Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Another Life Lesson Learned

Hello all,

Today my peer intern and I learned a valuable lesson on the etiquette of dealing with more than one boss. This Saturday, my manager, the VP of merchandising and a few other superiors are flying to PUMA’s headquarters in Germany for an annual conference. Our main job this week has consisted of all prep work necessary to ensure that they are ready for their meeting. Our work has varied from preparing briefs, presentations; excel files to cutting fabric and manila folders…

I would never have guessed that, amidst the pivot tables, vlookups and sumifs, preparing color swatches for a visual line plan would be one of the most challenging tasks. What seems like a fun arts and crafts project to a 6th grader made Jess and I want to rip our hair out. The problems began when we realized that we did not have enough swatches on hand to make packets for each of the five representatives coming from Boston. Because of the time crunch, we were not able to reorder more swatches, but rather, had to make due with what we have. For this particular project, our manager worked alongside one of her coworkers to oversee this process.  We figured that since they are both in charge of this project that we could take orders from either of them. Our manager first requested that we do not cut anything permanent. 10 minutes later, the coworker came up to us and said that we should do anything in order to make enough copies for all 5 representatives, which includes cutting the existing swatches into thirds. Yet another 10 minutes later, our manager comes up to us and asks us why we cut the only swatches we have left into smaller pieces if she requested not to make any permanent changes…

Our jaws dropped when we realized that we directly disobeyed her orders and potentially ruined the whole project with no return. Thankfully, no serious damage was done but we experienced a life lesson. As a good mentor, she explained to us that in the future, one should always prioritize the orders of their direct manager over anyone else, something that may seem self-explanatory but can only be internalized after such an experience.  In response to this situation, Jess and I discussed what we could have done differently to avoid this mistake. We often shy away from asking her more than twice about a certain project in fear that we are being a nuisance and hindrance to their productivity. This time however, it is clear that double-checking with her would have been the most politically correct way to ensure that we are following everyone’s directions properly.

I am actually very grateful that I am able to make such mistakes in an environment that is forgiving and understanding. This was an important lesson to learn as I will only be encountering more work life conflicts in my career.

Thanks for reading!

Michelle Tuzman