I’m a planner. I have my entire life planned out, always have, always will. Of course, things don’t always go as planned, and I know this. As a matter of fact, they never go as planned, but they always work out perfectly in the end.
One of these instances was while in college. I was ill, I had graves disease, and was struggling with eating most foods, though we couldn’t figure out why. I couldn’t eat off of my meal plan because the food would make me sick. I went to the Vice President of my school and told her of my predicament and said I would like to be let off the meal plan. I thought this was a no-brainer, but it wasn’t. She said she couldn’t take me off of the meal plan, I would have to talk to Sudexo who ran the cafeteria. Now let’s get this straight…the VP of can’t get me off of their meal plan? I call BS. But regardless, she wouldn’t budge, so I talked to Sudexo and they said they would work with me, that they could even get me food from Whole Foods if needed and they would introduce me to people who could order food for me. This sounded too good to be true, and it was. They introduced me to people who were never there. So I finally decided, I live on the beach, I’ll make a deal with Sudexo – buy 40 cases of sodas and water and sell it on the beach in the summer time, and I did just that. I got licensed by the State and then a permit from my town and set up Julie’s Sodas. The permit allowed me to drive around like an ice cream truck.
Now just to show you the scope of the issue, I had about $1000 left on my meal plan when they were forcing me to put another $1000 on for the next semester. This was when I had made my decision to open up shop because I would lose all money in the end whether or not I chose to spend it in the cafeteria. The cafeteria was overpriced and they made me buy each bottle separately instead of discount the cases, so I didn’t expect to make all of my money back from the start. I was selling these sodas out of my car after all and had to have an edge since I probably looked sketchy to start. I sold the sodas for a $1 each, which was the cheapest in town, and I did very well, considering I was already losing and figured I could only go up from here. Though I wasn’t expecting to make a true profit because of the circumstances, I gained experience that was priceless.
I had already owned my own jewelry business, making jewelry and selling it out of stores in high school, but this was the first business I had to deal with other costs other than the product. I had to get bags of ice everyday, bins, make sure the sodas stayed cold and didn’t change temperature from warm to cold to warm again. I had to show up everyday, be there on time and stay there throughout the day without anyone making me come in (but this was easy because it was MY business and that motivated me). I got to talk to customers and form relationships and learn how to sell to people walking by, which was much different than selling jewelry out of stores, which is easier than you think when you’re younger and everyone wants to support you because they think it’s cute you’re a little entrepreneur.
I got many job opportunities because of that soda business. One day, about a year after my summer soda business, my mom said, Julie, you don’t have a job and they have interviews at the new restaurant down the street, you should go. So I did. I got dressed and headed over. The main thing that caught their attention was my soda business, and right away I got the job.
Later, I would be interviewing for engineering internships and jobs, which this soda business also helped gain me opportunities. Of course, doing projects on my own and being passionate was also helpful, I had a background in business and law on top of engineering (I worked at my Dad’s law office as a paralegal for a few years and helped out with various tasks at the office for as long as I could remember) so I had a pretty interesting background for someone just out of college.
When I finally chose the job I wanted (which wasn’t much of a choice because it was my first choice of all of the interviews I had and I jumped at the offer) I was so excited because they had told me I’d be working in the program I wanted. Well, as it turns out, when I arrived my first day I found out I wasn’t working in that program after all, I would be in a completely different program. At first, I was mad. I didn’t want to be in this program and I gave up a lot of great opportunities because they promised I would be able to do what I wanted. I walked up to the person who had originally told me I could work on the program I was interested in and said “do you remember our interview?” And he said he did. I said… “so then how did I end up on this program? This wasn’t what was discussed.” He was shocked. Stumbled for an answer, but couldn’t find one. I decided I would work in the program but I would try to get to where I wanted to be and learn as much as I could on my own time. As it turns out, I couldn’t have lucked out more being in the program I was placed in. I had the best manager, I got to work with a bunch of great people, everyone in the program did their best to get you to where you wanted and so helpful, and I realized I wanted to eventually be in business, which this program was perfect for. I ended up getting a couple of great mentors on the business side and have been very fortunate with all of the opportunities given to me.
As an engineer (which I still am and I still do love), I have been given a lot of responsibility in my first year (one year anniversary in late February!) and do my best to ensure a great product. I’ve grown so much within my first year alone, and expect to continue to learn and grow and contribute as much as possible.
It just goes to show… and I sing… “You don’t always get what you want….You get what you need!”
(I should mention – I still feel badly for being a bit harsh on my interviewer, after all he did hire me and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be.)