Working at Cumulus Networks – it’s probably the most fun I’ve had at a job in a really long time.
The narrow stairway at 463 (and a half) Bryant Street was my first impression of working at Cumulus Networks. Victoria opened the door, and I said, “Wow, this door is tiny and those stairs- what is this, a speakeasy?” I got the sly, dry smile that I have come to see as indicative of Victoria and was escorted inside to the conference room of what looked like an empty apartment turned into an office. There, I met Kathleen and we chatted for half an hour. It was one of the most informal, comfortable, genuine experiences I’d ever had in a job search.
“Do you think you can commit to working at Cumulus Networks a few months, understanding it’s sort of up in the air right now, the future of this office, etc.?”
“Yeah, I think so. I mean, unless I become like, a famous author over night, or something. Which probably isn’t going to happen.”
Victoria glanced at my resume. “It says here that you published a book.”
“Two, actually. But you know… that’s how I know you don’t have anything to worry about because… here I am.”
Looking back, this probably wasn’t the most brilliant first impression I could have made, but at the time I was sort of kicking around, having been freshly laid off from a seven year stint office-managing a non-profit, and I had a severance package and a number of freelance writing gigs to tide me over for a while, translating to a somewhat laissez-faire attitude about what happened next. Having spent two weeks in February interviewing six times and doing a project for a company that ended up not hiring me, I was a little soured on the whole process. Nor was I really optimistic when the contracting agency I was working with asked me to meet the folks at Cumulus Networks. If my attitude quickly turned around during that interview, it was largely due to Kathleen and Victoria, who were incredibly straight up about what the job entailed, laughed a lot at my snarky responses, and then showed me an outdoor shower they had discovered in the light-well of the office.
“I don’t know, it was kind of weird, I guess,” I told the agency when they call me afterwards to see how the interview went.
“Well, it was just very… casual. And friendly. But like… so casual. I’m so used to places trying to sell me on themselves that I just got a different first impression than the one I usually get in an interview.”
“If they want you to work there, will you do it?” she asked me.
“Oh, totally. I mean, it just seems like it would be so… refreshing.”
That was back in March, and since then I’ve been spending 16-20 hours a week at the San Francisco Office, keeping my co-workers in snacks and other creature comforts, and doing my best to give the office a bit more love, a bit more attention and care. Sometimes this means ordering new furniture, sometimes it means getting white boards installed, sometimes building new desks, or updating the OSHA posters. Mostly it means getting to know everyone, observing their dynamic, listening to everybody’s requests and complaints and finding ways to solve those problems or delightfully surprise someone with a moment of wish fulfillment the next time they open the refrigerator or return to the messy conference room that has been magically restored while they stepped out for lunch. Though the first impression I got was that I’d be serving a function for Cumulus Networks that wasn’t a terribly important one, my own delightful surprise has been feeling not just welcomed, but valued by the organization and the people who work here. It’s frequently the plight of those who mostly exist to keep things running smoothly that they often get taken for granted, even by the best people. But six months down the road, I don’t feel remotely taken for granted, and every day I look forward to watching the company grow and figuring out ways to quietly be a part of that.
“So what exactly do you do there?” friends of mine will ask.
“Keep things tidy. Manage the janitorial staff. Make sure we don’t run out of coffee or toilet paper. Stock the kitchen with ice cream sandwiches.”
“Sounds exciting,” my buddy’s smirk, their first impression: unimpressed.
“It’s probably the most fun I’ve had at a job in a really long time,” I tell them. “And those ice cream sandwiches got me a shout out on their Facebook page so… show some respect.”