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The Most Significant Award I’ve Ever Received: Part 1 Through the Portal

Updated: Aug 20, 2022

You might have noticed the update to my profile picture. It’s hard to miss the little “Cool Dad everyone’s talking about” emoji. Some might say that it is pretty unprofessional for work, maybe even a bit arrogant. But I thought if high achievers can signify their achievement with the company red jacket or Rolex at work, it shouldn't be a big deal to share my most significant award. That said, not everyone gets the significance of this little word bubble so let me explain.

If you’ve only met me professionally, you might not know I’m a husband and father of three. Early in our careers, my wife and I decided that one of us would stay home to care for our children. When our daughter was born in 2000, who would stay home became a simple math problem. My position was in IT, and my salary had a higher earning potential. So, I became the breadwinner.

By the time we had our third child, I was dreaming about the kind of future I wanted for my family. I envisioned fun family vacations, paid college tuition for my kids, and eventually a comfortable retirement. However, I knew working in IT at a state university couldn’t possibly provide the kind of future I was picturing. Then, a chance meeting with the university’s Microsoft Technical Account Manager opened a door.

At first, I felt that Microsoft was entirely out of my league. But, at this point, what did I have to lose by trying? So, I asked if they were hiring, and the account manager put in a referral. I made it through the first couple of screening calls and landed a finals day interview. It was the most brutal hiring process of my life. After the third set of interviews, I was within an inch of just walking out. I felt there was no way I was getting hired.

But then I had a final meeting with the hiring manager, and he asked me, “What do you think is the most important thing for this job?” Without missing a beat, I said, “Integrity. From what I understand, you will be sending me by myself to work with customers who have multi-million-dollar contracts, and you will have to trust me to do the right thing. I think that requires a lot of integrity.” There was a pregnant pause that I thought might lead to a discussion, but then changed the subject. It left me hanging, was that the right answer?

A few days later, that integrity I had just spoken about was challenged when I got offered the position at Microsoft. Was my traveling across the country four days a week really the right thing for my family? There were some assurances that if I were willing to move to a metro area where Microsoft had a lot of clients, I might stay local. But was moving the best thing for my family?

This decision required a great deal of prayer and counsel from others. I’ll never forget a warning from one of my mentors. “Great men rarely make great fathers.” His point was that if I focused on my career alone, I would likely lose the wife and kids I was trying to provide a better life for.

However, he wasn’t saying that I should walk away from the opportunity. He just wanted me to remember to always keep the main thing the main thing. So my wife and I concluded, if God opened this door and it was going sideways for us, he’d help us find another door. We just needed to keep our minds open to all the opportunities around us, and we’d find the right path.

A conversation on my first day of work made me question our decision. One of my peers said, “Joining Microsoft Consulting Services is like standing in front of a portal; if you step through, you might learn amazing things, earn great money, and become a leader in your field. But you also might never see your family again.” It only took a few weeks to realize just how true his statement was.

To be continued in Part 2 The Pit of Despair

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