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Monday, July 6, 2015

Still Waters Run Deep



I have now spent a couple years in this little space of mine... capturing moments, sharing thoughts, forcing the interests of my heart into writing. I do it partially because it makes me feel less heavy when I can get thoughts out of my head and into words - and I also do it for the memories. Our days pass us by so quickly, especially while raising kids, and it is so damn easy to ignore special moments or thoughts or experiences that truly make life beautiful. It's really a shame.

I'm feeling a little heavy hearted today - and it is honestly sounding more and more crazy to me as I'm typing these words. I'm probably staging this entire thing the wrong way… but here goes...

While there are probably several parts of my life that I have yet to share in this space, at this moment there is a glaring one that I'm now compelled to put into words. It's this love that I have … this odd love that probably makes no sense to anyone else… this thing that has been in my life for over 14 years… that occupies my mental and physical being on a daily basis. A place, a home, a living thing that I have been a part of and that has been a part of me for most of my adult life…  Are you going to think I'm crazy when I tell you that I'm talking about my job?  

The place where I work. 

The place where I've grown up. 

The place I've helped build and that has helped build me. 

I had no idea what was in store for me the day this 24 year old girl walked into this company and started trying to figure out what it meant to build "automated answering service solutions." It's funny to say that now because it is so drastically different than what the company has become.

I truly have grown up at PerfectServe. I was such a kid the day I started there. No kids of my own. I had just fallen in love with this amazing southern boy and was just ready to start my life. So young and naive… but ready to work and learn and become a part of something. Something really amazing. 

For whatever reason, I instantly become emotional when I try to describe this deeply rooted love that I have for what we have built at this company. I think I was employee #14, or something like that. There are now over 250 people that work there. I believe the company had an annual revenue of about a million dollars when I started… we're now a 25 million dollar a year company. We had about 120 users on the platform at that time. We now have over 80,000 users. I've seen the company through some of it's greatest successes and most painful failures. I've watched teammates walk out the door after being laid off and I've watched new people funnel in through doors while we've grown. I've seen grown men be brought to tears in the wake of monumental moments - both good and bad. I've worked alongside some of the hardest working, most dedicated, passionate people I've ever known. It has truly been amazing to be a part of something like this and to watch it mature, and to know that the work that I have put into it on a daily basis has contributed to where it is now and where it is going.

I have personally had my own ups and downs over the last 14 years. As you experience so much growth within a company, things change, dynamics change, people change, your daily habits, expectations, and comforts change. Change can be really hard. It's no different than marriage. At one time in my career, I reported directly to the CEO and interacted with him multiple times on a daily basis. That can be stressful, but also very fulfilling. You become very connected to the mission of the company when you have that level of exposure. I am fortunate to have a CEO who has an enormous amount of integrity, deep down to his core. I have never felt like I needed to question his sincerity or his mission. As the company grew and as I started my family, the reporting dynamic changed. There are now two layers between myself and the CEO. The person I directly report to today is the same person I've reported to for about 7 years… and that, too, has been a journey. My boss has a big voice within the company. He is very smart - one of the smartest people I know, but there were times when he was a lot to handle. I have had many challenging days over the years trying to manage myself within his personality, occasionally his temper, and sometimes his ego. More recently there has been a dramatic shift, and as I watch him now, he is entirely different. In the simplest terms, he has grown up… we have all grown up… and we continue to grow up. The company. The product. My boss. Myself. I trust at the end of the day that he has my best interest, as well as the best interest of the company, at the forefront of his mind. He is effective at collaborating and leading without dictating. We have had some really touching conversations over the years. I think he has been humbled recently and it has been truly remarkable to observe and be a part of his transition. I, myself, have experienced some of my own frustrations, transitions, and challenges over the past year. Some days have been very hard and drain me to the point that I have nothing left when I get home to my kiddos. But I'm learning patience. I'm learning peace. I trust that if you work hard and keep doing the right thing, keeping the mission of the company and the love and respect for people at the forefront of your mind, things will always swing back around and become comfortable again. Not the old comfortable - but a new comfortable.

I've had this fortunate but odd experience throughout my career at PerfectServe to consistently end up in leadership positions, despite that introverted girl inside me who wants to be off in a corner doing my own thing. I have never really strived to be a "leader." I don't want to be on stage and I don't want a lot of attention directed at me - and I certainly never strived to be managing people. I work with a lot of smart people who have had very admirable careers… yet, for some reason, many of them look to me for leadership. I don't know what that is or how it can be. It doesn't add up - especially when you know me well and understand my anxiety and fears.  The only way I have made sense of it is to associate it to love and passion. As you can now plainly see (I'm a weirrrrdo!), I have this undying love and passion for this company. I don't talk about it in this way to people at work - but my guess is that it becomes apparent in actions and words, and maybe people pick up on that. I, myself, am drawn to passionate people - so that is the only way I know to explain it. When all else fails, look to the crazy person who brings her dog in at 3am to help fight off the bad guys that might attack her while she is playing answering service operator for the night!  That makes total sense. She must know what she's doing!

And during all of this, I've actually started enjoying "people management." I put that in quotes, because as I've learned and grown into this role, I think that's a terrible name for it. I think it really comes down to serving people. I try to do what I can every day to serve the people that I've been asked to lead. I try to focus my efforts on ensuring they are free of obstacles and have the information, knowledge, and support they need to be successful. I never see myself as their boss - I see myself as their servant, honestly. My job is to elevate them and make them successful and to represent them and their hard work to others in the organization. I'm not saying I've mastered this. I continue to learn everyday, but what I'm learning so far is that leading people can be extremely humbling and rewarding.

When I reflect on the gifts in my life, I would be remiss to ignore this part of it. I feel so grateful to have found this opportunity so early in my career that has allowed me to grow in ways I never imagined, contribute at so many levels, achieve major successes and a few failures, and have a strong safety net of brilliant people to share in the journey. It has been truly remarkable.

 So that's that. Another one of my "sweethearts" - my job, my career, my passion, my love. One of the things that fell into my lap one day when I needed some money and has ultimately fulfilled me in ways I didn't know possible. The company, the opportunities, the challenges, the growth, and mostly the people - they have all had an enormous impact on making me who I am.

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