring.

He summed up his point with these words: “Your real job is at home.”

But earlier, in the just kind of fooling around part of the meeting where he answers questions submitted by employees, he said something else, too, that I found pretty revealing about our company. The question was: Do you worry about lost productivity during March Sadness (which I hope it is for dook) when games are on all afternoon Thursday and Friday? Understand that one of the things I can say about the business is that we’re all about productivity, measured in about a thousand different ways. His short answer to this question was this: “No.” Then he spoke some more about it. What follows isn’t a direct quote, I didn’t have anything to take notes with, but it went pretty much like this: “We work hard here. We all know that. And we’re crazy productive. So if you want to watch basketball, watch basketball. That’s why there are about 1,000 TV monitors in this building. If you get your work done, watch basketball. That’s what matters: Personal responsibility.”

And that, folks, is why I love what I do. We work damned hard, but we’re treated like the adults we are. Well, we’re adults most of the time anyway.

He closed the meeting with the story about his daughter and the admonition to make sure we were doing the job at home, too. I walked back to my desk, eyes glowing, snuffling back some tears.

Later, Friday, I ran into Tyler again. I couldn’t resist the question: “So what did you think?”

“You were right, man,” he said. “You were exactly right.”

And now it’s almost time to watch some basketball. At home. I’m just doing my job.



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Time to Pop the Bubble of Secrecy

I haven’t posted very much over the past six or seven months. It’s not because I’ve been busy, though I have. It’s not because I’ve run out of things to say; I have lots of them. It’s because I couldn’t talk about the thing I must wanted to talk about. Because it wasn’t my news to tell. I’ve hinted at it a few times, and I’ve told a veritable handful for people.

Today I’m going to do more than hint.

Here’s the rest of why 2012 was the best year ever. Except for 2013.

It started in mid-October (cue the sequence where the months fall off the calendar) …

“Dad, I need to tell you something.” Those words came from my son, Austin, a few months ago as he followed me into the bedroom. In the past, they’d always signaled some problem or another – he’d hit a mailbox or needed money or encountered some kind of difficulty.

I sighed, closed the door to the room, and told him to go ahead. “You can tell me anything, you know that,” I said. It was true: I generally react pretty calmly.

He just sat there. “Go ahead, Austin, just say it.”

“I can’t,” he said. “I want to, but I can’t.” He looked down. He was scared to death.

So was I.

“Austin, you can tell me anything.” He just shook his head.

“Does it concern Grace?” Grace was his girlfriend of a few months. Karen and I had met her once, and we liked her a lot.

It was evident Austin did, too. He dressed better, and he just seemed happier most of the time. He’d told us she was very smart, and they were very cute together.

He nodded his head at my statement. “Uh-oh,” I thought. Somehow, I didn’t give voice to that thought.

“Is she pregnant?”

He nodded again.

That was a bolt of lightning. I’m not even quite sure why the suggestion came to me. Somehow, I just knew.

We talked a few minutes. They were surprised, but they’d discussed it. A lot. And they’d made some very adult decisions. They were going through with it. They knew it would be hard. They’d talked about every option. And he said something else: “We’re looking at it as a good thing.”

So am I.

There was still something to deal with, though. Telling Austin’s mom. “Do you want me to do it, or do you want to do it?”

I asked. He was adamant that he’d do it. But he had to leave for work. So I told him he had to tell her within the next 48 hours or I would. He agreed.

I’m not sure what happened next. I think he had second thoughts about doing it on his own and started a fiendish plan designed to make me do his dirty work for him.

Because he sent me a text message while he was going to work. (I know, I know, he shouldn’t have texted while driving, but consider his mental state at this point.) Then he called me to make sure I’d gotten it. (I hadn’t, I was still in my room upstairs collecting my thoughts under the guise of sorting the laundry.) But here’s the thing about that phone call: Karen answered and he asked for me. She wondered why. He wouldn’t say. So she got me and I told him I hadn’t gotten it but that I would look at it. (It was a long post, obviously written before he’d told me, in which he talked about his situation.)

Anyway, we hung up, and Karen was curious. Really curious. I’m not too sure that wasn’t Austin’s plan all along, to get her asking questions.

(Cue the Mom sense tingling …)

“What was that about?” she asked from downstairs.

“It was just something between Austin and I. He’ll tell you.”

“No, you need to tell me.”

“OK, come on up …”

“Did he get a ticket? How fast was he going? When did it happen?”

“No he didn’t get a ticket. Shut the door.”

“What is it then?”

I paused, grinned, and said it: “Hello, Grandma …”

Her jaw dropped. “You’ve got to be kidding me …” Only there might have been one other word in there.
I told her I wasn’t kidding. And that Austin wasn’t, either. And that we all WOULD BE kidding. As in being around a baby. Our baby. In just a few months.

Since then, we’ve learned more about the plan. They both plan to get as much education as they can – Grace hopes to be a pharmacist; Austin’s plans are a little more fluid, but they definitely include more school. We’ve met Grace’s family, and we like them very much. Grace’s mom, Karen and I have lined up squarely behind our children and our little grandson-to-be. Trust me when I say that many arrangements have been made, with two teenagers taking the point.

Again, much of this isn’t really my story to tell – only the outlines. Hence you don’t get the excruciating detail you normally would in my posts.

We’re not fooling ourselves. We know the road ahead is going to be hard. But I want you to know this: No baby ever has been more wanted. His coming out party should happen within the next month.

Just call me Pop. Proud, Overjoyed, Protective.

“Every baby born into the world is a finer one than the last.” – Charles Dickens

“Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.” – Alex Haley


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