Authors: Simone Jaine
Take a Chance
Copyright © 2013 Simone Jaine Robinson.
All rights reserved.
This story is dedicated to the memory of my father
He convinced me as a child that trying to get high scores on
It Pays to Increase Your Word Power was fun.
When I was older he was the sounding board for many essays and formal letters, giving constructive criticism where needed.
Despite having a preference for using multiple polysyllabic words when simpler words would suffice he was always enthusiastic and encouraging.
I miss you Dad.
Someone could stab her with a needle and it wouldn’t make a difference. In less than two weeks her career, no, her life was going to improve beyond measure. Nothing could possibly burst her bubble of happiness.
her central Auckland high rise office Jem ignored the driving rain hammering the large windows. Even if she had been looking, the rain was so heavy she wouldn’t have been able to see the volcanic island of Rangitoto across the harbour. Sitting at her desk, Jem willed herself to calm down and then absently clicked her pen as she ran through her list of things to do.
With a smile she crossed off the last item and placed the folder into the out-tray for Cherie, the boss’s executive assistant to copy for the next meeting. Glancing at her watch she noted with satisfaction that she had bet the deadline by three hours.
Pleased to have a few free minutes, Jem unfolded a worn piece of paper she had in her pocket. She had carried this piece of paper around since she wrote it half her life ago at the age of sixteen. It was a list of everything she had wanted to achieve and she only had two items left uncrossed.
Be the boss of a company
She would hopefully soon be able to cross out “live overseas” and getting the promotion would mean she sort of got to be the boss of a company too.
It had taken a long time to get to this point. Over the intervening years she had realised it was easier to list things than to check them off. Her broken engagement had proved it.
had been crossed off her list and left that way.
Jem tried to ignore what was written below that goal as the words were still legible even with a single black line through them. Just seeing them written in front of her still had the ability to make her doubt her self-worth.
Her excitement subdued a little, Jem folded the paper up along the crease lines and dropped it onto her desk. The two uncrossed items on her list should be getting her attention at the moment and her career would make them happen.
She currently worked for Sachs Wall as a liaison manager. They on-sold and supported computer software for a vast spectrum of businesses. She liaised with companies looking for software to meet their needs and found something suitable. Sometimes the company’s needs were specific and the software they sold would be customised to suit.
Three years ago she had been one of their sales reps when she needed to take an extended leave of absence for personal reasons. When this occurred she knew she had a key position and her employers would not be able to hold her job for her. Three months later she had phoned to ask for a reference but Martha Sachs, one of the company’s two directors, had wanted to see her instead.
Not wanting to lose a valuable employee but with Jem’s position taken by a new employee who was doing well, Martha created the new position of liaison manager for her. One of Jem’s strengths was in clearly stating a company’s requirements and providing a buffer between the software developers wanting to be technical and the company which could often be frustratingly vague; they couldn’t be specific as to what they actually wanted but would tear apart what you produced. Jem had a talent for sorting out problems and creating solutions with reduced stress on all sides. She also dealt with all the complicated enquiries that the client managers and sales reps couldn’t manage.
Now, all going well, in just over a fortnight she would get the promotion she had earned and would be relocating to Hong Kong to set up the Sachs Wall Asia branch office. The promotion wasn’t assured, she reminded herself and she shouldn’t discount her main rival Mark Walton. He was the man who had taken her sales rep position and someone who had the ear of Nathan Wall, the other director.
Up until recently she and Mark had worked well together but now he seemed to be getting too competitive over the promotion
for her liking. In the past he had asked her out several times and Jem was now glad she had always turned him down. As it was, the looming promotion announcement was making things awkward between them.
When it came down to it she knew that her gender would count against her with Nathan
Wall. More than once in her career as a salesperson she had been ignored in favour of a man selling the same thing. For some reason having that Y chromosome made them more authoritative to a client where if she acted the same way she was considered pushy. It was something she accepted but it didn’t mean she had to like it.
When she first started at Sachs Wall h
er age and looks also counted against her more often than she would have liked as some people considered her too young and/or pretty to know what she was talking about. She couldn’t help looking young for her age and had adapted by going without makeup and by wearing her hair clipped up to make her look older and more professional. All her work clothes were in sombre shades, no blouse too low cut or hem too high to distract from business. Now she dressed this way out of habit.
Despite her efforts she found there was a certain type of client who would be out of her reach. They tended to be older men who worked in companies primarily employing men in senior positions. Unfortunately these men were the decision makers.
Doing her research and knowing they were currently in the market for software she now turned these potential clients to the male sales reps for the big sales pitch. Using her research they would already know exactly what the client was looking for and tailor their presentation to suit. With this strategy they had an excellent take-up rate. Mark often remarked that they made a great team: she reeled them in and he landed them.
Ironically these same men
by virtue of their generation were generally the ones who were the least technologically savvy and had the most difficulty expressing the specifics of their requirements so were more than happy for her to be their go-between. She took satisfaction in charging them extra for her services.
A knock at the door pulled her from her thoughts. Cherie, Martha’s executive assistant walked into her office carrying a mug in one hand. Jem smiled in appreciation as Cherie placed the mug on the edge of her desk.
“Thanks for that,” Jem said gratefully as she scooped the mug of hot chocolate up by the handle.
“No problem. Meeting in five,” Cherie reminded her.
“That’s fine. I’ve got the Bryson account finished.” Jem leaned across her desk and passed the folder she’d just finished from her out-tray to Cherie. Her sleeve caught the corner of the folded piece of paper and it fell unnoticed by the desk leg.
