I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 29, I was working at a great company in the Levi Strauss group and had a nice job as marketing assistant that regularly took me round Europe, sometimes further. Walking into the interior designed office every morning gave me a thrill of excitement.
I had switched careers from trade journalism into the corporate world of apparel and felt very lucky to work with this elite club of bright, positive (and fashionable) people. The fashionable part was out of my comfort zone, but I did my best, and every one was kind.
As I worked on my projects I would sometimes question if I was approaching things in the right way. I was new to this world but I worked hard, and weekly meetings with my manager reassured both him and myself that I was on the right track. The part I felt most uncomfortable with was presenting at department meetings.
The first time I gave a presentation to my colleagues in the marketing department was in Stockholm. The whole department had been flown to the Nordic marketing offices, and the meeting was in a beautiful industrial space in the centre of Stockholm, down an alleyway between hip art galleries and cool restaurants.
I was updating the team on the work I had been doing collating market research (not a subject that I found easy) when I saw two of my colleagues looking at each other with raised eyebrows. I froze inside. Had I made some major blooper no one had told me about? I tried to conceal my discomfort and stay calm and collected.
I got to the end, and then opened the floor for questions. Raised eyebrow lady asked a tricky question I couldn’t answer about the material, and my confidence disappeared. I wanted the floor to swallow me up, but that wouldn’t have been adult and professional. Were my kind colleagues taking sides against me?
Holding your own with colleagues can be challenging. Even if it’s not their intention, it’s easy to find yourself feeling attacked and defensive. Now I’m 25 years older, I would love to have a conversation with my my younger self from back then.