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Work It! Working to Live and Living to Work

Getting Fired is More than the Loss of a Job

Community Curator November 12, 2019
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This story was submitted anonymously to the Work it! Working to Live and Living to Work collection as part of the October SEEQ sessions.

I love traveling from the Upper West Side all the way downtown. Emerging from the crowded, noisy subway after traveling nine underground miles has always felt like a big adventure to me. Away from my small life uptown, all the way to the history of New York City, to the big leagues of the Big Apple. In the summer of 2001, I was gigging. I was helping a friend with her fitness business, volunteering for a political campaign, and teaching GMAT test prep. The founder of this company, Manhattan GMAT, had asked me, since I was not working full time, to help him put together a GMAT Boot Camp. He was in charge of instruction. I was in charge of everything else. I scouted spots all around midtown Manhattan but booked a place on Wall Street, on one of my sensory overloading, urban adventures, downtown. I swallowed up the freedom and agency of this project. I knew that it was going to be a success. I was less confident about the other part, the part about having to find the students, because I was not a marketing person. I quickly realized that it involved a set of pride-swallowing activities related to photocopy fliers taped to bus stops, cold calls, and postcards stuffed into KaplanĀ® books. I even attended a competitor’s free workshop and placed notices of the boot camp on their tables. I had to teach myself how to do the recruiting, but as it turned out, I was good at that too. The Manhattan GMAT Boot Camp was set to begin on October 1, 2001. Then, on September 11, 2001, the world changed. Like all New Yorkers, I was stupefied by what happened to our city and nation. Manhattan GMAT*? Would it fail before it ever got started? I had successfully recruited enough students to attend our new program, but the Wall Street space was vacated in the aftermath of the World Trade Center collapse and would remain so for some time. We had to find a classroom. This was the trigger for Manhattan GMATs* first full-time location, and then, for my full-time job. Permanent space meant an ongoing marketing operation. And thus I became the first employee of a company that would completely reshape who I became, and am still becoming, 18 years later. For six years, I worked as the primary revenue generating employee of Manhattan GMAT. We initially landed in a loft space in Chelsea, and had all the trappings of a mom and pop service operation. I greeted and go to know every single student. Within a couple of years, we had a small staff and a few interns. During the day, music would play, we ate sushi rolls at our desk, and poked fun about our social lives. And at night, the space turned into a classroom, with algebra, grammar, and logic lessons. As the company grew, however, my work identity started to evolve. I was traveling more, as we opened centers around the country. I hated pulled an overnight bag through the airport, but I was still so inspired by the progress that we were making and by my role within that growth. I managed a sales and service team. I still spoke to students but no longer did I know them all by name. And then, I got engaged to be married. I wasn’t the first of the original team to do so. I was actually the last. The founder had also receded into the background to work on something else, who he had hired a man named Andrew Yang to come in and run the company. The pace leading up to my wedding was frenetic, to say the least. I was the Senior Director of Marketing and Student Services, overseeing virtually all of the revenue-generating components of the multi-million dollar company. How I made it through that period to the day of my wedding still surprises me. I was on the road, I was in constant communication with my team who was preparing for me to be away, I was picking flowers for my country-Virginia wedding at my New York City desk, and I was trying to stay in shape by training for my fourth marathon. But I did it. It all went beautifully, and though I was a little down to return to work, when I walked back into the office as a married woman, I couldn’t believe how fortunate I was. But on my third day back, Andrew Yang, now Candidate for President of the United States, waited for everyone to leave the office for the day, asked me to come into his office, and in this private setting said to me that now that I was married, I wouldn’t want to keep working as hard as I had for the last six years. Id want to focus on my new life. And just like that, my entire world blew up. Nothing compares to the destruction caused by terrorists on September 11, 2001. But ironically, the aftermath of that day launched a part of my life that ended in the destruction of my identity six years later, and even today, I am still struggling to redefine my self-worth in the workplace.

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