This post is a part of my 10-day #Countdownto30 series. The series recaps important milestones from every year of my 20s. You can view all posts in this series at http://shellysaysso.com/tag/countdownto30/
In business school you learn about GE’s Leadership Development Programs. You study their success. With all those years at the very top of the Fortune 500, the business world figures GE knows a thing or two about developing business talent.
My last two years of college I worked as an assistant to one of the deans at Temple’s business school. GE came to the business school to recruit interns for one of their revered leadership programs. Technically I was not a business student (my Advertising major was in the Communications school), but I nonetheless marched down to the business school’s career center and submitted my little resume. They told me the opportunity was for Marketing students and Temple’s career center would only be referring a small number of students to GE. Those who they felt represented the business school best. After all, this was very competitive program where thousands of students would be interviewed across the country for only 25 spots. Hmmmm.
I went home, redid my resume to better reflect my superior level of awesomeness, and sent an email to the Director of Career services. In the email I outlined the obvious similarities between Advertising and Marketing as majors, my success as an Honors student, my business minor, and my relationship with the Dean. She asked to see me, and after grilling me a little bit, she agreed I had a good chance and promised to send in my resume. A week later, she called me and told me I had secured an interview but I needed to come take her interview class first. Fair enough. I did my interview training and showed up on interview day among a sea of middle class white boys in very nice suits their parents bought them. I’m pretty sure my suit came from Old Navy but I made it work. I walked into the interview confident and gave it my best. And after 1500 student interviews at dozens of colleges, guess who was the only Black woman GE’s in the marketing communications class of 2004? It’s your girl!!!
The onboarding package came with instructions on how to have my car shipped from Philly to Charlottesville where I would be working with their robotics team on developing Communications. They were willing to spend thousands of dollars to ship my little hooptie from Philly to VA. Ha! It was my first time having a salary instead of an hourly wage. When I got my first paycheck over $1000, I found it quite epic. In VA, I had my own office with a white board. I got to fly up to NYC to give execs presentations. And most importantly, I had my own fully-furnished corporate townhome to use for the summer. For FREE. I was suddenly a fabulous corporate executive! LOL.
As the summer began, I learned how most of the other interns had been groomed for this type of thing their whole lives. A few already drove Mercedes and others had parents who were VPs in the company. The daily socialization process was strange. I was in their world. I had never been in this bubble where no one has ever taken the bus. It was a new world where college students weren’t broke at all. To them, poverty was something you saw on TV. Almost all had been private school educated their who lives. I had never met such privileged people in my entire life. We wasted $50 per head catered dinners. I wished I could take the bus to NY and send my mom my plane & limo budget so she could make rent. Everyone was friendly to me, but it was like we has grown up in entirely different countries and I was the only person who realized it. I was having all these WTF moments that no one else was having. I found myself driving to Baltimore every other weekend just to feel at ease. To speak in the dialect of my internal voice. To remember that I wasn’t alone and there were people somewhere who could understand the layers of me. I enjoyed the job, but I could not live in upper middle America after 5pm. I always felt the need to go HOME. That summer I learned how to live in two different worlds concurrently rather than leave one behind. Even though I was only visiting this life that apparently everyone else had grown up in, I crushed the other interns in final presentations and left GE’s management team with a huge smile. I was proud of myself. My life as a fancy marketing executive had begun!
Yeah…. 20 was when all those years as a nerd paid off. I went corporate — straight to the largest and most celebrated company in US history. I went into the belly of the beast and I liked it.
I owe most of my career to the decision to not take that initial no, and instead make a case for myself. I have learned that when you are exceptional, you have to help others see when it’s time to make the exception.
#2004 #10daysto30 #whenIwas20