I Still Don’t Play Golf
I fell into this industry by mistake. I graduated from Boston University with a BA in English Literature and my heart set on a career in the publishing business. I made the rounds to Houghton-Mifflin, Harvard Common Press, even the Boston Globe and I got nothing. Disappointed, I went to the BU Career Development office for some guidance and they told me - get this - that the publishing community is really an old boy’s club and that it was unlikely that anyone would hire me. They wisely suggested I take some practice interviews. Much to my dismay, their job board boasted positions as Sales Managers for a local department store.
I loathe traditional retail. I don’t even like clothes or shoe shopping. I am constantly teased by colleagues because I wear black suits as if they are some sort of uniform (they are). My primary passion is cooking, so retail therapy for me consists of grocery shopping at TJs, Whole Foods, Sprouts or the local farmer’s market.
So I applied to this department store and to my horror, I got the job. In the end, I was enthused because I became the manager for the electronics and toys departments, at least I wasn’t managing any clothing departments - or even worse - the perfume counters. Since I am a bit of a geek, I fell in love with electronics, but little did I know that this would become my career. That said, I was cautioned by my district manager that I would never be successful in the electronics business - because I didn’t play golf.
Fast forward a few years after selling a million Fisher rack systems, I aspired to work at Tweeter, etc., the local promoting specialty chain. I started as a sales person in their Harvard Square store. My first day on the job the store manager and his assistant manager told me I was not going to stay in Harvard Square because they didn’t want women working in their store. They had already called HR and asked that I be moved to the Chestnut Hill Mall (evidently the mall stores were female friendly). I didn’t have a car and I had no resources for buying one, so the idea of trying to get to Chestnut Hill (a mere five mile drive) on a daily basis was daunting. Harvard Square was only a T ride away and it was the place I wanted to work.
Within two months I was battling the top associates for highest sales production. (I owe this career to Tweeter’s legendary training department.) Suffice it to say, I won the guys over and stayed in Harvard Square until I opened the Hanover, MA, Tweeter store. My romance with Tweeter lasted 5 years, but there were many times when I was the only female working the sales floor, and when I reached management level, the only woman in the upper echelons. Tweeter actively looked to hire women, but even in a techy environment like Boston, not many applied. And should a female pass muster (or pass Paul Schindler’s “selling him his own Swingline desk stapler” test), they always ended up working in my store.
Eventually I moved to California. I was excited to get back into the Hi-Fi scene and began my job search in earnest. The manager of the first store I applied to told me that the company never hired women. (Several years later I got to know the owner of this small chain and he blew a gasket when I told him this story. He knew women could be very successful in the AV business and clearly had not given his store manager the responsibility of prescreening applicants.) The next store I applied to presented almost the polar opposite situation. I was told the owner would hire me; his wife would never permit it.
Somehow the owner prevailed, because I did land that job.
I still don’t play golf.
Jeannette Howe is currently a Free Agent seeking full time employment. Previously, Ms. Howe was the founder and Executive Director of Specialty Electronics Nationwide (SEN), the specialty home theater and CI buying group. Prior to SEN, Ms. Howe was the National Membership Manager for Home Entertainment Source (now ProSource). Once upon a time she was Director of Membership for the Professional AudioVideo Retailers Association (PARA). Early in her career Ms. Howe was the Audio Buyer at Magnolia Hi-Fi and she worked at Tweeter in a variety of positions including Audio Buyer and ”Swill Master.” Ms. Howe is an avid champion for the specialty independent channel. Please see her resume at http://tinyurl.com/jhurl. She can be reached at 949-369-7670 or Jeannette.Howe@Yahoo.com.