Speed: a core ingredient of success in the technology marketing world. Here in Silicon Valley, you need to: be a quick study; have hair-trigger responsiveness; and learn to make your point in a nanosecond to an increasingly distracted audience of peers, customers and influencers.
And if you are a consultant in this world —surviving on your instincts, context, contacts and flexibility—you sometimes need to fly by the seat of your pants to ensure you meet the speed requirements of your clients.
But what if you discover that the seat of your pants has literally ceased to exist?
Yup, it happened to me this morning. On route to a new business meeting at 9:40 am, my biggest concern was the one thing you can’t plan for: chemistry. I’d done my homework, read market research, prepped key points and business questions and had a proposal on my iPad.
I’d also given thought to my wardrobe—which in the post business suit world is a social minefield for women— navigating the fine balance of professionalism, function vs. fashion, dowdy vs. trashy, etc. But I felt confident in my choices:
-Sweater and shoes: fitted and fashionable styles, neutral palette, but still functional enough to walk a mile from the train without heat stroke nor injury,
-Fitted leather jacket: took the edge off the windy 55 degree morning without being an “establishment” suit blazer;
-A few select accessories: bold designs, yet sleek and good quality silver, and
-A pair of tailored pants: age-appropriate cut and material, and comfortable enough to navigate whatever start-up situation awaited me—bean bag, floor mat or rolling ball chair.
I was on my game with eight minutes to spare if I walked quickly.
What I was totally unprepared for: a nasty “wardrobe malfunction.”
It started innocently enough. “Excuse me, Miss, I thought you might prefer hearing this from a total stranger,” said the handsome business man walking up from behind me. “It appears that the back of your pants has…um…come undone.”
Aghast, I felt the backside of what I’d thought was a flattering pair of trousers, to find a gaping—and growing— hole at the seam. “Oh, no! I am on my way to an interview!” I managed, incredulous at my predicament.
“I’m sorry, perhaps I shouldn’t have told you,” offered the kind man, who had been following behind a demure, age-appropriate pair of gray pants with a peek-a-boo swatch of silky bright orange panties competing for attention.
It was my very own Bridget Jones moment.
With a ten minute walk still ahead of me, I had to come up with a plan:
a. try to buy a pair of appropriate pants (requiring a 15 minute wait for the closest stores to open) and call the client to request we start the meeting half an hour late, or
b. attempt to cover my blooming backside with my (well selected, outfit-coordinated) bag, and back into the room, praying that the act of sitting down didn’t blow my cover.
Flabbergasted, I decided to keep moving toward the meeting and option B. For peace of mind, I called my husband. “What would you do?” After he remarkably swallowed at least three inappropriate scenarios that jumped to his creative mind, he suggested: “Tie your jacket around your waist, march in there and let them know that you are dedicated enough to their business to overcome a wardrobe challenge.”
As I contemplated tying the bulky leather jacket, unable to help himself, he added: “Or, buy a gray Sharpie to replace the orange panties.”
Three blocks and seven minutes from the meeting, I found a new lifeline, Siri. “Women’s clothes near here.” Miraculously, she served up the Levi’s store, directly across the street from my meeting—and even more fantastical—open at 9 am instead of 10. I jogged the last block, well aware of the refreshing breeze, and dove, laser-focused through the door. A lovely salesperson asked if I needed help. “Oh, yes, this is a retail emergency!” I gave her my details and requirements and she yanked two pair of jeans from the hundreds folded on the wall display.
I must’ve done something kind somewhere in my past: the first pair fit. Perfectly.
Two minutes later, I strode into my meeting, on time, with a slightly bulging briefcase filled with great ideas, strategy and a pair of butt-less pants.
No one was the wiser. I got the job.
I haven’t worn Levi’s since high school. I am now a brand champion for life.