Who took a chance on you?

As my team locally and at other locations continues to grow, I have found myself thinking back to an article by Bijan Sibet talking about who took a chance on you. Each person I interview has different strengths and skills. Sometimes you go in looking for someone that may be really strong in one of those particular skills. But often times, you only get a glimpse of what they can really do in the 45-60 minutes that you have with them. Sometimes you know right away that there is something special about this person, sometimes you only have a hunch, but aren’t sure.

It makes me think back to someone that saw something in me when I certainly didn’t see it. That person was Jenny Simmons, Bartlett Hall Coordinator at the University of Northern Iowa. Jenny was in charge of running the residence hall, making sure the monkeys didn’t go completely nuts and finding and hiring resident assistants (RA) to help in all areas of a residents time at UNI.

I’ll be perfectly honest, going into college and even after my first year there, I had zero ambitions of being an RA. My freshman year RA was ok, not the greatest, but ok. I didn’t see much fun in the job. It wasn’t until my second year when I started to see some friends become RAs and I had an RA that was both having fun while keeping the train from coming off the rails. Because let’s face it, there is a lot to college that happens outside of the classroom.

About the time of the hiring orientation and interviewing process I would say one of the more significant events happened in my young life. My long term girlfriend at the time broke it off with me. We had been together 4+ years but she attended a different school and the distance got in the way. Yes, young love comes and goes but when you’re young, things like this do amazingly stupid things to your mind and ego. Needless to say, I was a bit of a mess over the whole thing. So I then did what any sane and rational person would do in a situation like this, I would put myself through relentless and grueling self reflective interviews of coarse.

What was I thinking?!?

The process basically works like this. You submit an application, you have a bunch of pre-interviews with various RAs and Hall coordinators and then you go into the halls to have MUCH more in depth interviews. As in, expect to spend 2-3 hours getting interviewed by the current RA staff of that hall. And not just one residence hall, sometimes multiple. I interviewed at 4 different halls. After all that, the hall coordinators have a 1 on 1 interview with you before they make their selections in what is roughly equivalent to a NFL draft day. I’m serious, trades are made, deals are done.

It was during this time that I probably was the most honest and most raw with my answers. If I blew an interview, who cares, move on. It was honestly pretty refreshing to remove the filter.

I’m not sure what Jenny saw in me during those interviews. Maybe it was a sense of humor. Maybe it was my complete lack of bullshit answers. I really don’t know for sure. But what I can tell you is this, it was one of the best jobs I ever had. I met some amazing people along the way both residents and fellow RAs. Some of which are my closest friends today. This is where I met my wife as she was on staff with me. And she will tell you, she was pretty sure we weren’t going to get along.

I have other people that took a chance on me, who took that chance on you?

Matt Patterson avatar
About Matt Patterson
Husband, Father of 3, Programmer at heart, spends his days running ridiculously large data centers in the midwest.