Here’s the weekly Speaking Of Update! I share the interview preview for this week, talk about ventriloquist on tv, shopping while wearing masks, and share a cool law of attraction story from last week.
Check out part 1 of the Speaking Of interview with Jessica Brewer, COO of AmplifiedAg and former Benefitfocus executive! This is my first 2-part interview. It was really hard to cut this one down from a nearly 1.5 hour chat to 25 minutes!
I talked with Jessica about her passion for STEM, her career path, the challenges of being a woman executive, defining career moments, and more!
In part 2, you’ll hear more about Jessica’s journey, career, and motherhood.
Here’s part 1 (interview topical timecodes on YouTube):
I “lost” my job in a mass layoff due to COVID-19 a few weeks ago. Isn’t “lost” an interesting word? I know where my job is – it’s at my old company, but as per the official definition below from dictionary.com, I “no longer possess or retain” the job, so I suppose it is “lost.”
It’s super weird, and yet, kind of exciting. That probably sounds weird, right? I mean, I spent all of my 30s (so far) there. I was there for 8.5 years, and I appreciate everything that I was able to do, the skills I learned, and the people I met.
While working at my last job, I had the opportunity to do some really cool stuff like building a team to manage corporate culture, and managing all philanthropy for the company. I created those roles, and that’s awesome. In a tech company, there are few roles like the one I created and filled, and I was lucky enough to do that.
There are certainly some bittersweet things about being “gone.” Although I have been working remotely from a different state for some time, the end is now official. I said bye to so many people before I moved – and even to the buildings on the campus – and didn’t know it would be goodbye forever. I thought I’d be back a few times a year for certain things. Now, if I go back, I’ll get a visitor badge. How bizarre.
I remember my interview – which was actually rather entertaining because there was a mixup. I was told by recruiting that it was an in-person interview and my manager (who is now my friend, Nina) was told it was a phone interview. So, there I was, sitting in the lobby, while the receptionist tried to track down my future manager but couldn’t find her because she was in a room trying to call me for the phone interview. Thank goodness I felt compelled to check my phone and saw missed calls and a voicemail from her asking if I still wanted to interview. Then she walked down the stairs and the receptionist was like, that’s her! She flagged my future manager down, and then I had a very informal interview.
During the interview, I met the team. One of them asked about my husband, and I said he worked at a home improvement store. The guy said, oh, so he wears a vest? I jokingly said, “Yes, he wears a vest. Nothing else. That’s his whole uniform. No pants, it’s weird.” My future coworker laughed and my manager seemed impressed because she said he was “a tough egg to crack.”
In total irony, I wasn’t offered the official job until another phone interview with a man I called “the culture detector,” who made sure that potential associates were a culture fit for the company. I never in a million years would’ve imagined that I would’ve ended up creating and building a culture team at that company. It was such a unique position that I held pre-IPO, though the IPO, after the IPO, and through a major leadership change. It’s not often that people get to see culture through that lens. I’m so thankful that I did.
Through my role, I met so many associates. I got to work with them, learn about their stories, help them with their goals, contribute to their passions through matching donations and organizing volunteer events. How lucky, right? I also managed associate perks, so I really was the “shiny/happy” part of the company, a role I was privileged to hold.
I remember my first day on the job and being so nervous, and also being so excited! My first week featured on-site massages, a software release party, free lunch, and working in a building with free slushy machines.
I remember meeting the man who would become one of my best friends, Jody. I remember the first time he asked me to lunch – he wrote a note, like an old-school, on paper, note – drew a picture of his signature dog with the words “I’m hungry.” I still have that somewhere. I had no idea that he – who started 1 month after me and was laid off on the same day as me in the mass layoff – would be become one of my best friends. He has one of the most varied life stories of anyone I’ve ever encountered, and I can’t believe how lucky I am to have had 8 years of lunches to learn about them.
