Friday, March 28, 2014

SupaStar Status

I was on my way to our Timeshare in Island Falls for Vacation when I got a call from my General Manager, Judy Horan…

Judy: "Sam, Judy Horan here."
Me: "Hi Judy.What's up?" (In my head I started freaking out that I had forgotten to finish a project or something.)
Judy: "I was really bummed to find out you weren't going to be in today so that I could tell you the news in person."
Me: "Ummmm, what news?"
Judy: "The news that you have been selected as an Unsung Hero. You were selected as 1 of 6 people from Gannett and in a couple weeks they are going to fly you to Washington DC to receive your award."

Two weeks later I was on a plane, by myself, on my way to Washington DC to Gannett Headquarters. I had only flown once before, and never by myself, so I was nervous, but confident. I sat next to a very nice gentleman on the way there. He was from Canada and he offered me a piece of gum as I was searching for some in my purse. He was on his way to Florida to visit with his son and play golf. He talked my ear off the whole flight. He talked about how he had lost his wife a short time ago. He talked of their life together and about their two sons who were growing to be very successful. He talked about politics, taxes and health insurance. I'm surprised I didn't fall asleep at that point, but his accent was interesting. I told him where I was going and what for. He gave me some tips about work ethics and how to continue to be successful. As we arrived and exited the plane we exchanged names and a hug and I have to say I will never forget him. He was a great start to my adventure with his knowledgeable recommendations and I believe I met him for a reason. 
The second I set foot off the plane at Reagan National it was immediately fast paced. I tried to make it look like I knew what I was doing and found a bathroom to gather my thoughts. 
After trekking around the airport twice I eventually figured out where and how to get a taxi to my hotel. I spent the whole ride trying to figure out what to give my driver for a tip. Thank god for smart phones.

They put me up at the Ritz Carlton and when I opened the door to my room I took my shoes off, did a frantic dance around the room and jumped on the bed like I was 10 years-old again.

With a few hours to kill and having a two-story mall attached to the hotel I decided to venture out there. Since I couldn't afford the stores in the mall, I did a training walk around the mall instead.

Our ride was scheduled to pick us up at the hotel. I got to the lobby early hoping to meet up with some of the other award winners before the awards ceremony.

The first person I met was a young woman named Meghan from Michigan. She works as an executive secretary for advertising in the company's Detroit Media Partnership. We chatted about where we were from. She said she had been to Maine before and she remembered how pretty is was. Meghan seemed so nice and we connected immediately.

The second person that arrived was Larry from Phoenix, Arizona. He worked as a Director of Single Copy/Transportation with Gannett's Publishing Services. He had never been to any of the New England States. It was snowing out as we were waiting and he was amazed at the snow. Meghan and I weren't amazed or amused at all.

As the shuttle arrived a few more fellow award winners showed up-- Isaac and Michael. Michael works in our company's IT department in the corporate office. He was a shy guy who didn't have much to say.
Isaac was another Phoenix guy, but worked on a different floor than Larry on the digital team as a Sales Analyst. His personality was very contagious and he had as much energy as my 9 year-old. He was also very funny. He told us his goal for the end of the day was to get a selfie with the president of the company.

It was approximately a 2 minute ride from the hotel to the corporate offices. We arrived at this beautiful, giant glass building.
Source: Wikipedia

We walked into the entrance which was a large opened area, glass ceilings higher than the Cross Insurance Center. We checked in at the front desk and they put us in a room where we were going to have a meet and greet with the corporate team.

While we waited another winner joined us. Linda, who works in the corporate offices as a facilities manager. Her big curly hair was full of positive energy and she was one of those type of people that you wanted to be friends with forever.

Before the meet and greet started they pulled us back into the entrance for photo shoots. This is where we ran into our final two award winners. Scott and Chris are part of our Video Production Center in the corporate office. Scott is an editor and Chris is a director.

We each had a solo portrait done and then we did a group picture.

Front row, from left: Scott Hall, Samantha Hammond, Linda Holzer and Meghan Ditrapani.
Back row, from left: Michael McGlone, Larry Kaiser, Chris Sweigart and Isaac Rivera. 

Back in the meet and greet room, it was quickly filled with the corporate team. I chatted with Dave Lougee, President of the Broadcast Division, Maryam Banikarim, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer and Todd Mayman, Senior Vice President. The theme of the awards ceremony was All-Star Honors and they all were to wear something "baseball" related. So, they were all chatting about which jersey they wanted to wear. I noticed out of the corner of my eye as Gracia Mortore, Gannett's President, walked in and Isaac almost immediately got a selfie with her. Isaac for the Win!

Shortly after that we were escorted into the 'stadium' where lots of people were gathering for the awards. Besides the Unsung Hero Award there were also many other awards being given. You can imagine that the room was filled with some pretty amazing people. There was also different division meetings going on throughout the day so others were there as well to witness the award winners receive their recognition, including one of my general managers, Steve Carter. The ceremony was also being live streamed so it was going to be seen companywide; I knew my people back home were preparing to watch and all I could think was "Please don't do something stupid that everyone will remember and talk about for decades."

We got to sit very close to the front of the stage. They put the Unsung Hero award winners scattered in between all of the other awards and we each had a video produced about us as well. Here's mine.

Yay, I didn't trip and I DIDN'T have to give a speech. Although I wish I would've corrected Gracia with her pronunciation of Bangor.

It was great listening to the stories of all the award winners and after all the awards we had a cocktail hour where we could chat with everyone.

Linda then took us for a quick tour. Most of the building is rented out and there are a lot of offices that we didn't see, but she took us to the dining area (it was larger than EMMC's Dinning area), showed us the spa, the gym, and my favorite place was the newsroom.

After our tour it was time for a reception dinner. We headed up to the top floor to the corporate offices. There were drinks being served as we looked at the views from Gracia's office and the boardroom. I chatted with Maine native, Michael Christie, who is now the Director of Corporate Facilities Services. He used to work as Senior of Operations Manager for MBNA in Belfast. We talked about Maine and the midcoast area. Great guy, very easy to talk to.
People started making there way down to the dining area. There were assigned seats and I was lucky enough to sit next to Dave Lougee and John Misner. John is the President and General Manager for KPNX out of Phoenix, Arizona. We talked about the things that I'm involved in at my station. He gave me a compliment by saying "So, what would it take to get you out to Phoenix."    He also compared me to Heather Gray, who I'm told is a great multi-tasker and good at figuring how to get things accomplished with less.
After dinner and lots of mingling, it was time to head back to the hotel. Now that we knew each other and everyone was staying at the same hotel we all planned to meet at the lounge later.  I went down after checking in with my kids and had a great time meeting some other new people. I stayed until 10:30 and by then I had to get out of my boots before I fell over. I called and said my goodnight to Darric and slept like I had never slept before in the most comfortable bed ever!

The whole way home I kept smiling thinking about the day before. It felt good to meet new faces in the company. It felt good to stand beside others who are passionate about their job. I'll never forget my other unsung hero winners, and I hope I left a mark on them that they will never forget.

Before the trip to DC some of my coworkers told me they couldn't believe that I was going to travel that far, to that big of a city, all by myself. I told them that I had to put on my big girl panties and not miss out on this opportunity. Working in one of the smallest companies in the business, it's hard to not get looked upon as the small person, as a nobody. This trip made me feel like somebody, made me feel worth something, made me feel important was kinda nice.

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