With minutes left before I was ready to shut down my computer and head out to pick up the kids, my phone rang. A familiar number flashed on caller ID and instead of letting it go to voice mail (as nearly every call I get does) I answered. The cheerful voice on the other end greeted me with an uncomfortably loud, but comfortably familiar, “RUTHIEEEEEE!!!!!!”
It was my old boss, Jamie. (And yes, he really calls me that and squeals it like a little girl.) We haven’t worked together for over a decade, but every quarter he makes the call on the day Alcoa announces quarterly earnings. (Fun fact: Alcoa (ticker: AA) is always the first company to report each quarter.) I’m incredibly grateful, because on the day Aloca releases their quarterly financials I usually am somewhere between panic of what is ahead and denial that I choose the ups and downs the market hands me everyday.
Jamie and I had an epic breakup as it related to work. We were in the midst of a big merger with our company being acquired. Through the process he allowed me a lot of access that I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten based on my job description and relatively short tenure. I supplied him with all the numbers around the business he ran and we both knew I could do a better job having more context. While our entire business unit was promised jobs in the acquiring company, I wasn’t so green as to totally believe it. The further along the integration timeline we got, the more certain I was that I wouldn’t have a job in a year. It wasn’t one thing, but a million little things. Quietly, I started looking for something else internally and found my current job through a coworker with whom I had started at the company. When I told Jamie of my planned departure he was angry.
Fists pounding the table, yelling, near tears angry. He unequivocally told me I was making a huge mistake. Then he pleaded with me to stay and that I still had time to change my mind. He completely disagreed with my opinion that my job was not safe and felt that he could protect it. Nobody has ever wanted me to work for them so badly. Someday, it would be a dream to get the band back together, because I’ve never loved working for someone as much as I did him.
In spite of his 6 foot something, 200 pound, military stiff stature, Jamie taught me about vulnerability. Don’t get me wrong, it was irritating. One of his key tenants in managing me is that if he didn’t bring me near tears at least once per quarter, he wasn’t pushing me hard enough. Who does that? He led through example in everything he did. He proved that one could set their ego aside for the betterment of an organization and team. I learned how to set my own ego aside to accomplish the mission too.
It wasn’t until about a year later where he saw what I had seen. I had the advantage of not being in it. Not having as much skin in the game. Not having to lead 200 people to the new frontier. I was able to sit in meetings listening and watching. Observing body language and facial expression helped me see that Jamie wasn’t likely long for the new gig. He chose to move on as I did. That is when our quarterly calls started.
Jamie is my go to for all career related advice and guidance. I know that he will push me to do the right thing, even when it is uncomfortable. I am his go to for all things stock market related, occasionally saving him from a bad stock pick and encouraging him in his cover call writing strategy. I don’t offer much on the career front beyond forcing honesty about his satisfaction with the present and future.
So what do we talk about on our quarterly calls? Work definitely, but lately it has been more about our families. You know, the important things. Once we have traversed our mundane lives, which I always hate admitting, but he makes me feel completely normal in, we then try to solve all the world’s problems, which to date hasn’t really worked in our favor. Go figure. It is the quarterly call I look most forward to as it refuels my tank before I get buried in the barrage of data points and stock moving events. The calls remind me to celebrate the small things and be grateful for the big ones, like friendships with former bosses who hated the break up.