Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Do You Know Scott Adams?

You know Scott Adams. He is the creator of DILBERT. A while back I wrote a blog post about Dilbert 2.0 and I said: "Most working people found this cartoon to be really very funny and perceptive, to the point that it was almost as if Scott Adams was secretly infiltrating corporate America to obtain material on which to base his cartoon." It turns out that I wasn't too far off. According to a 2004 Design Boom Interview: Adams "worked at Crocker National Bank from 1979 to 1986, in a number of humiliating and low paying jobs: teller (robbed twice at gunpoint), computer programmer, financial analyst, product manager, and commercial lender."

This past week my friend Lisa Petrilli wrote a three part series called The Introvert’s Guide to Getting Promoted. Do read Step One, Step Two and Step Three. No, Lisa did not discuss DILBERT!

Here's my OP-ED to Lisa's Part One
June 22, 2010


I think if you asked most of my family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances they would probably tell you that I am more of an introvert than an extrovert. On the other hand, once I am inclined to step out of my comfort zone, then I become the go-to person in the organization.

Here are a few things to know about me: My husband and I actually met our current business partner (of 10 years) at an Executive Leadership Training seminar. It was 1981 and both my husband and Dick were part of middle management of Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO). The training took place at ARCO’s Executive Training facility in Santa Barbara, CA. It was a two week course, with employees flown in from all over the world, the second week of the course they brought in the spouses. Yes, indeed, I needed to be trained on how to be a Corporate Executive’s wife!!!

I am familiar with the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator. I worked for company that actually made all of their new hires take this “test.” It sometimes bothered me that the test results could control your chances of promotion for the rest of your corporate career with that company. I think sometimes corporations don’t realize that not everyone wants to listen to or follow an extrovert.

But here is my best life story about how I made myself visible in an organization. It was 1978. I was a consumer loan officer for Crocker National Bank in Los Angeles, CA. I worked as a "floating" loan officer, which meant that I would fill in for loan officers that were going on vacation, sick leave, maternity leave, etc. It was a fun job, I was able to meet a lot of different people and I never got bored. At the time I was assigned to a branch in Altadena, CA. I was filling in for an Assistant Branch Manager who had suffered a heart attack. About five weeks into this assignment the branch was robbed, with the masked bandits jumping the counters wielding sawed-off shotguns and ordering everyone to get on the floor.

After the culprits left the bank it was my duty to call "Headquarters" to report the robbery and to ask for a robbery team to be dispatched to meet with the FBI. As luck would have it, the gentleman that took the phone call was the Executive Vice President – Consumer Lending. I had never met him, but I knew of him.

In my telephone conversation, the EVP finally said to me: "What do you want to do when you grow up?" I responded: "I want your job or I at least I want to work directly for you!"

Within two weeks, he personally visited the branch, sent in internal auditors to check my work quality and then made me an offer to work directly for him. New position: Assistant Vice President, District Retail Banking Specialist. (Before I transferred to downtown Los Angeles, my branch was robbed again.)

I agree; great CEOs are always on a talent search. So you need to know who is in your molecule and who interacts with those in your molecule. Be available to get involved and be supportive. But, as one of our mutual “friends”(Chris Brogan) said: sooner or later you need to "Make the ASK!"

Here is Lisa's reply:
June 23, 2010
I just know you and I are meant to meet and share all kinds of amazing stories some day! Kudos to you for your smarts and your boldness. As usual, you are way ahead of me – we’ll get to “asking” tomorrow…!

Thank you, as always, for sharing your experiences and insights with me and the other readers!


It seems bank robberies can be real career boosters. I am just "sure" I must have met Scott Adams when we both worked for Crocker National Bank. What do you think?  Can you share some of your promotion stories?


Jonathan Saar said...

That is a super cool story.. who would have thought that bank robbers would be the ones to help you get a promotion. I can't say that crime helped me get a job but it did teach me the depth of what it takes to help people. I was taking hostage by a criminal when I was 19. It came right down to potentially saving 2 people's lives. I convinced the criminal to allow me to do whatever he needed in order to leave my friends alone. He complied. The values that were reinforced for me that day have never left me and have allowed me to see my own personal promotion into wonderful things. Thanks for sharing your story!

Judy Helfand said...

Well, I have to say your life story is remarkable. It seems your calmness and willingness to communicate saved your friends, yourself and even the criminal from a worse fate.
You just never know what life will bring our way.
Thank you for visiting and for sharing your story.

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