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I’ve only been here at Strata for two weeks. To say it’s been a little overwhelming is an understatement. When Ian asked me to write a blog post I was a little shocked. I asked him what I should write about, and without even thinking about it he said “write about how you got your job here”. I have a bit of a reputation here, not for anything spectacular I’ve achieved, but for the way I got a job here without any background in policy research, personal connections, or even a relevant major (I’m a biological engineering major). To understand the story better let me first tell you a little bit about myself.
At the age of fourteen I caught a bug. I watched my dad ride and race bicycles for most of my childhood and decided to go out with him for a ride. I was hooked. It quickly became obvious though, that I was much better than my dad. He would have to work extremely hard up every hill just to stay with me, and it wasn’t long before he couldn’t even do that. He suggested that I ride with the TNR, a fast group of racers who would get out and ride every Tuesday night as hard as they could. I agreed and went out the next week.
When I arrived at the parking lot where all the riders meet, I realized what I had agreed to. I was surrounded by men between the ages of 25-35, men in their prime. I felt small. Actually, I WAS small, but I wasn’t about to back down. It didn’t take long though. After only ten or fifteen minutes of riding I found myself watching them speed away from me. They were too fast, too strong. I couldn’t stay with them. I turned around and rode home.
When I got back I told my dad all about my experience. I probably should have been discouraged, but I was either too stupid, or too stubborn. Instead I rambled on and on about my ten whole minutes with the group. The next week I was back, and I again got dropped not long after they started, but I kept coming back. People told me I could ride with what they called the “B” group, which left from the same place, but was a slower ride which they said “wouldn’t be so discouraging”. I refused. I wanted to play with the big kids, I wanted to go fast, and I wanted to get left behind if I wasn’t fast enough. I played sports in school where everyone was a winner, and I wasn’t fond of it. I never felt like I had earned it.
It took me almost a whole year just to be able to stay with the group for the full two hours. That day was one of the proudest moments of my young life. What does this have to do with getting a job at Strata?
One month ago I was working at Jimmy John’s, a sub sandwich delivery chain, and made a delivery to a place called Strata. I had been working at “JJ’s” for 7 months and didn’t like it from day one, but I needed a job. I walked into Strata’s office and the first thing I noticed was that everyone working there was young, energetic, and seemed to enjoy what they were doing. I was confused. I quickly made my delivery and got back to work, but my mind was still at this office I had visited. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I spent the whole day thinking about it.
At the end of my shift, I went by and explained that I had delivered them a sandwich earlier, and that I wanted to know what it was that they did. They explained their mission and I got a tour of the office. I left the building a little discouraged, because I thought to myself “I don’t have the qualifications or even the background to work there”.
Not long after getting home I was still thinking about Strata. I remembered one of my favorite stories that my dad tells: As a young married couple living near Ventura, California, my mom saw a job opening as a seamstress at a small outdoors apparel company she wanted to work for called Patagonia (yes, that Patagonia). She thought it’d be a great place to work but she told my dad “I don’t know the first thing about outdoor equipment or sewing”. My dad looked at her, incredulous, and said “Well they don’t know that!” I decided I would send in an application and let them decide whether I was qualified or not. Mostly I wanted to give them an application as an act of defiance, showing that even a sandwich delivery guy can dream of having cool jobs (in other words: I was sticking it to “The Man”).
This was at about 4:30pm and I knew that they closed up at 5:00. I wanted to give them my resume that same day, but I didn’t have one. I scrambled and typed one up as quick as I could (turns out the first thing Ryan would do is point out a typo on it), and then sped down to the office and turned it in. I was quite pleased with myself for showing “The Man” that I didn’t care about his rules and I honestly expected them to never get back to me, but a few days later I received an email informing me I had an interview. Now I was extra pleased with myself.
After a few weeks I went to what I now dub “the most terrifying conversation of my life”. As I walked in the doors of the office it dawned on me that I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into. I started sweating. Then I started shaking. Eventually I wanted to just curl up and cry, but that wasn’t until the interview started. Within ten seconds of my interview Ryan said “Tanner, you look terrified.” Yeah, I was. I managed to squeak out a weak response. Over the course of the next ten minutes I probably said more “umms” and “uhhs” than I had in my life. At one point I just wished that it could be over so I could go home and forget this bad dream. Then Ryan asked me “Tanner, tell me why you don’t suck.” At that point I wished I was dead. The cool answer would have been to tell him how I once modeled for an Italian magazine (when I was five), or how I love to take on big things and play out of my league, but instead, I said “I don’t know.” Somehow I made it through without puking.
To quickly sum things up (because I’ve gone way over the suggested word count for these things): if you want something, don’t let anyone (including yourself) tell you to settle for less, and if you just keep a bangin’ on that door maybe they’ll get tired of the pounding and let you in, even if you’re the Jimmy Johns guy. Oh, and always remember to stick it to “The Man”
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The opinions expressed in this blog are solely the opinions of the writer and in no way represent those of Strata itself.