The other day, my old Juniper Networks friend, Cris, sent me the most encouraging and timely email. He shared a story about how a good, hardworking man got screwed over in his career and truly deserved better. But that man, in the most disappointing time of his professional life, shared something with Cris that he will never forget.
The best way to get even is through good livin’.
(If you can’t tell, these guys are from Oklahoma)
Cris shared his interpretation of this advice:
You can move on and fill your life up with so many good things, that there’s no room left in your heart for vindictiveness or pettiness or revenge or just hanging on to bitterness. You make it so that your life is so much better that you just don’t have the time and the energy to dwell on toxic feelings. Not only does whatever you went through get shoved into the rear view mirror, it’s roadkill left in the gutter. It smells terrible and looks bad. Why in the world would you wanna stand there and dwell on it?
Cris concluded that’s how he wants to live in light of his circumstances, and well, I want the same thing for myself.
Yesterday was my last day at PlayStation. Yeah, I know… I just joined them in July! #WTF
I could write a book about all the “character building” moments that happened. But today, on Thanksgiving, I’m solely focused on good livin’! I’m grateful for the amazing friendships and mentors I gained during my short time there. I’m also thankful for my VMware and Juniper Networks friends who have been encouraging and coaching me through the daily challenges I faced.
I’m happy to share that in pursuit of good livin’, I will be joining Zuora on December 5. This new adventure in leading the company’s internal communications is very exciting for me and the interviewing experience has been the best I have ever encountered with powerful moments of thoughtfulness and respect.
During the interview process, I was very anxious to meet Mark, the hiring manager. The man is my hero when it comes to career paths – his first ten years of corporate communications was specializing in employee communications (that’s where I am now). But he also managed analyst relations, public relations, and executive communications throughout his career and is now the VP of Corporate Communications for Zuora. It was encouraging to know that this man recognizes, appreciates and prioritizes effective internal comms with his team.
And then he dropped the bomb of a question.
“Mike, not sure if you knew this, but this role will be working directly with the CEO. What’s your experience like in supporting executive communications?”
I frowned and took a deep breath before speaking. “Mark, I don’t want to mislead you in any way. I’ve been writing employee communications for 10 years, but I have always been partnering with exec comms professionals who supported the CEO. Executive communications is not something I’ve done a lot of but I’m hoping I can learn to do it well.”
I felt my answer was going to disqualify me.
Without hesitation, Mark replied, “Dude, I’ve been doing exec comms for decades. I can totally coach you.”
Weeks later, I was informed that my final round interview would be with Tien Tzuo, the CEO of Zuora. Not going to lie. My sphincter closed quickly. Never in my career have I interviewed with a CEO of a company.
But the Zuora team did not leave me hanging. They sent me various articles about Tien, encouraged me to do my research on articles he published, and to study a recent video interview with him on CNBC. The night before my interview with the CEO, Mark offered to call me to see if I have any questions or would like some advice in preparing for Tien. The VP of Corporate Comms and I talked for nearly an hour. He coached me, shared his personal experiences in working with the CEO, validated my thoughts, and even practiced a mock interview of what Tien would most likely ask. At the very end of our talk, Mark said, “I’m rooting for you. You got this.”
I don’t know many hiring managers who invest this much in a candidate. I remember spending the rest of that night researching and preparing. I did not want to disappoint Mark. I also called another Juniper Networks friend and mentor, Lauren, who specializes in executive comms. She poured more wisdom into me – best practices, avoiding common mistakes, and being true to myself no matter the circumstances. It’s always encouraging when the advice you get from a hiring manager is supported and looked highly upon by another friend who knows what she is talking about.
When I finally talked with Tien, it was an amazing experience. By no means was it easy. He asked very intelligent questions with a plethora of follow-ups. But despite my nervousness, the conversation felt natural, authentic, and surprisingly, really fun. He told me he liked my answers and it was a very validating experience, especially since I didn’t hold back on my weaknesses or vulnerabilities. He sees my potential and the respect I have for the Zuora team and that was enough for him.
After I accepted the offer, the SVP of HR invited me to a social dinner with his direct reports. We didn’t talk business – they just wanted to hang out and get to know me. We all shared stories, many of them prompting bursts of laughter. When they asked me about my family, I shared the story of JereMaya’s miraculous births. One of the executives mentioned his daughter is an IVF baby too. Two things happened immediately: 1) we had a deep mutual respect, appreciation and empathy for each other, knowing what we went through; and 2) even though these leaders have known each other for decades, they never knew about this executive’s daughter’s story. He simply said, “It’s not something you can easily bring up and talk about.” And it really isn’t. But that night, this group of friends shared some of their biggest struggles in life, and I actually felt the fellowship becoming stronger. It was a beautiful, meaningful experience and I really can’t wait to meet up with the team again in December.
This particular Thanksgiving is a memorable one. No doubt. While there are many reasons to be angry, bitter, and resentful, those Oklahoma guys know the best way to get even. I praise God for all that has happened this year and the people He placed in my life in the pursuit of good livin’.
Editor’s Note: I received a few questions about who gave such great wisdom to my friend, Cris. I asked Cris if it was okay to share. He and his friend were more than happy see this story go “mini-viral.” The original source is Pat Hall, the chairman of the Democratic Party in the State of Oklahoma, 1999. Thank you so much, Pat!