I was building a brand. Alone. For about two years. It was growing fast and things were busy. I needed help. I found interns. It was decided that we not pay them, so I wanted to ensure that their experiences were fulfilling. After all, you can’t expect too much with interns. It’s basically a teaching scenario anyway.
I brought on a couple of kids out of UNCC. Good kids. One was Indian. Well, he was American (he lived in Charlotte his whole life), but was ethnically Indian from a strong Indian family. I liked him. He was extremely clever. And there was something in his eyes that said he was someone I should work with.
When the internship ended, I offered Vinay a job. It didn’t pay much, but he was just starting out and I needed the help. Plus, it wasn’t like we were running a sweatshop. The job was to help create and manage content back when content was just starting out as a thing.
I helped him write better. Which is to say I reinforced the idea that on the other side of every syllable he conceived was a human being– something I believe too many advertising writers fail to embrace.
We ended up working together for a couple years. He became part of my family–one of the few people I could confide in, and someone who loved my kids enough that he bought a duct-tape wallet from one of them for five bucks. (And he used it.) Then I went my way, and shortly after, he went his.
We stayed in touch via social media, grabbing lunch when we could. He worked at a big local agency and, as far as I knew, that was where he still was when he recently asked me to lunch.
“I’m leaving, man.” he said.
“Oh yeah? Where to?” I asked.
“California. Going to work for fucking Facebook!”
It was true. He landed a content gig with a platform we both used to advance a brand we built together. A brand that grew by 3000% in just over two years when we were killing it. We were a good team.
“I wanted you to be one of the first to know.” he said.
I was honored, but curious why.
“The things you taught me man, you have no idea how they influenced me. How they continue to influence me. Hell, I used the phrase ‘It’s easier to run in on a fly ball than run back on one’ at least twice a week.” he said.
I smiled. It was a saying that my father passed on to me that I routinely used in my life to think creatively. And something I clearly passed on to Vinay.
He continued, “And you gave me the confidence to stand up for myself. And good ideas. Not to just lay down to follow the crowd, but to question everything. Regardless of who is in the room.”
By the time lunch was over, I was beside myself. I had no idea. I was just trying to help someone out–and not screw him up too much.
And so today a kid who I took under my non-conformist wings with his first job, is on his way to Menlo Park to work for one of the most influential companies on the planet.
That’s pretty cool.
Stay in touch, Vinay. Continue being kind. And keep raising hell.
Follow Vinay on Twitter. Ironically.