This is my friend Sophie. She likes to run and jump and climb and lift heavy objects in competitions that call for such things. She also has this warm, embracing energy about her that makes others want to run, jump, climb and lift heavy objects, too. This is a picture of her getting ready to compete in the 2013 Nordic Extreme Marathon in Denmark last month. Don’t you wish you had been there with her? I know I do.
Sophie is also a biological engineer, which means there are brains to go along with that enviable feminine brawn. A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Darling and I just happened to meet up with her and her partner Matilda a few days before she was going to a final interview for what she called her “dream job.” Actually, it was more of an “audition” because it involved her creating and presenting a marketing plan for the launch of one of the company’s new products, all in English.
She was excited about it, and naturally a little nervous, too, but even if she’d been the picture of Zen calm, I still would have volunteered my native English skills to proof-read her presentation if she wanted them. It turns out she did.
But she really didn’t need my help. Her current role with a major international food packaging company has made her English better than most Swedes’, many of whom speak it as well some Americans I know. Her presentation slides, based on what I understood she had been asked to do, were spot-on. I spent 20 minutes on them, tops, and sent them back to her with a couple of minor grammatical fixes and a few suggestions of things for her to consider.
I also told her how refreshing it was to see a Powerpoint presentation actually designed in the manner for which the tool is intended to be used. At my company, there is a ridiculous tendency to cram EVERYTHING but the kitchen sink into every single slide, leaving absolutely nothing for the presenter to do or say. Seriously, I’m pretty sure my four-year-old god-daughter, who currently mixes Swedish, English and Tagalog … often in the same sentence … could give our corporate presentation without missing a single fact or figure. Sophie’s slides were set up to complement the speaker, and Sophie was going to shine.
We had dinner at her and Matilda’s place the evening after her interview, which she described as having gone well. Even the technical glitch that cancelled all of the trains going over the Öresund Bridge to Denmark that morning (her interview was in Copenhagen), did not throw her off her game. During a text-message exchange with her at mid-day, she suggested the company was trying to test her problem-solving skills by shutting down the train traffic at the exact time she was on her way to their offices. I replied that they ought to hire her for her fantastic attitude alone.
And it seems the company agreed since this text arrived from her shortly after lunch the next day:
I got the job!!!!! Thanks to you :))))))) … which I found as funny and touching as it was untrue. Later, when reporting the great news to Dr. Darling, I said something like, “Sophie got the job and she seems to think I had something to do with it, but I barely touched her slides.”
The Swede, who has been the beneficiary of my English language expertise for a lot of years now, suggested that maybe the mere fact that a native speaker/writer had looked them over had allowed her to relax and be a little extra confident going into her presentation … especially in light of the mad dash she’d had to make when all the trains were cancelled. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose that’s a possibility.
But as long as we’re talking about the grand scheme of things … take another look at the picture of my friend Sophie, and then imagine that smile in business clothes. I doubt anyone in the room during her presentation saw a single one of those perfectly constructed, professionally proof-read Powerpoint slides.
Congratulations, Sophie. Your new employer is so lucky to have you. And what-ever teeny, tiny role I may have played in your success, I hope I get to do it again.