Sitting back, Jem took a sip of her hot chocolate. The little marshmallows Cherie put on top bobbed on the surface as she placed it back on the desk. As far as she knew she was the only one around who didn’t drink tea or coffee and she appreciated the effort Cherie went to on her behalf.
She studied her friend who had opened the folder to take a quick peek at her work.
In her mid-twenties and well proportioned, Cherie wore her skirts short and her hair, a suspect shade of blond, down. Her fingernails changed colour
twice weekly and she supplemented her slightly below average height with heels so high Jem often wondered how she could walk in them.
A lot of people assumed by her appearance that she was a brainless bimbo. Cherie even kept the requisite pack of gum in her desk drawer as a convenient prop to add to the image. Her appearance however, disguised a sharp mind and very little got past her.
Cherie snapped the folder shut and took a seat on the opposite side of the desk. “I wish everyone was as efficient as you. The party that Mark and
-boss have planned for this coming Saturday evening for prospective clients is turning into a real pain.”
“In what way?”
Cherie grimaced. “First we had problems finding a venue as every possible convention from Sci-Fi devotees to flower arranging groups has decided that they want to book the same day that Mark insists he must have. It took me most of the day to find the last decent venue available
which will mean a bit of a drive for most people as it happens to be on the North Shore. Then I had to change the caterers because the original ones were going to charge more for the extra distance and I was concerned about them getting caught in traffic and being delayed.”
“Sounds a hassle considering how much you have to do without running around for all this.”
“You had better believe it although I’m expecting things to improve after the new database system is installed. At the moment I am fed up with the way the current one crashes when it decides I’m trying to do too much at once. I’m so pleased you talked Nouveautech into installing it sooner.”
“It helps when
Nouveautech’s owner is my brother-in-law,” Jem said dryly. “Did Jase say when it would be implemented?”
“I was told they would start preliminary data transfer to the new data base later this week and if there were no problems we’ll go live next week.”
“I thought Jason was going to be in Fiji this week, not that it matters. He usually likes to be on hand though – perhaps he knows it’ll be okay since I’m familiar with the program and can help with tutorials for everyone else.”
“No that’s already covered. We have someone booked on Monday morning for a group staff tutorial and with time for a follow-up on an individual basis if necessary.”
“You sound very organised.”
Cherie tapped a red lacquered nail against the folder she was holding.
“As much as I would like to take credit for it, I can’t. The guy coming to hold our hands when we go live – can’t remember his name – set it all up, right down to the tutorials.”
Cherie grinned. “My big input there was to stick
-boss in for his tutorial last and have him take up three times the time allotted for everyone else.”
Jem grinned back. Nathan Wall was not exactly computer literate despite
the type of company he headed yet he liked to throw out technical terms to make him sound knowledgeable. It was a shame he didn’t know what the terms actually meant which reminded her...
“Were you thinking of the time he told everyone that the problem with his computer was a user-interface error?”
Cherie sniggered. “Yes. Do you remember how we all had to sit there with straight faces at that meeting after he said that?”
I ever! Afterwards I found out that Pete from tech support had told him that after Nate couldn’t figure something out so randomly hit keys until he managed to crash the system.”
“And the best thing was that Nate promoted Pete afterwards,” Cherie finished and shook her head in disbelief.
“He’s good like that with the men who work here.”
“Don’t I know it,” Cherie said, losing all trace of amusement in her voice. Her fingers tightened around the folder on her lap.
“What’s he up to now?” Jem asked.
“It’s not just him this time. You know that Mark pushed for the presentation on Saturday evening to only be for the big prospective clients.”
“I hadn’t been told that. I thought it was just for the ones in his region which was why he and Nate were the only staff involved.”
Mark’s going for all the high end clients. He’s probably hoping to reel them in on his own to impress Nate before the promotion decision is finally made. Not to mention doing it on his own will mean a bigger bonus for him which he won’t have to share.”
“What? Who’ve they invited?”
Cherie rattled off the names of several companies and Jem’s hands clenched under the desk.
“I’ve done the background work for all of those companies and two of them are in Evie’s region and one is in Greg’s. They are going to be furious if they get taken out from under them considering I know that Greg has already had preliminary meetings with the decision makers at Feildings and Evie has asked me to arrange a visit with Spar-One about the feasibility of modifications.”
“Does Mark know about this?” asked Cherie.
“I’m sure he does,” Jem said grimly. “Do Evie and Greg know?”
“I don’t think so but they will within minutes,” Cherie said. “I’m going to have to think of a way to tell them that won’t end with Mark’s blood on the carpet.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much about Mark,” said Jem. “He can talk his way out of anything.”
“I wish I had that skill,” Cherie said. “He and
-boss have me jumping through hoops over this presentation. I have individualised brochures to prepare for each company as well as sorting out special extras for this function.
“You mean fancy food and sparkling wine?”
“That’s not the half of it. Mark’s insisted upon a swan ice sculpture because he thinks it will look classy and
-boss has agreed with him between changing the planned menu for the umpteenth time.”
Jem could feel how frazzled Cherie was feeling from the other side of the desk. She decided to help.
“Tell Evie and Greg about the presentation and get them to help with the brochures for the companies in their region as they’ll know what to emphasize to them so you can just focus on the layout rather than the content. Do the same to Mark for the other companies. Tell him if he wants an ice swan he has to arrange for it and deliver it and you’ll reimburse him out of petty cash. As for the menu, you decide.
-boss won’t remember what he said last and if he fusses tell him the caterers needed to know in advance and you thought he had made his mind up.”