And Now You Feel a little lost.
I have worked in special events nearly my entire professional career. Whether it was on the brand side, or the agency side; even off and on and now back on again the side that ensures the brand and agency have all the permits and permissions to do what they want to do…. this has essentially been my life.
I left an agency, a small but noted agency, to go back to a smaller company that I initially worked for, back in 2017, while also holding down a contract job for a mobile marketing agency. At one point, that meant “experiential/sampling tours” but eventually with the evolution of smart phones; it came to mean marketing to people via their mobile of choice. It was challenging. I kind of enjoyed the challenge, but it was probably also the most challenging and bizarre period of time I’ve ever spent in the workforce.
I was meant to report to not only the company founder, who hired me, but also the VC point of contact and the second in command who appeared to have a bit of a better command on the reality of the situation … the founder’s partner (who was a programmer, but also a musician, which spoke to my heart since I was married to one) and a ton folks that I sort of knew through other agency relationships I’d forged over the years.
It became apparent to me about 6 weeks into the assignment that this wouldn’t be a contract to perm position. It broke my heart, but the agency was so divided, there was really no way to bring everyone together. We had a few outings, I tried to bring people together in our two connected, yet separate, WeWork spaces, as well as connecting everyone in the CT office; but it just wasn’t going to happen. I saw the writing on the wall, I realized what I could affect, what I wasn’t going to be able to do from a big picture; tried to convey that to the people I knew would be there longer that I would be, and just went with the flow.
I learned a lot in those 6 months. One, I was in a WeWork space during the prime “ramp up investment phase” which I just learned about watching the series on Apple TV+. Our team was lucky, we reaped the benefits of the golden era. I didn’t LOVE that space, but it wasn’t horrible. There was some great people that had offices in that space, but there were some absolutely AWFUL and MISERABLE people just looking to take advantage of everyone around them in the same way that Adam was, they were easy to spot but difficult to avoid. Something I am happy that I have knowledge of, but didn’t necessarily love. Not a bit. Such an obtuse place to be in so many fucking ways.
When my contract ended, and it ended in an abrupt and completely surprising way, I was bitter. I remember being called to a TINY conference room on a floor that we NEVER used. I met with the “Fun Guy” the guy that was supposed to be the guy that made the whole place sing and hum; he sat in my little space when he wasn’t traveling. We got along well, it seemed. It appeared we had a rapport, that we liked each other and got along well. We traveled to a couple of conferences and had some good times. He was a “country loving guy”, and I, having grown up as country and country gets; appreciated that. I even went so far as to order him some hand-tied flies from one of the best known Maine Guides, for his fishing addiction; just days ahead of what, I assume he knew was coming weeks in advance; of the day he me into this tiny, air deprived conference room on an unused floor, to let me know that my services were no longer needed 2 months early.
I was unwavered. I sat across from him at a very tiny round table where he sat, drinking a draft beer from the now well-known Taps that WeWork locations were known for. I asked him exactly what the reasons for my release were. He stared down, red-faced, at a piece of paper that clearly had nothing on it; and stammered that I hadn’t met the requirements of my contract; I had failed to deliver (an absolutely impossible list of deliverables without any support, assistance, direction or feedback) over the last 12 weeks and therefore it was decided by the founder and VC board Director (former Military and person that had recommended me for the position, but also warned me that this guy was a bit unhinged) that my services were no longer needed.
I looked at him, waiting for him to meet my gaze but he would not. I said, “Fine, you have a marketing department now which I have structured for you; if you no longer wish for me to lead that department I understand. I do, however, have strong ties to a number of your clients, why not put me on client services? There is really no need to waste my talent, which I have proven, and you have all witnessed on numerous occasions; I have value.”
Just when I thought someone could not turn any redder without having spent an entire day on South Beach under the influence without sun block in July, he went there.
He said that he didn’t have a place for me on that team at the moment, but if one opened up, I would be the first call.
Mind you, they were actively trying to hire 2 people in that role. It would have been a slight reduction in pay, but I’d have taken it in return for the reduction in stress and ability to sleep.
He didn’t want to shake my hand, but I insisted. That’s bullshit, you fire someone that you know you have no grounds to fire other than the one sentence in the contract that says you can; and you don’t have the balls to look them in the eye while you’re doing it? And this, just a week after you’re partying with me in Chicago and telling me how fantastic the conference presence, I created, was at a client location for dinner? Grow a pair.
Fast forward three weeks later, I am back at the company I spent the majority of my early years with; the company founded by the guy that was my very first supervisor out of college; and I haven’t looked back. I left that place to go to another agency and work for a couple of brands for about a 10-year period, but I’m back home.
A few years ago I began chasing down an agency that I really admired for their creative work. I cold called the founders. I emailed that creative directors. I commented on everything that they did. I wanted to be a part of making it happen. And now, finally, here we are delivering one of the largest activations to happen in years – Projecting “Stranger Things Season 4” teasers on the Empire State Building.
Lots of stressful weeks, long nights and hard work – but it really paid off. I was able to take the boy and his kids to this wonderful event (they had just finished binging the first 3 seasons a few weeks prior to this event) and sort of explain what I did to them. They had a great time and that, well … that was the best feeling in the world.
The guy that had to give me my termination speech reached out, he wanted to say “great job” … I appreciate that. Another coworker from that time let me know that he was really broken up about having to do that dirty work for the company founder, (this guy actually split off and created his own agency about 8 months later, so I believe it…) and I let him know that I truly appreciated him taking notice.
A few weekends later we worked on a Westworld promotion, which was the entire reason I began chasing down this client in the first place, and it was really satisfying to come full circle, But I never could have known in the end, the best feeling would come from giving those two boys a late night out on a “school night”, and something to brag about when they went to class the next day.
My, how life has changed. And I absolutely love it.