[April 30, 2020 — Corona lockdown is still in effect in New Jersey. People are doing many different things to keep their mind occupied during this period. The Creative writer’s club decided to continue writing on various topics. One such topic was, write a short piece on persuasion.]
I think everyone possesses some kind of persuasive powers over someone, somebody or something. For most people it is over small things. But, there are many who possess huge persuasion power. For example, a good negotiator, a politician, a head of a state, a CEO, an organized religious leader, a coach, a general, to name a few. These are special people, sometimes their power of persuasion can escalate to a hypnotic level. History is full of such examples in every walk of life. Some people will say, it is a needed leadership skill — good or bad.
Me? No, don’t have much of a Power of persuasion skill. In certain instances, I was able to go some things my way; for many others, I could not. I mean, I tried persuasion, but it did not go exactly according to my plan. I think my plan had some holes which I did not identify and made needed adjustments early enough. Anyway, today, I am just going to mention one of the events that, I think, had something to do with my small scale persuasiveness .
It was near the beginning of my life in the United States. After working in a makeshift factory in someone’s basement for a few months, after being a waitress at a restaurant for two months, and after working at a 5 and 10 cents store for a couple of years, I decided to take trainings so that I could try for a clerical job, like typing, bookkeeping, filing, etc. Once completed and I got a clerical job in an international firm in New York. I started as a trainee in their investment department. I noticed, the organization offered many training programs to their employees. I kept taking training to improve and widen my skill sets. At one point, the Human Resource department (used to be called personnel department) held an open competitive test for three computer programmer trainee positions. It was announced that only the top 5 scorers would qualify for follow up. The final selection of the candidates will depend on the scores, their past performances in their current positions, and their departmental head’s recommendations. I expressed my intentions in taking the test to my boss, Mr. Wells. He said he would not like to lose me from his department, but encouraged me to try for it if that’s what I wanted. The written test included mostly solving logic based questions and scenarios. I felt pretty good after the test and thanked God that it was not a verbal test, I was very conscious about my heavy accent. After a few days, I heard a rumor that the personnel department had already made selections. I was slightly disappointed. Anyway, I wanted to know my scores. The personnel department simply told me mine was not in the top 10. I said that was OK. But, how much did I score? They would not tell me. I thought that was unfair. My boss guessed something and asked me if I heard anything about my scores. I told him what I found out. He was annoyed and said he would follow up. Next day, he told me with a smile, “Mr Shirai wanted to see you. When he is free, go see him in his office.” I was surprised. Mr. Shirai was our departmental head. He sat in the corner office. I had never even said “good morning” to him let alone talking with him. He was too high up in position. Anyway, I went to his secretary (personal assistant) and told her what my boss said. She smiled and made a five minute appointment. I was very nervous when I went to see Mr. Shirai the next day. But, he put me at ease and asked me a few questions including the test. At the end he said, he would talk with the head of the technology department, Mr. Kobayashee, and asked me to request an appointment with his secretary. I was hesitant. Make an appointment with the Computer departmental head directly? The personnel people will get upset with me, I might lose my job. Anyway, I went to see Mr. Kobayashee’s secretary, Marie. She called me the next day and asked to come prepared for 25 minutes. I was nervous alright. Twenty five minutes? What he was going to ask me? I went to see Mr. Kobayashi on the scheduled time next day. Mr. Kobayashee asked me many questions on my educational background. He wanted to know my experiences with computers. I said I had not seen a computer in my life. I only read about the IBM mainframes, card punching machines, gigantic tape drives, large scale printers and CRT (Cathode Ray Terminals,), etc. But, I studied the Assembler language and could code on it. I knew how to manipulate bits and bytes quite well. Mr. Kobayashi listened intently. He called someone to come to the room and asked him to read some codes written in Assembler and asked me to explain their functions. I did. They both went out for a couple of minutes. Mr, Kobayashi returned to the room alone. He asked me if I studied Cobol. I said no. He thought for a moment and said,”you seemed to know Assembler, but I need people who are familiar with Cobol.” I gathered all my courage and said, “I am a fast learner. I will learn Cobol in a short time,” He was a little hesitant, “You see, we are planning to convert all our Assembler codings in Cobol within six months. We have few consultants working with us now. They are helping with the conversion. Within six months, all Assembler codes must be converted in Cobol, tested and implemented. You can maintain the current applications written in Assembler, but must be ready to take over the programs written in Cobol within four months. Are you up for the challenge?” I thought to myself, no turning back now. I said, “I am only asking for a chance. If I am not good enough within four months, you can let me go.” Mr, Kobayashi smiled for the first time and said,” You are taking on something totally unknown to you. I like you if not for anything, for your courage alone. But, still, your confirmation for this job is 4 months only. You will be evaluated by other technical team members. Your continuation will depend on that evaluation.” I thanked him and came back to my department. Mr. Shirai’s secretary called me the next day and asked me to come to Mr.Shirai’s office. He smiled at me and said, “how did it go with Mr, Kobayashi?” I said, “I thought it went well. Mr. Kobayashee said, he could give a chance only for four months.” Mr. Shirai said, “ That’s right. Mr. Kobayashi is a very principled and strict man. So, you need to think it over seriously. We all like you and would like you to stay on and grow your career. But, if you chose to leave and join the other department, you need to remember a couple of things: 1). You have only six months to prove yourself in the new department, 2) If you do not like the other department for any reasons or they terminate you after evaluation, we may not have another position available for you. Do you need time to think it over?” I said to myself, “I may not get this chance again. I said, “I understand what you are saying and I agree to everything. I want to make the transition.” Mr. Shirai smiled, “OK. It is done. You will be one of the tree trainees starting in the Computer department starting in two weeks.” I was a little surprised and worried too. Don’t I have to give a notice and talk with the personnel to have my departments changed? Mr. Shirai said, Yes, you should contact them. But, I don’t think it would be a problem. Long story short, the personnel did not like the fact that I went to Mr Kobayashee directly for an interview. I told them, all I did was to let my boss know that no one was giving me my score of the test and the things rolled from there. They said, “If you failed in your new position, you cannot go back to your previous position and you may have to leave the organization altogether.” I simply said, “Yes, I know.”
I joined the new department in two weeks with two other trainees. I learned Cobol, and several other programs. Eventually, I found out later, despite the fact that my score was in the top 5 and my boss’s excellent recommendation, someone in the Human Resources wanted a friend to have the opportunity available to him. Incidentally, while working there, I enrolled in the Pratt Institute to pursue a graduate degree in Computer and Decision Science.