“Wayne, I know you, even though you may not remember me,” he said as he walked up to me.
“Uh, oh,” I thought to myself, “What have I done now?” I cannot begin to tell you the thoughts that ran through my mind upon hearing those words…
Let me take a step back.
We are planning a project for 2017 to upgrade our ERP system, the last upgrade was 2008, about 4 software versions ago. When I was a consultant, a number of years ago, it was easy to learn about the progress on software as part of our business. As a corporate employee, I find that I do not have the same direct access to that same information. As part of the planning process, it made sense to get up to speed on what is new and attend an annual conference. This would provide an opportunity to talk to people, listen and learn from everyone’s different experiences, and the chance for some personal and business development.
Aside from various classes to provide functional training, discussion groups to share thoughts on our individual projects and information sessions on upcoming product enhancements, there is a large vendor exhibition section. In the exhibition, we have a chance to meet potential vendors, ask about their products and services, and, of course, have an opportunity to “schmooze”. When I walked into the exhibition room, there were already a few hundred people there. This is the first time I have been to this annual event and, naturally, wondered if I might bump into anyone I knew from my consulting days, aside from the vendors I currently deal with. Generally, I space out in crowds, feeling slightly overwhelmed. As I walked around, I stopped in front of one of the booths and was greeted by one of the women working there. We talked a few minutes about their product, then I asked a semi-technical question, at which point, she turned to flag down the expert.
“Wayne, I know you, even though you may not remember me,” he said as he walked up to me smiling.
My mind begins to swirl…trying to remember. As with all of us, my life has many chapters, some, which I remember well, and others, which I remember less well. As he relates his story, I realize that he definitely knew me. Slowly, it came back to me and I did remember working together on a project at Merck (after they purchased Medco), prior to my leaving that company. That was a little over 20 years ago.
Once again, I was reminded, that even in a short period of time, we have the ability to impact other people. Whether in word or in action, everything we do, every day of our lives, can touch someone else, no matter how big or how small the time spent together. Later that night, when we happened to meet up again, he asked me if when he said he knew was I scared first. I admitted, yes a little, it was a bit freaky for me to not remember someone that knew so much about me. I also admitted that after we talked I felted humbled that he remembered me.
The thing that made the impression? He said it was talking about the way that I communicated with my brother Brian, who was going to school in California, and how I felt this was the thing of the future…email. While we all use email today, 20 years ago, typing out memos and manually distributing was the norm. Outside of work, it was writing out “old fashioned” letters and sending them using the good old post office. The email service that I was using was WebCrawler, which was less than a year old at the time. Email has become so engrained in our lives, we sometimes forget that there was a time before it existed. As my wife said to me after I retold this story, “You were cutting edge!” Maybe…
The trip, overall, was a success, both in terms of business and personal development. As surprised as I was, it was great to see someone I (sorry) forgot about and catch up. It was great to catch up with other people that I used to know and meet new people and connections. Lesson learned - Always remember to wear a smile, come with a good attitude, be open to ideas and be careful what you say and do, as you know who you might run into.