I don’t often mention I went to Stanford when I meet people. I list it on all of my standard biographical summaries since it’s part of the formula, but I don’t lead with it. It’s rare to meet someone who attended Harvard or MIT not mention that in the first few minutes of the conversation. I was asked why I don’t highlight my Stanford experience more and I realized an early experience in my first job changed my perspective.
In my first “real job” out of college I worked as a “Staff Consultant” doing statistical loss forecasting and risk analysis. I had formed a partnership with David L. Woodruff, “Woodruff-Murphy, Decision Systems Associates, but that didn’t prosper as we planned.
Bill, the man who had hired me, was fired a few days before I started but his attorney had negotiated a settlement that left him in place for about nine months. It made for a certain amount of tension in the office.
When I showed up for work the first day he greeted me warmly and said “There’s been a change in plan. You will be working for Dennis.” Over the next two or three days the full situation became clear to me: because I had been hired by Bill and there was considerable bad blood between the two men, Dennis didn’t trust me at first, fearing I was somehow Bill’s guy even thought I had only talked to him for perhaps an hour.
I remember coming back into the office at the end of the day my first week and the receptionist said to me “Someone told me that you went to Stanford, is that true?”
Drawing myself up to my full height I say “Why yes, yes I did.”
She looked a little puzzled and said “But I thought you had to be really smart to go to Stanford.”
I thought about it for a few seconds and decided my best answer was, “Well..in my case they decided to make an exception.”