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Linda A | all galleries >> Galleries >> Every Day I Write My Book - 2004 diary > 18th May 2004 - i AM a name...
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18th May 2004 - i AM a name...

….not a number.

Well, actually I’m three names – I’m Alstead, I’m Ferguson (my married name that just won’t go away as far as my company is concerned, for some reason all my master records are still stored as Ferguson) and Alstead-Ferguson, which I used for a year after my marriage ended so I could wean my clients off the name Ferguson without them thinking they were getting emails and such from a total stranger. All three names will find me.

After yesterday’s tale of woe I wanted to redress the balance of misery to happiness and explain that out of the face of adversity comes happiness of a different kind.

Once upon that same long time ago, I was a shy, awkward teenager who didn’t have the ability to ‘say boo to a goose’. I was coming up to my 20th birthday and trying to figure out how to get a life back. I’d cut myself off totally from all my friends so I could make sure I didn’t ever bump into the person who broke my heart. Every time I heard about him or saw someone who knew him it just twisted the knife. I needed to get away.

After a year or so of languishing in a pool of self-pity and nursing my broken heart I decided that my life would be truly horrible if I didn’t take a grip of myself and do something about it.

I changed my job – in the late 70s I worked for a different division of the company I work for now and so I took the plunge and left the business to seek my career elsewhere. I figured that I needed to get away from everything that reminded me of sadness and build something new, where people wouldn’t associate me with crying and unhappiness. A place where I could function normally again.

It was remarkably easy to make that move – my new employer barely even interviewed me, they were so desperate for staff they had recruitment days at hotels up and down the country and I went along, saw a short presentation, had a 15 minute interview and was offered a job. It helped that I was already working in the same industry and that the company I was joining was trying to set up a rival service to the one I worked on. Funnily enough, it didn’t help the new company, I’d been too lowly to know anything that was important enough to be of use to them.

I worked hard for thirteen years with that company and then (a story for another day) I unexpectedly got the chance to move back to my current company but in a completely different location and role. I have always believed that ‘going back’ is a very bad idea but the new thing I was going to do made me feel I could do it without breaking my own commitment to moving onwards and trying not to look back.

When I came back the company was tiny by its current standards – UK only and around 200 employees or so. The Chief Executive was (and still is) an ambitious man. He knew he wanted to build the business and wanted more. The company now has 14,000 employees and operates in 70 countries of the world. And do you know what? That same Chief Executive is now the Chairman and he knows my name. Not only does he know my name but he can hold a good conversation with me. He knows enough about me to make small talk happily. I think he doesn’t know many of the MDs in the 70 countries as well as that – I’ll place money that he doesn’t even know what the MDs of some countries look like let alone what their names are. BUT he knows me. I truly am a name not a number.

I’m not sure if it a good or bad thing that he knows me so well. It’s partly because (as I’m sure everyone who reads this knows) I'm very forthright and, if truth be told a bit ‘gobby’. I have a terrible ‘self-destruct’ button that makes me have a few drinks at the office party then make a bee-line for him to tell him how we should be doing things!! I have a sneaky feeling he sees me coming and his heart sinks because he knows he’s in for half an hour of ‘we should be doing this’. Poor guy.

I can walk around our building knowing that I made a contribution to the size and strength of the business and that makes me proud. That may sound naïve but it’s true. I get a real buzz out of knowing that I made a difference to the business. When I re-joined the company I was told by the head-hunter that recruited me that I had the opportunity, if I did well, to be a big fish in a small pond……now I’m swimming in a much bigger pond than I ever imagined I would be.

The downside of all of this is that our size means that we’re not the small family that we were and we have to wear these dreadful tags each day. You need them to get around the building and to get in and out. I need mine when I go to our other offices elsewhere around the city. I even have to keep my computer locked to my desk and my drawers that store personal information about me and the members of my team. It’s a sad fact of modern life and an indication that our size means we no longer have that family atmosphere.

Would I change any of this? No, not really. I love my job even though I find the work:life balance almost impossible to juggle. I still get a kick from our successes and feel miserable when things don’t go well. I still love it when our Chairman passes me in the corridor and says ‘Hello Linda, how are things with you?’

other sizes: small medium original auto
Teresa 19-May-2004 17:57
Also in Fort Payne, Alabama! :)
Beth 19-May-2004 08:33
Next time you talk to him, you might like to mention that you are also inspiration to all who have the privillege to work with you, not just as a professional, but as a person. I am glad the big kahuna knows you - I hope he realises what a wonderful individual you are too. xxx
mikiruaq19-May-2004 00:34
Nice story. Your name is known in Alaska too :)
virginiacoastline19-May-2004 00:12
you're known in Norfolk, VA too =)
Ray :)18-May-2004 23:12
OK, I can say "Hello Paul" to my Chief Executive but I'm still trying to fathom out how I've made a meaningful impact to the organisation and the people it serves. But we are having a new security system installed at the moment, so things are obviously moving in the right direction;->.
Oh, for a job change!!
Robin Reid18-May-2004 22:13
I love your openness and self-reflection. Sounds like you are a pretty terrific person.
Guest 18-May-2004 21:43
Your known over in San Francisco too!! Cheers!
Guest 18-May-2004 21:18
You are not just known by name in your huge company, but in your rival companies too! I know this for a fact because Simon (husband who works for a big rival) often comes home and tells me he has heard your name mentioned!

I am very proud to be the small and little known sister of a famous and VERY important market research expert! Well done Sis, you have a lot to be proud of!!! Love Jan XX
Guest 18-May-2004 21:18
lol nice read!
Guest 18-May-2004 20:47
Well at least the Chairman knows your name which has got to mean a lot?? I have a few other names - non of them to be repeated in polite company {lol}