Racism and prejudice: So damn exhausting, but can make one stronger

I had five jobs in the five years I worked in corporate America, and I can relay a story from each one where I felt race played a factor. Since leaving corporate America and having my own business for the last 29 years or so, I can also recount many stories that made that enterprise more difficult than it had to be.

Now that I am older and much less arrogant, I can admit that what probably got me in the door in corporate America was affirmative action, though I would balk anytime anyone made that insinuation.

Given the posted specifications, I was unqualified for the first job I got. They were looking for someone with at least a masters degree in computer science. I had a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering and minored in computer-aided engineering. But I did write a Fortran program to simulate the controlled positioning of an ARCO drilling ship. The vice president of the division called me into his office, shut the door, and said, “Pat likes you. I don’t know why. She’s hiring you. But I want to tell you if it does not work out in six months, you are out of here. And I don’t want to hear a damn thing about affirmative action.” That was my entry into corporate America. I finished the six-month project in two months.

At my third job prospect, I was called back three times, if you include the visit where they made me the offer. It was as if they did not believe my resume and the actual interview. At that same company, I made a software modification that solved a problem they thought would require a complete hardware redesign. When it was time to explain to the customer the solution and the reason we could deliver way ahead of schedule, I was told to tell another engineer all that I did because “my time was too valuable to be in that meeting.” When the other engineer was unable to answer all the questions related to exceptions in the software, they finally called me in to answer questions to a somewhat shocked set of customer engineers.