Like a Virgin

Monday was my last official day at Shaklee. It was also one of the hardest days of my entire life. During my almost two years at Shaklee I worked with some of the best, brighest and friendliest people that I have ever met. I had a chance to work with some of the best of the best in the industry and beyond. I was mentored by people that were the best in their field, and I worked for a CEO who I daresay could be called a visionary.logo_shakleenet_white.gif On Monday I start the next chapter in my career as Head of Interactive Marketing at Virgin America. VA is the new domestic airline based at SFO. It's totally separate from all of the other Virgin companies, including Virgin Atlantic. I will be in charge of everything to do with the web, including the website itself, email, online marketing etc. It's going to be a unique challenge, as it's a startup - they don't yet have their DoT approval - but it's also the chance to work at one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Of course it's also the opportunity to return to the airline industry, my true passion. logo_v_america.jpg So the last few weeks have been very emotional, with a great deal of internal debate on my part. In fact, my recent solo trip to Tahoe was purely to get away from any outside influences and just spend some time going over the pros and cons, and come to a final conclusion. At the end of my time in Tahoe, I had reached a conclusion. I just couldn't turn down the Virgin America opportunity. I handed in my two weeks the next day.
The next two weeks was a maelstrom of blood, sweat and tears. Convention week was upon us, the busiest week of the Shaklee year, so everybody was distracted. My plan was to slip out quietly during the chaos of convention, but that was not to be. Word spread quickly and I had many people asking me "Is it true?" and trying to talk me out of it. All through convention I had people pulling me aside saying "what's it going to take to keep you here?" - which was a hard question to answer because I wasn't leaving Shaklee because I was unhappy. I love Shaklee but this was just an offer I couldn't refuse, it was a simple as that. If it had been any other company in any other industry, I would have turned down the offer there and then. But this was different. On the penultimate day of convention, the wonderful Noelle, without whom my life at Shaklee would have been very difficult, organized a farewell party at a bar down the street. I was expecting a handful of people to show, but I was overwhelmed when I saw just how many people turned up! It was a truly amazing night (about which I remember very little.)
It was a great, great evening and I think it's safe to say that everyone had a great time. If the state of everyone the next morning is an indicator, it was a solid night all round. It was obviously a night of mixed emotions as well. I really got to know some people who I had never really spent much time with during my time at Shaklee. It's sad that it took an event like this to discover how great a person they were. But, that leads nicely to my next point. How did I rationalize my departure from Shaklee? I have never been so emotionally invested in a company in my entire life. There was something about Shaklee that just clicked with me. The mission, the heritage, the family connection. I mean, how many companies take over an entire Major League ballpark for the night to celebrate their 50th anniversary - or have Earth, Wind and Fire play a private gig at their convention. It could have been any one of those, or a combination thereof. But what it really boiled down to was the people - and my decision to leave Shaklee was based on my ability to distill the Shaklee People and the rest of Shaklee. After much thought, I was able to come to the conclusion that my friends at Shaklee would always be my friends, regardless of where they worked. On top of that, it was the need to take the plunge into something different. It's very easy to stay in one's comfort zone and I could have happily accepted the counteroffers and resumed my life at Shaklee, with the friends I loved and the work I knew. However this time, I needed to take a risk. I wanted the excitment and anticipation of a startup. I've worked at well established corporations my entire career - incredibly Shaklee, at 50 years old, is the YOUNGEST company I've worked for. At Virgin America, I'm getting in on the ground floor. But ultimately, it was this quote that helped me make my decision: "Because we do not know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. And yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you cannot conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless." At the end of the day, it was time to seize the day.