2018 was wild. The year flew by so quickly that I could barely catch my breath. But the lessons I learned? They were pretty painful and will help me for years to come.
I worked my girl-boss butt off in 2018. I mean, I WORKED. I started my first sales job at a tech company, and felt my competitive spirit erupt. I worked nights, weekends, honestly, whenever I could add to my quota. I had goals for myself, and I knew there was no stopping me. However, on a team of mostly men, I quickly found that the world of sales was not kind to women. I was passed over for raises/promotions, the best accounts, and other opportunities, all because of my gender. I was easily pulling the most revenue on the team, and still found myself receiving much less than my male counterparts.
I’m sure you’ve heard this story a million times, but do you ever picture it happening to you? I thought if simply worked harder than the rest of my team, that I would be fairly compensated. But this didn’t happen, and I had to learn a tough lesson.
I wasn’t afraid to stand up for myself, and took more than a couple trips to the HR department. I was mad- they weren’t treating me the way I deserved. The amount of work I had put into this company was not being recognized. I made my intentions known, and made it clear that I wouldn’t stand for this sexism. What I didn’t know is that this would hurt me.
One day, they called me into one of the smallest conference rooms I had encountered. Feeling slightly suffocated, I could almost hear my heartbeat, and felt a sense of impending doom. What followed shook me to my core. I sat in silence as they told me that they had dived into my emails and messages to find any reason they could to send me away. To make me quiet. To silence me.
In shock, I listened to them say, “You’re fired. Get your things and I’ll walk you out.” And just like that, I was on the street. What is clear to me is that this wasn’t a company that was going to care if I was treated right or appreciated women making a voice for themselves. As much as many of these start-up, tech companies like to say they believe in diversity and transparency, it simply wasn’t true. It didn’t just happen to me, but I watched it happen to others as well. I had seen this same scenario before, but somehow thought that it just wouldn’t happen to me. But here I was.
My confidence was shaken, and all I wanted was to crawl into a hole and stay there forever. I wanted to make myself smaller, unseen, unknown. I felt worthless- wholly and completely. 24 years old- no job, no prospects, no money. Fired from my second adult job. Failure.
I took some time to evaluate the situation. I cried. I yelled. I was angry. And then, I just wasn’t. I remembered how I felt walking into that office everyday, wondering how on earth they would break me down that day. I resented my sexist boss and the useless HR department that shot me down instead of standing up for me. And I grew stronger.
I began thinking about why I had been so unsuccessful there. I have always been someone who couldn’t stay quiet. If I saw injustice in the world, I couldn’t watch from a distance. I would always be there, in the middle of it, fixing what was broken. I think that this great quality of mine was what led to my downfall at this particular company. But did this make me a failure? No, this made me unique, strong, and smart.
I began to think of this not as my own failure, but as the company’s failure. They didn’t stand up for the quiet voices, and they had no loyalty for the people who invested their lives into making sure this journey was a success. I was NOT the problem here. I was simply in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
As my confidence grew back, I decided to follow my real passion, and start my own company. No more working for “The Man”; I was going to “girl-boss it up”. I vowed to do something that always made me feel happy and fulfilled, and to treat my employees with respect and loyalty. Suddenly, my ‘failure’ was turning into quite a good thing.
3 months later, and I’m still growing and learning, but I don’t regret a thing. The lessons I learned going through that situation will continue to push myself forward. I know that I am destined for more than staying in the same sales job at the same tech company. My confidence has found new life, and I won’t let anything stop me.
So here’s my advice to you; if you are facing what you conceive as total and utter failure, take your time. Call your mom, cry as much as you need, hug your dog/partner/cat. But don’t let that stop you. Failures can only push us to learn and do better next time, and in the long run, there’s often a reason we did not succeed. Let this guide you, push you, to find your real passion. And then run. Don’t let anything or anyone get in the way of your success. You are going to do big things, girlfriend! As our friends at Nike like to say, “Just do it!”
Hannah Schneider is a California born and raised self-proclaimed feminist. She is the Founder of Harper Grey Lifestyle, which is a blogging and consultation company, celebrating strong women, inclusivity, and body positivity. Hannah lives in Oakland, CA, with her boyfriend and their two dogs.