Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Coolest Interview Ever!
Well it is back to reality for us a The Whimsical Workshop after eight days of traveling and a three day weekend. I have a very busy week with four projects that must be completed for various magazines, all due 6/1/09. We are also getting ready to go to the Prescott quilt show next week. We have planning, packing and finishing up the couple new samples for the show are also on the agenda this week. With all this going on it would be easy to only write once a week for my blog, and at some point that may be the case. But until then here is the next part of my story....
In the spring of 1997 my life took some very interesting turns that could have lead me in a totally different direction. I had been at S&S for almost two years. The company had fired Mary for not conforming to their idea of a corporate manager in the fall. She made me promise before she left to stay with this company until I had two years under my belt. She said I had a better chance at a great job if I did. This job was my only profession design experience and I had to agree with her on this.
So with the two year anniversary approaching, I started to look for another job. At the time I was living in Colchester, CT. The company I worked for was the only large company (300 employees) in the area and I believe it was the support for this small town. I knew I had to look at positions that required a move on my part. I again started to dream about designing toys or possibly working for Disney.
I had several phone interviews, one was actually for a company in North Carolina designing "Happy Meal" toys for different fast food chains. I thought this one has possibilities until they wanted me to travel for the interview on my dime. Any company that is not willing to pay your expenses, most likely does not treat their employees very well. Besides I was making peanuts where I was and could hardly cover my rent, so there was nothing extra to take a trip with.
Then one day in the classifieds for CT (yes the whole state in one classified) there was a job opening working for Lego! I did not even know they had a plant in CT let alone their design department was based there. They were actually looking for an industrial designer with experience designing children's projects and experience in technical writing. I thought this is it, my dream job. I sent off a resume and actually heard back from them in about a week. We set up an interview and off I went.
At the same time that all of this happened, I had been writing back and forth with my soon-to-be husband (though I had no idea at the time) and had set up a trip to meet him face-to-face in Boston the weekend after my Lego interview. I will tell you the story of how we met in another posting because it is quite a little love story. Little did I know that this was one of those few times in life when you can actually see fate at work.
I remember I did not have anything to wear to this interview and my coworkers and friends took me to a consignment shop to try and find something that could work. As we walk into the first shop there is a beautiful double breasted navy suit hanging on the rack. I thought this is too good to be true. Well is was a size 14, I had been a size 16 and figured it would not fit. I had been playing on the company softball team for several months and must have lost some weight because it fit perfectly. It also only cost about $20.00.
So now I was set and off I went to Lego. I had an hour drive and I remember blasting my radio and singing along just to keep the nerves at bay. When I finally arrived at the company it was like driving into an amusement park. There were lego sculptures on the lawn and throughout the lobby. Everyone was extremely nice and I could immediately tell this was a great place to work just because everyone seemed to enjoy what they were doing. The lady behind the desk told me someone would be by to pick me up. I did not realize she really meant I was leaving the building.
Ten minutes later the gentleman I was having my interview with showed up in a car and told me we need to drive to the design studio. On the ride he explained that designers who work in a stimulating environment worked better than designers who worked in a cubicle inside a corporate setting. He explained that Lego had actually tested this theory and created a pleasing work area for their designers based on these findings. I personally think no matter what you do for a job the environment can effect your work. He said without great designs they did not have anything to sell and that all started with the company's designers. I figured any company that felt this way about designers was the place for me to work.
We drove along a country road and I started to wonder where we were heading. This was one of those times a single woman starts to panic a little on the inside. Anyway false alarm, we finally pulled up at this amazing three story farm house. It was one of the prettiest houses I had even seen. At this point you can only imagine my excitement and how much I wanted this job and I still was not even sure what the job was.
As we go inside, I am amazed at all the natural lighting and wide open spaces. The gentleman takes me into this large "playroom". There is a large farm table in the middle of the room with every toy imaginable. Two walls were all windows and the remaining walls were full bookshelves. He explained this is where they encourage the designers to come and play to help stimulate new ideas. They also ran focus groups with kids and adults in this room.
Finally we sat and he explained my job would be to design Lego kits with a computer chip in them that would interact with the user. This was 1997 and nothing like this had been done. This product was designed so the user got to build a project and then train the built toy to follow their commands. I was impressed and excited to be apart of this project.
Now it was time for me to dazzle this man with what I could do. I gave the best interview I could and hoped it was enough. He seemed to like my work and asked questions for about an hour. Then he said he thought I was a leading candidate for the position and he had a couple more interviews set up after mine and would be in touch in a couple of weeks.
He then took me to see where their precious designers worked. There were some rooms with two desks in each. The desks were so cool. The main desk was just like any other with a smooth top. But each desk had a side section which was covered with a Lego mat and spaces to hold Lego pieces. This is where the designers could work with the Lego bricks to help test their designs.
He thanked me for my time and drove me back to my car. I have to say I felt pretty great about the experience and now looking back believe I learned so much just from the interview.
So as you may have guessed already, I did not get the job. But here is where fate pointed me to the path I was meant to follow. The weekend after this job interview, I drove to Boston and met Matthew face to face. We had a long distance relationship for a couple of months and I was already crazy about him. Without getting into the story (I will save it for next time), Matthew proposed on the first day we met. It felt so right and I said yes. Now he was living and going to school in Phoenix and I living and working in CT and was hoping for this job that would keep me in CT. This was quite a hurdle right out of the gate. I remember we discussed it at the time and I think Matthew said we would deal with it, if and when I got the job. He can be very practical.
So after an amazing week in Boston with Matthew I left to go back to my life in CT and he left to go back to Phoenix, unsure of our next step but sure it would be together. I got a call from the gentleman at Lego letting me know that even though I was his first choice, another likely candidate that already worked for Lego had come forward and Lego's policy was to hire from within the company first. Whether this was true or him just letting me down easy, I will never know. Though this was disappointing, I was still glowing from my week with Matthew and the thought of our future together and the sting was not so bad.
A month after all of this took place there was an article in the CT paper. Lego was pulling their design department from the US and sending them to work in Denmark. I realized if I had gotten the position I would have been one of the designers sent to Denmark (or possibly let go from the job). I am sure Matthew would have come with me to Denmark and we will never know what could have been. Perhaps in time I would have still started my own company and learned how to quilt, I do not know. However I do believe everything happens for a reason and live my life with this belief. I like to look back on this month in 1997 and see it as the moment that everything in my life changed and fate helped me find my way onto the path I was meant to be on. Until next time....