Goodnight Cal Spas, and Good Luck

After two years and change I’m walking away from Cal Spas and moving on to new opportunities. I should be downing a Venti Quad Toffee Nut Latte and smoking a pack of Nat Sherman Classic Mints to celebrate, but instead I’m coughing my lungs out and snorting mucus hard enough to give me a headache. Sometime over the weekend the cold that had leaped to me from my coworkers exploded into full bloom. Typically, I would have at least called off a day, but human resources had already carved out my final paycheck to include my final days of work and if I missed any of them it would mean delays in getting paid. I toughed it out. I only mention my sickness now because this occasion is cause for celebration and I feel too much like garbage to celebrate, however, I think I can muster enough energy to commit a few words for posterity.

A friend of mine and I were talking about romantic relationships and how it’s important to tell your friends about the good things in your romantic relationship instead of just the bad – as most friends typically do when their romantic relationship hits a rough patch. The reason you should mention the good with the bad, he concluded, is because if it’s all bad then the friend who’s listening will only have a negative view of the romantic relationship. I think the same can be said of jobs. So while not every day was full of rosy beams of sunshine, the job was fun more often than not and allowed me to work with people I truly liked – though perhaps didn’t show it as much as I should have – and provided me valuable work experience.

The biggest surprise I’ve had over the last two years is discovering how much I enjoy marketing. Not only is it creative, but there’s also a fair amount of analytical skill involved. I love looking at how a competitor is marketing something and finding a way to take their marketing strategy and out-market them. It’s also fun trying to be in the heads of consumers reading whatever it is I’m writing and making sure that I have something that will catch their attention. I think that’s why some of my copy gets a little silly. For instance – and this is one of my favorites – some recent copy I wrote for a patio furniture collection called Nassa went a little something like this: Blast off into outdoor space…. See, Nassa = NASA, get it? OK, admittedly not the most salable bit of copy I’ve written, but damned if it ain’t attention getting!

A few words should also be spared for my manager. In the entirety of my day job experience, I’ve found that good managers are hard to come by, which I often find strange because my criteria for good isn’t very difficult to meet. A manager should hold his or her team accountable and to the highest standards, but fairly. The manager should also be willing to put in the same amount of work as is demanded of his or her employees. Mostly, the manager should be an advocate of his or her staff, defending them always and understanding that any failings of the subordinate are reflections of the manager. Suffice it to say that my (now former) manager wasn’t just a good manager. He was a great manager. He’s the kind of manager I would be if I had a staff. In fact, I was that kind of manager.

A Quick Tangent: When I was 19 I worked as a Customer Service Representative for a call center that handled all of the 411 calls for a major cell phone carrier. After a year as a CSR, I was promoted to a trainer and I got to manage classes ranging in size from as few as 8 people to as large as 30. I did so for three week periods at a time. The class would finally graduate and I would take over a whole new set of people. I sympathized with public school teachers when my classes became too large to teach effectively. You can imagine the kind of chaos it was to have people play musical computer terminals because there weren’t enough to accommodate everyone at the same time. Worse yet, the company was so desperate to lower the average caller wait time that any screening processes for new employees, like spelling or typing ability, were thrown out the window. The worst offense and the last straw was when the company would commandeer my trainees during their second week and force them to do the actual job and take calls. I wrote a letter of complaint to the call center manager, explaining that it was unfair to hold these people accountable for poor job performance when they weren’t getting proper training and that the company needed to treat them like people instead of numbers. I was demoted the next day.

What I’ll miss most at Cal Spas are the laughs. Since it was a relaxed marketing department and next to the boisterous sales department, I felt as though I could be myself, which – when unguarded – can be a pretty funny person, even under the most dire and stressful situations. Perhaps it will be the same at my new job, but I know it won’t be for at least 90 days while I make sure to keep my personality to myself and pass the probationary period.

If I had to pick one regret regarding work over the last two years it would be that I didn’t tell my manager that I wanted to leave quietly when I put in my notice. My fantasy was that people wouldn’t even notice until enough days went by without seeing me and then the questions would start and – surprise! – I’m no longer working there! You know, the same kind of surprise you have when you don’t see your neighbor for a week only to be greeted by the smell of decay every time you pass their door. Instead, I forgot to tell my manager about my fantasy and he broadcast the news to everyone. Then on my way out, when I had planned to take a circuitous route to avoid people, my manager instead walked me out directly past them, plunging me into this awkward smattering of bye’s and hasty one-liners. Alas. In the scope of work regrets at least my regret is pretty small comparatively.

So I’m taking the next couple of days off to recuperate and get my apartment in order and also to relax before I start my new gig with Newegg.com. I’m going to be one of the Web Editors there that take the rough copy the Chinese copywriters cobble together and shape it into readable English. I’ll keep you all posted on how it goes. If you’re free over the next four days and want to get together drop me a line.