When I joined the U.S. Navy, I was only 17 years old.
Technically I was still in high school and the only thing that I knew about my future, or what I wanted to do about my life, was that I didn’t want to be where I was.
I did know that I needed a change of scenery, I needed to see some new faces, and I needed to get out of town for a while. I knew I wanted to write, and I was hoping I could help people in some way.
Skipping school in the middle of my senior year, I drove across the Nevada border to Utah, hoping not to get caught or recognized by anyone familiar. I walked into the Navy recruiter’s office with the confidence of a teenage girl who’d chopped off all her hair and managed to sneak away unseen. Again.
Image courtesy of Navy.com
After my initial shock and fear of boot camp — that moment of stepping off the bus and immediately regretting every life decision I’d ever made — I soon found my tribe.
I found a group of women who, like me, were lost in some way, needed a challenge, needed a job, wanted an adventure, or all of the above. We bonded, and sometimes we fought. We grew together and passed the ultimate test before being sent all over the world. Over 20 years later, I still remember all of their faces.
I’m no longer in the Navy, and I decided to pursue a career outside of journalism when I left. But at every office and job site I’ve been a part of, I’ve insisted on this: I must feel like it’s the right fit for me. And, every few years I still chop off all my hair for fun.
Coming from a pretty standard issue blue-collar family, I’ve never had the luxury of casually picking and choosing when and where I want to work. Work has always been a necessity, but a mostly pleasant one. I was designed to work, but I’ve always wanted to be a part of something bigger.
Something that, at some level, aims to provide a service in some way.
Like Zappos, I’ve found companies that are willing to invest in their employees create not only a more educated and informed workforce but also a loyal base more likely to stay and serve.
I’ve been lucky in that most jobs I’ve had have offered opportunities to earn certifications, tuition-reimbursement for online courses, and attend various workshops or conventions.
Not only has Zappos allowed me to progress and grow career-wise, but I’ve also learned new skills, such as how to build mobile apps, and work with local artists to continually hone my skills as a painter. I’ve even gotten the opportunity to write again. (Look! You’re reading something I wrote right now!)
And just as importantly, Zappos encourages employees to give back to the city of Las Vegas and the downtown community. From teambuilding “Karma Adventures,” where one can spend the day at local food banks or assist fund drives on campus, there’s a constant buzz of charity and service in our atmosphere.
Not only does Zappos provide hope for me on days when I think this world falls short, but it’s also a constant source of pride I carry with me. It’s invigorating, inspiring, and a heck of a lot of fun. And I’m reminded of the values of Honor, Courage and Commitment I learned in the Navy years ago.
And similar to the Navy’s bedrock principles, Zappos, too, is built on 10 core values. A few of which are: Deliver WOW Through Service; Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit; Pursue Growth and Learning.
For 18 years, each of these tenets has helped drive the culture, the brand and the business forward. For myself, it’s helped me find a new tribe of people to trust, to challenge and to grow together.
The Navy taught me that the best leaders are the ones who are serving with you and for you. And it’s something I’ve taken to heart as I continue to grow as a manager and forge new and long-lasting relationships.
As I’ve always said, I want to be a part of something bigger; to provide a service in some way. And for the past eight years, I feel that I’ve found that perfect fit.
Zappos doesn’t just sell shoes and clothing. It’s also a company full of good citizens who want to change the world. And I’m happy to serve.