The Innovative Chronicles – 001: Sittin’ on the porch, eating sausage, sippin’ on a cup of juice, laid back…

On a whim and after many elaborate vacation plans fell through with my wife, I decided that we needed to take refuge at the greatest place on earth. A place where the pancakes flow like wine and Canasta is the game choice. It’s a little place I like to call Grandma and Grandpa’s lake house in North Carolina. It’s a vacation home for most residents, but for my two retired, beautiful grandparents they call it home all year long. This is where I go to take a step back and think about where I am, and it’s always where I’m supposed to be (that’s an “ism” you’ll read about later).

Eight months-ish ago I was asked to be the first employee of an idea. It’s one of my new favorite stories to tell and I would like to share it. It may end up getting a bit deep, but I’ll probably save that for later posts.  So anyway…

It was a Friday at 4:50pm at my office. I was cleaning up my work from the week and getting ready for the weekend. It was perfect; my email was all read, my bags were all packed, and I was just about to head out. Just one last look at my email before I closeout. Oh, I missed one…from my boss’ boss.

Received email: 4:51pm –Are you still in the office?

This didn’t hit me at the time as too crazy, but it should of. My current boss at the time was out of town and this email was from her boss. I replied , “I am. What can I do for you?” I was thinking she left her purse in her office and needed somebody to run it downstairs or something. I clicked send.

Received email: 4:52pm – When you have a moment can you come down to Sean’s office and meet?

Ummm, yes, yes I can. That’s not what I typed, but she was asking for me to meet with her, her boss, and then the CTO, so you say yes. I’m not a fan of this sentence. It’s how people expect you to sound when you’re meeting with the “big cheese” or when you talk about great opportunities that knock, but to be honest I think I’m too dense to see great opportunities. They have to force feed themselves to me.  What I actually wrote was, “Sure I can come down, no problem.” I was thinking we were going to talk about a small project I was going to help with. I was wrong.

Received email: 4:53pm – Don’t worry it’s good.

The possibility of it being bad didn’t even cross my mind. It should have. It was nearing 5pm on a Friday and we had actually let some people go just a couple weeks prior to this. This is typically a, “you’re nice and all, but we got to let you go type of meeting.” I think I’m more worried of why it didn’t even cross my mind that it could of been bad.

I headed down to the office ready to chat about some projects. I sit down and chat for a minute with two of the bosses waiting on the CTO to arrive. Then he comes in and says, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” I said, ”Oh, yeah?”  Epic right! Well at the time it was lost on me. This is probably the third time I had ever spoken with him and he’s known to be a bit of joker.  In my mind he was just pulling my leg right before we talked about another project I would be working on that would probably involve documentation.

He then starts to tell me about this amazing week he had in Sweden working with a school called Hyper Island and all the higher-ups of our parent company. He told me about the week and what they went through, and he then mentioned an idea he had for an innovation lab that would work inside the parent company, but act independently and create startups. This lab would take the company in new directions. In my words, it would turn the parent company into a Googlish type of company working on awesome things that will truly have an impact on people’s lives. His boss gave him a verbal confirmation to go ahead and start this new program while they were still in Sweden. Five days later I’m now sitting in his office.

His next move was looking for his first employee. He said, “I’m not sure if it will involve getting coffee or managing a team, but I’ve heard good things about you and the job is yours to loose. I’ll be out of town for 2 weeks and we’ll see what you do while I’m gone.” That’s it. That’s the direction they gave me to go in. I was one of the lowest level employees at a subsidiary company of a $26 billion parent company. It was now my job to do whatever I could to get this thing rolling while still keeping my old position 50% of the time and working on the new opportunity the other 50%. With that, I went.  I said, “um, oh, Thank you, ok.” Stunned and bewildered, I left the room. I got about 15 feet from the door and it dawned on me I hadn’t shook their hands, I hadn’t been as gracious as I would of hoped, oh man. I turned around and knocked on the door and said, “I’m sorry. I have to shake your hands. I’m just shocked a bit. Thank you thank you.”

What just happened? Innovation lab? Startups?

In disbelief I still look back on this day. It really did change my life. It’s been the most fun and the hardest job I’ve ever had. I stole that line from my new boss, Sean. I’ve had to try and be a leader, continue to be a follower, and all around try to serve everybody around me. It’s a lot of balls in the air and the hardest part seems to be getting real feedback and having the confidence to realize that whatever is going on, it’s working.

I’ve had a lot of jobs ranging all over the place, but this one has them beat for the things I’ve learned and for the amount of heart I’ve put into my work. I got my wish and I really appreciate all of those for putting faith in me: Kasey, Colleen, Sean and my old boss that helped me grow and worked with me on everything, Kristine.  All of my life’s random experiences have truly been wrapped up in this job. And to refer back that “Gma’ism” from earlier, I am where I’m supposed to be.

I have so many other things I would like to share about this experience. I’ll keep this story running every few days, probably once a week. Just do a search for  “The Innovative Chronicles.”