I had been to New York City before, but only on very brief trips for work back when I was at CTTSO. I had never really seen the city. I was in awe. They put me up in a hotel in Midtown, right across the street from Rockefeller Plaza. I walked around the night before the interview and explored a little. I was in love. All of the candidates for the board met up the night before and we had dinner together. It was going to be a challenge. There were eight of us. All Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, or Marine Corps Special Operations dudes. It was a great crew of people and by the end of dinner I was just happy that one of us would be getting the opportunity to intern for one of the largest Marketing and Advertising conglomerates in the world, but I sure as hell hoped it would be me.
The next morning we met outside the hotel and walked together through Midtown a few blocks to the company headquarters on Madison Avenue. It was beautiful. The morning sun shining down on the slick business suits and ties and shoes who’s inhabitants didn’t have time to give a fuck about how wonderful it all was, but I took it all in. I loved every bit of it and I wanted to be a part of this city. This living organism comprised of all walks of humanity. It seemed to me the only place where I’d been that the amalgam of the people of the earth all lived and moved and breathed together that actually kindof worked. It was amazing to me.
We walked into the foyer of the building, it was a tall building, ominous almost, and kitty corner to St Patrick’s Cathedral, which was a wonder all its own. We got our visitor badges and were ushered through the security gates and into an elevator up to the 10th floor. Mahogany grandeur awaited us at the reception desk and we soon found ourselves sequestered and each in a flutter of nerves in a large conference room with coffee, fruit, and sandwiches, replete with more hardwood all around and big squishy office chairs surrounding a big, and very serious looking, red stained dark wood table. Everyone tried messing around on their phones or laptops for a few minutes, but to the last man we gave up on it and just sat there looking at each other and waiting for our turn to appear before the review board.
The board was comprised mainly of four CEOs from four of the conglomerate’s Agencies (Companies that the holding company owned), within which the “chosen one” would be working for three months each, for a year, then they would be offered a job at one or another of the Company’s Agencies if their internship went well. In addition to that, there were several other CEOs with interest in the proceedings who would be in the room, and in addition to all of them, the big man himself, Dale, the CEO of the conglomerate, would be observing the whole show. So, no reason to be nervous, there were only 8-10 Fortune 500 CEOs in the room, and we each had about 20 minutes with them.
I just did what I had learned to do as a young kid getting my teeth worked on by the dentist in Indonesia, where there were no pain numbing agents, just the drill and the pick: No matter what…relax. That shit works.
I was called in a couple hours after we got there as one of the last candidates. The room was big and, yes, bedecked with hardwood and a grand table that matched the rest of the upholstery. Four men and women, presumably the four CEOs, sat across the table from my seat, with a few others scattered around the room. I walked in, introduced myself, and said, “Your’e probably wondering why I asked you all to come here today.” We all laughed, I sat down, and it began.
The interview continued on in a jovial fashion as if we were all just bullshitting with each other, because in point of fact, we really were. That’s all an interview really is. They’re just trying to feel you out and see what makes you tick to find out if you’d fit into their organization. I don’t remember all of the questions they asked me, but I just told them the things I’d learned along the way about business and people and shit in response to their questions. I let them get a good feel for who I was, that’s all. Somewhere in the middle of the interview a question came up about how I challenge myself and I went on a diatribe about how I like to make myself think about hard problems, such as: “Come up with an alternative for the wheel”. Someone in the shadows of the room asked: “Well, did you come up with any?” “Yes”, I replied. “I came up with at least two. Let me use this paper plate as an example”. Fortunately for me, there happened to be a paper plate sitting on the table with afew leftover crumbs of a sandwich on it. I showed how a downward facing axle on a vehicle could use a disk or multiple discs to control forward movement and steerage, and then I said, “Let me see if I can make this thing into a cone really quick.” I did so by folding it over along its radius and heard the same voice in the dark recesses of the room say, “Ha! He did it.” I then showed how multiple disks of incrementally increasing sizes could make up cones, which at a 45* angle or so would function perfectly as opposing tires, or if inverted to 135* could make up a single tire with two opposing axles. I had read somewhere that MIT was working on new concepts for the wheel and I mentioned it and said that they were going about it all wrong… which they were, they weren’t looking at reinventing the wheel, they were reinventing the tire and its braking systems and whatnot. Anyway, we bullshat for a while longer, and my time was soon up. It was actually fun. I think we all enjoyed the chat. As one of the CEOs, Denise, escorted me from the room, she said something like “I’ve never been in a more interesting interview in all my life.” I thought for sure I had the internship nailed after she said that, so I went downstairs and had a cigarette to decompress and feel good about myself.
When I was done I went back up to the 10th floor and was immediately snatched up again by Denise who told me that we each had 30 seconds to pitch to the board as to why we thought we were the best candidate for the position, and it was my turn. I went in not really knowing what to say because I didn’t really know what they were looking for exactly, so I told them that I couldn’t possibly know if I was the best candidate, because all of them were so qualified, and I didn’t really know what they were looking for, but if they selected me I would do all that I could to rise to and beyond whatever standard was set for me. I thanked them for their time and told them that I did hope that they picked me and I excused myself and walked out of the room.
We all waited there in that mahogany boardroom in fear and trepidation for Denise to bring back the findings. She didn’t keep us waiting long. I just knew I had it in the bag, so when she said that so and so, a young Navy SEAL was chosen as the intern, I was heartbroken. Fucking SEALs. But then she said something that brought me back to life: “Jason, Dale is very interested in you as a direct hire. We will be in touch with you within a month if we want to proceed. Thank you all for coming, and good luck in your future endeavors.” It wasn’t a sure thing, but at least I had a chance. I later realized that it was Dale’s voice that had come from the dark recesses of the room during my interview.
Four months later I was VP of Operations at Diversified Agency Services (DAS) Group of Companies under OMNICOM.