I remember meeting (my now close friend), Jaclyn, who started at a folding table as a contractor. She was at a folding table because we were growing so fast that there weren’t enough desks during the busy season. Her desk was right by the bathroom, and even that couldn’t dampen what I’d eventually coin as her “Spirit Sparkles.” She put her Spirit Sparkles to good use on the culture team, and continued to brighten the company as she progressed in her career. She, too, was impacted by the layoff, but I know that she’s off to do something amazing.
I remember meeting Lisa, who was interviewing for the receptionist position. I had no idea why I was asked to interview her, and had no idea that I’d end up being good friends with her and she’d become part of my work and friend group (She’s also an A+ jam maker. Seriously – no one makes better strawberry jam). She’s organized, upbeat, fun, and gives good advice. She moved on shortly before the pandemic, so my whole crew is gone!
I remember emailing the CEO/Founder of the company when I had my daughter. His family donated millions to build the new children’s hospital (that now bears his name) shortly before my daughter was born, and thanks to the role I worked in, I was able to meet the team at the hospital. I had no idea that when I toured the NICU while I was pregnant that my daughter would soon become a patient due to her early birth. The CEO emailed back right away with encouragement and his cell phone number.
Now, that is all over. I won’t ever be on a lunch break with my friends (shout out to Jody, Jaclyn, Lisa, and Nina). I won’t be able to organize another family event there.
But, that’s okay.
I was there for 8.5 years. I was comfortable there. The role was awesome, but it was something I did for years. I never expected that I’d be one of several hundred laid off due to a pandemic. It actually seems weird to be part of history in that way. But, I really feel like it was the best thing.
I got the call, and I wasn’t even upset… or even surprised. I mean, as I said, my job was at a tech company, so my role of culture and philanthropy (while important) didn’t contribute directly to the product. It’s not like I was in engineering or sales or account management. I worked in associate happiness, so by default my job required spending money, and when we got news that layoffs were happening, I assumed I would be on that list.
Is being laid off a positive? Not in the moment, right? You have to figure out money, and all the other things. It also creates a surprising amount of things on your to-do list (outplacement services, unemployment, transferring benefits, retirement accounts, updating your resume, job searching, etc.). BUT, I really feel like this was a tremendous opportunity. How lucky to be pushed out of the nest????
What would I be doing in 5 years if this didn’t happen? Probably working there in the same role. Where will I be in 5 years from now? I have no idea, and that’s really pretty awesome and exhilarating!!!
Is it a coincidence that Dawn and I started working on this blog and the videos a few months ago – before the pandemic happened? I don’t think so. I think it was meant to be.
Would I have ever fully “bet” on myself and left that comfortable corporate job? Probably not. But, how I choose to move forward is now a decision I have to make and can really think about. I love it.
I want to look back at the day I was laid off as the turning point in my life. I want to be proud of what I chose to do and how I took action to achieve my goals. I want to be able to say that I’m living my dream.
So to summarize this layoff, I say:
Thank you so, so, so, much for my time at the company. I grew so much there. I lived so much life during the time I was there. I started as an almost-30 year old who was newly married, and over time I bought a house, got a puppy, my husband got a second degree, he entered a new career field, I had a miscarriage, a high-risk pregnancy, a daughter with a 3-month Nicu-stay, lost my dad, and faced a serious health issue in my family (all is fine now). That’s SO much life. On the job, I was able to grow my career and learn so much, and really become an expert at what I did. I’m a different person now. How could all of that *not* change you?
I appreciate all of the opportunities, the friends I made, the beautiful campus I worked on, and the flexibility I was granted during my daughter’s time in the NICU.
And also, thank you for the layoff. Thank you for putting me on that list, and forcing me to grow once again. I grew a lot at the company, and I will grow again now, because I have to. I may never have taken this step, but I’m so thankful to be here now, at this crossroad, figuring out what’s next. KNOWING, something else great is next. It’s time for a new adventure.