Today is Travis’, or as he is lovingly referred to here at Consorte Media, Intern2, last day. Travis’ story is not your typical story. Nor is it, unfortunately, unusual. Travis grew up on the Umatilla Indian reservation in Pendleton, Oregon. He went to a community college for one year and then transferred to Eastern Oregon University. He starts his third year this fall. He will likely take 5 years or more to graduate.
He, despite being technologically savvy, doesn’t type well or fast, he’s new to Excel and Power Point (essential workplace tools these days), and he knows next to nothing about online advertising. In fact, most of his work experience has been summer jobs in construction. There are a lot of young men out there that I am sure can relate.
Travis got his internship with Consorte Media via his brother who knows me. It’s this fortuitous connection that landed Travis in his first office job and his first technology start-up. The reality is that had Travis not had this connection he probably would have been in construction jobs for some time. I’m not knocking construction jobs, but trying to illuminate a point: it’s all about exposure.
Travis didn’t grow up exposed to business, technology or online advertising. His parents didn’t run a business or don suits; they didn’t even go to college. There are a lot of young people like Travis out there and his is very similar to my own story. My mother didn’t make it past the eighth grade and my father only graduated high school.
Where does that leave people like Travis? Behind.
In my last year of college at Stanford, I had the honor of being told by Jerry Porras, the author of Built to Last and a professor emeritus at the Stanford Business School, that I was behind and would always have to work harder than everybody else. How was I behind exactly? I could stand my ground, I was quick on my feet, and I was a loyal friend. I hated him a little bit when he told me that. But you know what? He was right.
I was behind because my life and socio-economic status kept me in a pocket of limited options, not a bad life mind you, just a limited one. I wouldn’t have even discovered Stanford University if my sister Maria hadn’t brought home a Seventeen Magazine one day. In it she read an article that said Stanford was the best school in California. She said, “You’re good at school. Why don’t you apply there?”
Not knowing any better, I did and I’ve been playing catch up ever since. Going to Stanford was my first exposure to a world that included terms like investment banking, entrepreneurship, and Silicon Valley. My college roommates had computers; I had an electric typewriter. One had traveled to Africa; I had never been outside of the western United States. Another of my college roommates actually boarded her horse at the school’s stables. “Man, what does your dad do?” I often thought but never ventured to ask.
When I got to Stanford I had a huge chip on my shoulder. I didn’t realize I had stepped into a new game and resented having to play. I only started wanting to play catch up when I finally got to see – what others have been fortunate to be exposed to from an early age - that it’s a big world out there with huge possibilities. Something really hard to see when you live next to a gas station in La Puente or on an Indian reservation.
I wonder what Travis will remember from his few weeks at Consorte. It was short and definitely not enough time to relay everything about online advertising. The time I spent with him I focused mainly on how to create and understand the elements of an income statement: the basics of building a business.
At the very least, I hope he will take with him a sense that there are people in the world that care about his success. That success requires hard work (no matter how talented you may be and if you don’t have a great talent ala Kobe Bryant – it takes a whole heck of a lot more hard work). And that while Travis is capable, knows more about living off the land than most, and has already surpassed his parents in education, he’s stepped into a new game and he’s behind.
But that’s not a bad thing. As I have learned, you can come from nothing and build something. That, to borrow an oft repeated saying by Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.” Consorte Media is only one glimpse of what’s out there. I can’t wait to see if Travis plays.