Getting Personal With a Personal Home Manager: Carlo
Sixteen years is a very long time to spend your career in any one type of industry. After graduating, I landed my first office job and played a role in the construction industry. I started out as an admin but then slowly worked my way up into project management. It was a tough industry to work in and there was only one way a person could get respect: you had to earn it.
Although I did some minor fieldwork early on, I was definitely not a laborer. I may not look like the type of individual who would get into the trenches with the field crew to build a retaining wall, or lift 5-gallon buckets up 30 flights of steps to get to the roof deck, or even hoist 12-foot sections of 2x4’s to a carpenter on a framing job but I did! It didn’t matter if I was the new office manager or what not, to understand what my company did; I had to get my hands dirty. As the new guy I was told I had to fit in.
The construction industry is not glamorous. It’s dangerous, full of grime and odors that can make your stomach churn. Construction is great and it is an important industry and one you can make a good career in. It’s just one I would have preferred not to get into, if I had been given better choices. I worked extremely long hours everyday and felt that I was headed nowhere.
After a few years, I knew I was not very welcomed by the people whom I called my peers. It did not matter if I worked with a general contractor or if I worked in construction retail, it just so happened that everyone I worked with was older than me, by at least 20 years. It was hard for me to relate to these senior co-workers, who proudly wore their badges of working in the field: scars, missing fingers, and stitches were all too common from one field worker to the next. I had no scars, okay maybe just the one knife cut on my right arm, from having to defend myself from a mugging a long time ago — but it was not a badge of honor for being part of the field crew. I was different in so many ways; I certainly did not dress the same, and being Asian and gay was quite different from the norm. I felt so out of place.
My family always taught me to be proud of who I am and where I came from. Throughout the years I built confidence and pride in myself. I was courageous and outspoken, but all that changed when I started working in construction.
I struggled every day hiding myself from who I was to my co-workers. I knew the industry’s reputation for having a very homophobic and macho culture. I was just not a part of the group of “good ol’ boys”, whatever that meant. I wasn’t rough around the edges, I didn’t swear every other word and I certainly didn’t know the difference between hammering a nail into a stud to hanging a door in a frame. It took me years to understand all the different scopes of work in the industry.
But even then, it was my lack of field experience and my looks that made everyone I came across look down at me. Even though I was gaining more respect due my newly gained knowledge, it just was not enough for me to become a part of the well-seasoned laborers and construction guys. Trying hard to be accepted and appreciated in an industry that won’t accept you is exhausting. I cringed at every gay joke I heard and bit my tongue at every racial slur that echoed in the warehouse. To avoid being fired, I just kept my mouth shut. When I mentioned the things I heard to my friends or family they always told me to “Report it to HR or to sue them.” I told them, “What HR? The person saying the foul things and who would be the cause of harassment suits runs the HR!”
Eventually, I had enough of being treated poorly for all the hard work I had put in. After so many years in construction, I felt that it was time for a change. In early 2013 I started updating my resume and posting it on the endless job boards. But due to already being employed, I just couldn’t take job-hunting seriously. It was not until the beginning of August 2014, that I started to pursue a new career in earnest.
In October of that year, I saw a job posting that read “Home Manager wanted.” I had never heard of a home manager before, and the ad piqued my interest. At that moment, I took a chance and filled out their online application on Google docs and emailed my resume. The next day, someone called me to talk about my qualifications. At this point, I had gone through over 20 or 30 phone interviews for various positions, I was just thinking that this would turn out like the others. Within the first couple of minutes, the interviewer made me feel comfortable over the phone and seemed really interested in my background. It was only a matter of moments before I would hear back and get called in for the one-on-one interview.
I remember this interview as if it were yesterday. Tim started me out with the introductory interview: you know the part where you get gauged if you’re a fit for the position or not and if your qualifications are up to par. I then met with Drew Ludlow, the Chief of Staff, who is well spoken and very charismatic. We had an engaging interview and he made feel very welcomed and even brought me some water. Next I met with Andrea Campopiano, the Director of Member Services with a background in higher education. She was very friendly but also seemingly a little nervous when talking with me, maybe it’s because she didn’t know me yet. Then I met with the CEO, Douglas Ludlow of Hipster fame. I knew of his stunts with the Paps Blue Ribbon, but I kept that to myself. He is very easy going and great to talk with. He explained to me what a home manager was, and what The Happy Home Company was all about. After speaking with him, I was sold! I said to myself, “I need work here.”
After my final round with Tim, we shook hands and parted ways. As I left, I felt the vibes of a really good interview but I just couldn’t help feel doubtful if I made it. I kept thinking to myself that I did I not make the cut or I just did not fit in. I felt it was going to be like all the interviews I previously had. The ones where I was a top candidate but fell short because I did not fit in or lacked something unrelated to my qualifications. The following morning I received a call from Tim, and to my relief he asked me when I could start. I was so excited! I had really worked hard for that moment, that moment of acceptance at a new job. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders and I knew that everything was going to be okay.
