The First Client Meeting (Part 1)

I sat down at my desk, turned on the ageing computer I had inherited from the guy before, pulled in my chair, and prepared myself for the customary five minutes of morning pleasantries. In that respect it was a morning like any other. Yet thanks to the ‘quick chat’ I had just had, that was very much where the similarities ended.

I had been here full time for maybe three weeks, and so it was only natural that in a company of our size it wouldn’t be long before being asked to sit in on my first client meeting, but this wasn’t exactly the role I had been expecting. We had been contacted a few weeks earlier by another local start up, asking if we could make some custom stuff to validate their tech. After the customary back and forth they had agreed to come in, along with some of their investors and executive board members, to get a better idea of what we could do. They would be here by 11 o’clock.

Walking in that morning I knew how that first meeting was to go for me, I’d heard plenty about the tradition from older friends already graduated. For all intensive purposes I was to act as an assistant, bringing in tea, coffee, perhaps the occasional biscuit, and for the rest of the time I would sit quietly in the corner (or if I was really lucky I might even sit at the table) and just watch and learn from the pro’s. What I hadn’t really considered is that the guys I’d heard this from were in grad programs within multi-billion pound/ dollar companies. I on the other hand was working in a tiny start up and was, by default, the company expert in all things electrical engineering.

Climbing the stairs to our office that morning I had bumped in to my boss, who was wearing his finest outfit: his favourite red Hawaiian shirt, a pair of black (keeping it formal) shorts , and of course a worn pair of tanned brown flip flops. Seeing me he beamed down, slapped me on the back and opened with his favourite “how’re you matey?”. Before I could answer he spoke again, saying the few words capable of terrifying any of his employee’s, “just to let you know…”.

Background: A quick little insight here on my boss, if you ever hear him say “just to let you know…” then something big is coming. “Just to let you know, the deadline for that project is no longer next month. It’s now Friday”. “Just to let you know the client has changed their mind. I know you’ve finished it already but could you change it for them”. It isn’t always negative though in his defence, “just to let you know we’ve signed a new deal so you’re definitely all employed for at least another 18 months”.

This time I would have to say the knowledge he was so kindly gifting was neither positive or negative. It was just big. Evidently never having spoken to any of my grad-scheme mates, he asked me if I would present the slides on our tech, that there were only ten or fifteen, and that he had emailed them to me to look over. Not noticing what I imagine was the colour trickling from my face, he casually continued on down the stairs on his morning trip to the local coffee shop. At least this meant that my morning cappuccino was on him.

1 Hour 45 Minutes Remaining

By the time my computer had booted up, and my email had begrudgingly agreed to open, I had that I might actually be feeling pretty excited. I was definitely still a little bit bricking it of course, but all in all I was happy to be given this opportunity. Then I opened the PowerPoint. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge believer in not just reading off of slides, but this… it was just pictures. In a worrying number of cases I couldn’t even tell what they were pictures of, so how on earth was I supposed to explain it to someone else. Asking around frantically I tried to piece together what I could from the few in the office who valued getting in on time. The overwhelming response though was that they didn’t know and to ask the boss. The same boss that was currently out getting coffee and who would be gone for at least another 20 minutes. Brilliant. Deciding there was no point dwelling on what I didn’t know, I thought it time to concentrate on what I did. The next step from here is the only logical one for a recent graduate, writing down as many bullet points as possible. I later decided to keep this list in case I ever wanted a laugh, I mean I have no idea what “Sensor like use.” even means, let alone why I felt the need to write it down.

Now I know what you’re thinking, can’t your boss just fill in the gaps you don’t know. Yep, yep he could of. But in these situations you tend not to think too logically at first (refer to earlier mentioned “Sensor like use”), plus this being my first proper challenge I was determined to do as much as I could by myself.

1 Hour Remaining

By this point I had ‘finished’ my frantic bulleting and everything I had written was, to be honest, a load of shite. With the time of their arrival so close I really started to feel a little bit lost. Dejected, I decided it was time to accept partial defeat, and so I began the short trip over to his desk to ask about the slides I didn’t know about. I had hoped for some insightful answers, so would hardly describe myself as having been over the moon by his slightly passive aggressive “just look on DropBox” response. He has a truly incredible ability to receive bad/ frustrating news whilst getting coffee, so other then recommending he turn his give an addiction to office-made tea a go, I knew the only thing I could do was to leave and let whatever had him in such a foul mood blow over. To Dropbox I turned. I needn’t had bothered though, as all I found were the original photos with no clues other than file names like ‘third_sensor_batch_march.png’ which did little in helping me work out what I was looking at.

Leaning back in my chair I felt pretty stumped. Thinking a little bit more I decided that these old demo’s still had to be somewhere. Going back to the office I started searching through old boxes, nothing. In the mound of plastic bags, nothing. Finally, slapping myself, it dawned on me that I had been an absolute idiot this whole time. There was literally a massive box down in the lab named ‘DEMO KITS‘. No prizes for guessing what I found in there. The box contained almost solely the contents of the presentation, and with them the how-to guides outlining not only what they were, but what they did and how to use them. I had my treasure and it had only taken me an hour or so…

I’m aware that this has gotten very long, so I think I’ll finish this story in a second post. Looking at my blog stats so far I can’t really imagine anyone is reading this but if on the off chance someone is, and has by some miracle got this far, would you rather I keep the whole thing to one article, split it in to two, or even split any future parts in to even more smaller chunks?

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