Tuesday, January 18, 2011

At the Cool Table

I've been reorged into a new world at work. A world that was as far away from my old world as harlem is from midtown - 5 minutes away, but completely different. And this week is my first real foray into that world as a member of the team. It's fascinating.

I had the opportunity to join my new team for dinner tonight - and for some meetings today.

Now, let me preface. I was uncool in middle school and all that passed for high school in my life. Those of you who knew me then (shout out!) can vouch for my total lack of social skills. I was definitely not only uncool, but socially ... inept. I didn't know when to talk. I didn't know when to shut up. I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what not to say. The entire thing was a mess for me.

I went to business school, and as many of my friends will now attest, I'm a reasonably functional social person these days. I learned a LOT in my 20s about how to act and both what was prudent and Machiavellian - and also what sort of person I really wanted to be. But, I would argue that since that time, I've been in jobs where my social abilities were less than tested. At a start up with 10 people, or a consulting firm with 30 -- I had to be polite, but the politics were not complex (there wasn't the scale), and appeasing clients and business partners was not really the same game. That was more acting than behaving.

Now I'm in a relatively big company, and as is usually the case, in a female-dominated marketing role. In that role, there are a number of beautiful, put together lovely ladies who make me envious of their ability to wear peach, or white pants (a year round fashion choice in Texas, apparently). There are brilliant women, shrewd women, overt women and subtle women. There are some men too - and while they are in senior roles, the culture seems to be set by the ladies to a great extent.

So, today I got to hang out at the cool table. I had my cute outfit on, and my hair was only slightly frizzy. I was wearing my glasses, and for much of the day, had my nerd hat on for technical meetings. So, I wasn't a natural candidate for being welcomed into the cool table and told to make myself comfortable. I was honored - but this is a part of the social code that's new to me. I am left with the feeling that I might be made over into a blonde with straight hair and a taste for pastels if I hang out too long - and then I'll get the guy to ask me to the dance and sail into the sunset.

We'll see how this goes. I like the cool table, but I've seen enough movies to know it has it's own rules. Let's see if I can work them out...

No comments: