Jen responded. “You are probably aware of this already, but Greg came to us with significant communications challenges yet he is pushing through those challenges by doubling up on his efforts to speak clearly, present concepts powerfully and communicate more effectively overall.”
Cheryl continued. “Well, not only do I want this young man to stay with us, I want him to grow and develop so much that he doesn’t even think of ever leaving us.” Jen agreed, “Cheryl, I am so taken with his initiative and I am 100% with you, I never want him to leave. He came to us with such difficulties. He’s has not only made me a believer in our mentoring program, he has made mentorship one of the most valuable and rewarding experiences of my life.”
Cheryl smiled, “He is no ordinary coder and you are no ordinary mentor.” Months then passed and Jen heard nothing else about it.
Yesterday, Cheryl led the annual AJMedia conference at the Century Plaza Hotel. The ballroom was filled with over 1,000 strategic partners, shareholders, community members and industry leaders. Everyone expected a spectacular experience because that is the trademark of these events. Jen was sitting next to the mayor of Los Angeles. The room changed color from white to red to crimson to pitch black. The most beautiful, enveloping sounds from perhaps a forest or out deep in the woods started to trickle into the space and seemingly pour out of her own skin. Music wrapped around her and gently squeezed, like a hug. It was an incredible experience. Suddenly Cheryl and Greg appeared inches from Jen’s nose and began dancing and singing, “We did it!” The cool music wrapped even tighter around her.
Greg broke away and a virtual screen dropped down right next to him. “When I joined the AJMedia team, I was asked to develop a new form of sound that would set an industry standard for our customers by literally allowing them to experience the events we portray with our unique content and give them living sound coupled with artificial intelligence that advances personalization to a whole new level. Friends, colleagues and customers, we present to you, Crescendo!”
With that Jen and everyone else in the room was surrounded with constantly changing scenes of auto races, storms at sea, a mother cooing to her child, an inauguration and finally she was on the head of a firework rocket speeding into the sky only to explode. People gasped. The sound quality was more than lifelike, it was better than real life. People were actually shouting and screaming with delight. Jen was crying. As the rocket exploded the lights came up and Greg was standing on the stage with Cheryl.
The audience rose to its feet and roared with applause. As the room finally quieted back down, Cheryl stepped forward to speak.
“We are a company that exceeds expectations and we are an organization where the world’s greatest talent joins us to be inspired, to grow, and to achieve their ultimate goals and dreams. Greg Baker is one of those talents. In three years, his team has developed what you have just witnessed, a sound technology so lifelike, so mesmerizing to the listener that the virtual experience has ascended to a new level. And today, we can do it without a headset! Spatial breakthroughs can allow us to place not just a mother’s voice into the user experience, it is a voice that feels inches away and perhaps even more all-encompassing than the real thing. But, the biggest breakthrough of all is that we can make that your mother’s voice.” Once again, the room went dark and quieted to an anticipatory silence. Jen heard a voice so familiar and so clear that she went into shock. “You know honey, I discouraged your decision to go to film school and I apologize for that. I couldn’t be more proud of you. Look at what you have done with your life.” The lights came back up and the auditorium was filled with awe and wonder. Someone began clapping, a few more joined, and, the room came alive.
That afternoon, Jen found her way to the office and pulled the door shut. She had never witnessed such a transformation of one individual as in Greg Baker, now the head of a new division within the company. She reached for her cell and called her husband. Grant’s wonderful face filled the screen and he asked, “How was the conference?”
Tears flowed. “You remember my mentee, Greg?” Grant quickly responded, “How could I not? You love helping him.” “Greg introduced a new technology today that is going to change virtual entertainment. It is profound and moving.” “Wait a second,” Grant interrupted, “you said he introduced it.” Jen’s voice rose, “He was on stage with Cheryl!” Grant was moved. He said, “You have called that place a world of wonders. You must be so proud.” “I’m stunned I got to be a part of that,” Jen said. “I get to not only do my best work here, I get to impact other lives.” Grant reached towards her, “Wish I was there to hug you. This is one of the many, many reasons I love you so. Shall we celebrate tonight.?” Jen simply nodded her head in agreement.
After Grant’s face vanished from the screen, more emotions flooded in. She had come to Los Angeles alone and while her mentor, John, was helping her build a support system, she met Grant. He was at an industry function and the two were looking down at their communications pods. They literally ran into one another and never pulled away since.
About an hour later there was a knock at the door. Greg stuck his head in. “Have a moment Coach?” Jen laughed, “I am so mad at you. You didn’t give me fair warning.”
“You know how it is. These presentations are top secret,” he said. “Did I make you proud?”
Jen looked him in the eyes and said, “I view helping you grow into the person you are today as more important than any of my business accomplishments to date. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Greg sat down in front of her. “I have something to show you.” He reached for an envelope out from his jacket and pulled out a check. It was made out to him for $800,000.
“A minute before we stepped out onto the stage, Cheryl gave this to me. She said, ‘this is a small token of our appreciation. Tomorrow, we are setting up a new sound division and I would like for you to assume the presidency.’ Of course, I responded yes.”
Jen’s genuine joy was overwhelming. “I couldn’t be happier for you. What are you going to do with the money?”
“I don’t really need much of anything,” Greg responded. “So, I’m going to use a portion to get a small sailboat down at the Marina and start learning how to be a mini-boat captain. I’ll also be putting half into the company’s Foundation. This place gave me the life I have today and I want to help young people emerge out of their difficulties, perhaps help a few more stand in the light.”
Jen intuitively spoke. “You were abused as a child weren’t you?”
For the first time, it was in front of them. Greg was willing to say it. “I was. I had an abusive dad who beat all of us regularly. One of his beatings led to my mother’s death, right in front of me. I couldn’t speak for years after that. I dug into my schoolwork. I lived with my ‘aunt from hell’ who wasn’t much better. School was my redemption and, ultimately, work became the place where I remade myself.”
“Greg, I’m so sorry that you went through that.”
“Jen, I am a different person. In fact, much of the man I have become has come out of your generosity and kindness.”
As she remembered those words, tears of joy were coming down. Despite being late, she realized she now needed something to freshen her face.
“Andy, please pull into the drug store just ahead.” “With pleasure Jen.”
The car seemed like one of her best friends. She excitedly walked through the door and her favorite store employee, Carla, was waiting with her signature smile.
“Oh my God, Jen look at you! You’re getting so big. Another month?”
“Six weeks,” Jen responded.
Carla was genuinely excited. “You’re going to have a new life.”
“Actually, everything in my life feels new.”
On the fifth floor of AGMedia, a young employee who had just been hired out of the intern pool was sitting outside one of the top execs in the studio. He was hopeful that this particular mentor candidate would take him under his wing. An assistant approached him with a gentle smile, “Daniel, we are ready to begin.”
She brought him into the executive’s office. Greg looked up, with his heavy signature glasses and half-smile. “Please, sit down and make yourself comfortable.”
The door closed. Greg looked up and asked the same words he heard four years before.
“So, what do you want to accomplish?”