On November 1st, 2014, I went in for my first day to train with Andrea. I was starting to learn the ropes of home management and the little nuances of the company. I was trying to identify who everyone was, and what roles they played. As I was reading templates and learning about customers and service requests I suddenly became perplexed! All sorts of questions started popping into my head. I looked around and saw that there was nothing construction-related here. I saw tech guys, no carpenters or electricians. What if I did not fit in? What if they found out I was gay? How did this place make money? I was seriously considering walking out because I did not want to feel as though I was wasting anyone’s time in an industry that I didn’t seem to belong in.
Even though I was welcomed, I still couldn’t help but feel little awkward. I realized that I was surrounded by really talented and smart people. People who actually made an impact in the day-to-day tools that most people use: Tim was a director at eBay/PayPal, Matthew Mengerink, the co-founder, was a former executive of eBay, and Drew ran a presidential campaign. All this seemed like a big deal to me and I just felt that my talents and experience fell short amongst these high impact people. It was a strange feeling that a guy like me with a construction background would be working at a place like this. At the same time, I always longed to work in a place like this, I always wanted to be at a tech company!
At the end of my first week, I was invited to the very first company happy hour I ever attended. It didn’t take long at all for the company to make me feel that I was a part of the Happy Home family! At our happy hour, Nick Peddy, VP of Engineering, sat next to me and started talking to me. He was the first one to honestly break the ice and get to know me. As we chatted, we discovered that we had common interests such as being martial artists, and both into gaming so it really made identifying with one another a little easier. Nick eventually asked me if I lived around here and if I had a girlfriend. I told him that I recently moved into a studio not to far from the office with my fiancé (Danny). At that point I wasn’t sure if I was to go any further with this conversation, but Nick was actually interested in hearing the story of how Danny and I first met and got engaged. It was the very first time in my life that someone outside of my own circle of friends didn’t seem to mind that I was gay, and was actually accepting of it.
Shortly after that, Doug stood up and raised his glass of imported beer for a toast. The purpose of the toast was to welcome me, and to congratulate me on making an impact in my first week with the Happy Home Company! I felt so honored, that someone at his level and stature in the company actually acknowledged me. It was a great moment in my career path.
December 8th 2014 was probably the biggest day of HHCO history. It was the day the company officially launched. On that day I just remember that customers were signing up and service request after service request were pouring in. With all the training and meetings I had endured over the past 30 days, I was ready to take on the customers as the company’s Home Manager and to own the service requests from beginning to end. The number of service requests that came in stacked up to an insurmountable measure. It was tough, but I had to get through it. I kept thinking to myself, how am I going to do all this by myself? There wasn’t enough time in the day to get through it all. Even though I was getting frantic, I had to stay calm and push through to service my customers!
After a couple days, Andrea came to help me with service request after service request. A day or so later, I heard that Josh and Nick were busy trying to control the flow of incoming service requests to help buy us more time in the service center. Then Matthew stepped in, to get emails out to our new customers who required initial contact. The following day Doug joined the fray to help source the vendors Andrea and I were so desperately trying to reach out for. This was the first time in my life that I felt everyone in the company was supporting one of their employees. I had never experienced help like that before, and I appreciated every bit of it. I couldn’t appreciate it enough and how happy it made me. Thank you, guys!
On Thursday December 11th, 2014 I had to take some time off. I had mentioned to Tim that I only needed most of the morning to take care of something important. I got back in the office at about 11:00 am, and returned to tend my home management duties. A few minutes later, Andrea came over to continue helping me in the service center. She asked how my morning went, and I replied that Danny and I had gotten married. The news slowly trickled through the office. Tim had heard about it and told me to go home. As Doug was helping us out, he overheard that I got married and congratulated me. He told me that I was done for the day and that I should go home to celebrate. I kindly declined his offer to leave early, as I still had some work to accomplish. Soon, I started hearing rounds of congratulations and I could feel that everyone was genuinely happy for me. It was another first in my life, and one I will not forget.
The next day Friday December 12th, 2014 was the company’s official Holiday/Launch Party. Even though it was a normal workday I just couldn’t help feeling excited. For the first time I would be bringing my husband (not partner, not boyfriend) to a corporate event to meet everyone I was so proud and happy to work with. When my husband and I arrived at the restaurant, we walked to the company’s private dining room. As I introduced him, everyone was so kind as to shake his hand and greet him so properly. I suddenly felt warmth and kindness that I had never seen from a group of people that I worked with before. It is definitely something you do not see in the world of construction, unless the field workers are getting drunk together at the local bar across the street from the jobsite (but that’s a different story).
As we enjoyed the appetizers, Danny and I were engaging in some really fun conversation with this group of awesome people. While eating and conversing, Doug stood up to raise his glass to give a toast! He raised his glass high to praise where the company was headed and that we were there to celebrate in the official launch of the company. Then, in true Doug fashion, he totally took me by surprise by raising his glass again to cheer our marriage.
As everyone cheered and clinked their wine glasses, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the great amount of acceptance offered by these amazing people. Our co-founder, Matthew Mengerink, who arrived just a little after the toast and making his rounds and upon meeting my husband, didn’t reach out to shake his hand, but reached out and gave him a very welcoming hug. At that point, I knew I found the company I wanted to work for, and it was right then and there that I finally felt like I was a part of something. It was a place where I was happy and had finally fit in!