BELTON — A low chuckle rolled through the audience of college students and business professionals that filled the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Meyer Christian Studies Center on Wednesday morning.
Madge Meyer, the featured speaker, won over the crowd with a story from her 10 years as an executive vice president for innovation at State Street, a multibillion-dollar financial services firm.
“The market opens at 9:30 and at 9:35, our system went down,” Meyer said.
She described how her bosses called her on the carpet.
“I went up and all the senior vice presidents were there and they asked, ‘What happened?’” Meyer said. “I told them human error. They’d never heard it before. They asked what I’d done with the guy.”
She paused for effect. “I told them I took him out in the parking lot and shot him,” Meyer said with a grin. “The CIO said, ‘You didn’t really?’ I told them no, but that’s what you want to hear. It was a process problem; if I fired that guy, it wouldn’t have changed things.”
Meyer explained the “process problem” was that an employee in information technology was in administrative mode for State Street’s stock trading system and pushed the wrong button.
“He meant to push a ‘D’ to take the development system offline and instead pushed a ‘P’ and took the production system offline,” Meyer said. She explained that if the process weren’t changed, the mistake could easily happen again.
“We started automating the systems in order to protect our clients’ money,” Meyer said.
Her 90-minute talk was filled with anecdotes drawn her from her decades of working for some of the largest employers in corporate America.
She told the crowd of young business students about her time working for IBM and designing the flight control software for Gemini 10, 11 and 12.
She explained she was one of the few programmers able to fit inside the cramped flight capsules, which meant she was the one who did much of the programming.
However, she found that despite her hard work she wasn’t getting recognized.
“My co-workers were getting promoted before me,” Meyer said. “They’d take credit for my work and get promoted.”
The experience of being passed over for promotion, and having others take credit for her work, left her embittered and angry at her co-workers, she said.
“I used to hate them,” Meyer said. “Until a supervisor asked me if I’d heard the expression ‘blow your own horn.’”
Meyer, a first-generation Chinese immigrant, said she wasn’t familiar with the phrase.
She told the crowd the manager explained to her that she needed to let people know what she had done.
“You need to know how to promote yourself,” she told the crowd. She also advised people in the audience to focus on the “overall mission” of the organization they are working for or with.
As an example, she pointed to her time working for State Street, a company that functions primarily as an investment bank.
“If someone had come to us with an innovation in consumer (banking), we would have told them to get lost,” Meyer said. “It wasn’t in our overall mission.”
She also counseled entrepreneurs to think in terms of strategic marketing.
“Don’t tell me about your product,” Meyer said. “Tell me about what your product can bring to my company.”