A Note from Fatty: I’m working on telling the story that will eventually be in the book, Fight Like Susan. Click here to read the previous post in this series.
I felt a strange mixture of disgust and relief. Disgust with the company, and relief that I had found out what kind of people I would have been working for, before I had joined them and moved to New Jersey.
Mixed in with that was a pretty big chunk of fear. I had four children, a wife with cancer, and a job that wasn’t paying the bills today — and I honestly didn’t know if I would still have any job at all within a few months. Or weeks. Or days.
Then, on the first working day of the new year, I got a call from Microsoft.
“We think there’s a job here that fits you a lot better than the first one you interviewed for,” she said. “Could you fly down for a day of interviews?”
Not wanting to start down a dead-end road, I told her, “You should know my wife just got diagnosed with breast cancer.”
“I’m so sorry,” the recruiter replied. “We can do the interviews later if you need.”
“No,” I said, still thinking about how my hopes for a new job had just gone belly up and not wanting to start down a path that wouldn’t go anywhere. “I just wanted to make sure that this isn’t going to be something that affects whether you can hire me.”
“Of course not,” she replied. “Usually I don’t go into our benefits ’til we’ve made an offer, but when you’re here, let’s set aside some time to talk about our health coverage. I think you’l find that it’s the best there is. Anywhere.”
Within a week I was at Microsoft for one of their famous interview circuits, where the first person who interviews you takes you to the next person who interviews you, who takes you to the next, and so forth.
You can kind of tell how you’re doing as you’re interviewing, because at any point during the day of interviews the person you’re talking with can say, “Thank you for your time,” and that’s it. You’re done.
If you make it to the lunch hour interview (where a person interviews you while you eat in the cafeteria), you’re doing pretty well. If you make it to the end of the workday, you’re doing really well. And if you make it to the secret-bonus interview where you talk with someone a couple levels above who you’d be reporting to, you’re at least a finalist.
I managed to stay sharp throughout the day (not as easy to do as you might think when you’re being interviewed by 6-8 very precise thinkers). During the five or ten minutes between interviews I’d sit in the lobby, awkwardly conversing with the other person who was interviewing for that job that day.
I did not tell this person that I had an inside track — the person who was the hiring manager for this position (Matt Carter) had been my manager once before, in another company.
And I’m pretty sure that he had written the position with me in mind.
I got called into the secret-bonus interview, had a good conversation about mountain biking and how riding in Utah was different than Washington, and then the day was over.
Nothing to do but wait, now.
I went back to the hotel, drained, and ordered room service. I called Susan, told her how things had gone, and that I was about 70% sure I had gotten the job. But all I could talk about was the medical coverage.
“Everything’s covered at 100%,” I said. “You can go to any doctor you want. Get any prescriptions we need. We wouldn’t pay a dime for any of it.”
“No way,” Susan said.
Susan and I agreed that even with this possibility, we couldn’t put off her mastectomy. It needed to happen right away — later that week, in fact.
Next, I got a call from my friend / former manager, asking me how I felt the day had gone.
“Really great,” I said, truthfully. But Matt could tell something was up and asked what the problem was.
“Susan’s got breast cancer.”
Then Matt said something that stuck with me, maybe because he honored the statement so literally in the coming years: “Tena and I will take care of you guys.”
In a way, it was my first glimpse into how incredibly generous people can be.