In the fall of 2001, I graduated from Harvard Business School, a prestigious MBA program.
The year was 2003.
I was a senior at a large nonprofit organization in Boston.
It was my first time working remotely.
But my first day in a new place, I was at a meeting.
It took place at the home of a young woman.
She had just graduated from a top-tier business school.
“Hi, I’m Stephanie,” she said, “and I’m working in your new role.”
Her name was Stephanie O’Connor, and she was the senior director of development at an organization in North Carolina.
“She’s amazing,” I said.
She said, Yes, Stephanie, I just got my MBA.
“I’m going to be a really big help for you,” she told me.
“But we need to talk.”
She took me to a large conference room.
There were two big tables on the table.
The first was for senior executives, and the second was for the board of directors.
“This is the board,” she explained.
“It’s going to discuss what we’re doing.”
I sat in on the meeting.
“What is your role at the company?” she asked me.
I said, I am the director of research, and I’m going into a large meeting with the board to talk about how we’re going to develop this product.
She looked at me, puzzled.
“Okay, you’re on the board?” she said.
“No, no, no,” I told her.
“You are the president of research,” she replied.
She gave me a few more questions about the company.
“Well, what are the key challenges we’re facing?” she inquired.
“We need to increase revenue by a million dollars, and we need people who can get into this field,” I explained.
She asked me what I was working on.
I explained, I work on a lot of things related to our product.
I gave her some ideas about the challenges we were facing.
She got angry, and asked me, “Why are you doing this?”
“We’ve got a big team, and a lot more people,” I replied.
“The CEO is going to get sick, the CEO needs a lot.”
I explained that I’m a leader.
“How long do you think it will take you to get to that point?” she demanded.
I told the story about how I came to the board.
I described the challenges I was facing.
“He’s a CEO who needs to be in the room with his team and be able to talk,” she continued.
I pointed out that I was the only person on the entire team who was working remotely and that we were still trying to get our products out to consumers.
“That’s not good enough,” she insisted.
“If we’re all doing this remotely, he can’t talk with us.”
I pointed to the meeting, and then I mentioned that I had just gotten a phone call from a colleague.
“Are you still working remotely?” she queried.
I answered, “Yes, I can’t answer all of your questions,” but I could tell she was frustrated.
She continued, “You’re not going to do your job at all if you’re not working remotely.”
I asked her why she was asking me that question.
“Because you’re going through all of these challenges,” she answered.
“All of the time,” I agreed.
She told me to leave.
“There’s no other way to tell this story,” I later told her, “but you’re the reason I was never hired for this role.”
She left in frustration.
At the time, I had no idea what she was referring to.
“Is that your real name?”
I asked, confused.
She responded, “No.”
I continued to ask, “Is it the real name of a friend of mine?”
She replied, “I don’t know, I’ve never heard of it.”
I told my friends that it wasn’t really me, and that I wasn’t going to have any more of this.
They were supportive.
One of my friends asked, “Where’s your dad?”
I told him, “My mom works for the company, and my dad was here last week.”
“What did she tell you?”
I was still not sure what she meant.
“They said she was on a plane.
She was going to go home, but she didn’t,” he said.
I continued, telling my friends, “It was my mom, and he’s the one who’s telling you to leave.”
They were still not convinced.
One day, I came home to find that my mother had been hospitalized.
She passed away on October 12, 2003.
My father had been a successful entrepreneur, a real estate agent and a stockbroker.
He worked on a wide variety of deals.
He was a very successful man