My first taste of rejection happened shortly before I graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering. As is the usual practice, the big name companies came to the campus to interview candidates for their new graduate programs.
I rushed to the Dean’s office to check my name against a scheduled list of students to be interviewed by a global petrochemical company. I tiptoed and strained to look above the heads of other students. Finally I made my way closer to the board. I blinked. I could not find my name. I looked again. No, it’s not there. Why is my name not there?
I was at the top layer of my graduating class in the only selective university in the country. Why is my name not on the list? I turned away from the board, walking away yet not seeing my path, straining not to cry. The disappointment was so heavy in my heart, like a large boulder that I could not move.
I grew up with my brothers, the oldest and only girl in the family. My parents delighted in giving me opportunities to learn new things. I was in school ahead of others because I was ready, so they convinced the school to take me in. My gender was never a constraint nor was it a consideration by itself. I was blissfully unaware that it was not always so in society.
There were only a handful of women in the College of Engineering. But it did not even enter my mind that women being the minority might be a challenge in itself. Delightfully, we were treated well by our peers and teachers. There was tacit acknowledgement that we were all there by merit. The women certainly took great strides themselves, highly represented in the top layer of the class.
I did not get very far from the Dean’s office. One of my classmates saw me. He caught up with me and put his arm around my shoulder, as if that would console me. “Joyce, they are the ones who missed a great talent. Always remember that.”
Those words stayed with me through the years.
Having missed the new graduate position with the global petrochemical company (my first preference then), I applied for a job with others.
The interview with the head of manufacturing operations at Fairchild Semiconductors was a conversation of like minds. I felt welcomed, wanted and respected. Looking back, I don’t even remember thinking that my age, size, height, skin color, gender, freshness from University, were matters that blocked my path. The conversation spanned the technical to the philosophical. It was an immensely enjoyable interview of one-and-a-half hours. I am thankful to Karl Stahl for opening the door to a world of discoveries and adventures.
At Fairchild I learned about semiconductors – silicon chips, as they were sometimes called then. Statistics, materials science, semiconductor physics and thermodynamics came to life. A few years later, I temporarily moved to San Rafael, California, to design the new mass assembly process for what were then ultra-small surface mount transistors and ICs, the start of the wave of miniaturization.
Throughout my career, I have experienced the occasional closed doors. Some were closed on my face; others I closed myself. Sometimes, they hurt. At other times, I wondered what could have been.
But the hurt and hesitation never stayed long enough to affect my spirit. You see, after moving on I found that everything worked together for good, closed doors included. There is a purpose for my life and closed doors help define where I need not go!
Have you just experienced a door close on you? Maybe it’s time to move on.
Stop looking at it so longingly.
Notice the path ahead.
There are other open doors ahead of you.
Straighten your shoulders, you know who you are and what you can do, re-set and go.