Within three months of starting at Donino, I was on to the next position, moving to an in-house advertising department at a financial software manufacturer. The name at the time was Servantis, and their corporate motto, inspired by the deep Christian ethics of the founder, was “You who would be greatest, let them be servant to all.” They meant well.

The company had a remarkable corporate campus in Norcross, with a long driveway through a forest in the front and the Chattahoochee River along the back. The building itself had been designed by a shipbuilder who elected to suspend the whole thing above the ground on an external frame. The sliding glass doors in our offices leaked like a sieve though, and if you worked late, you might hear a thud when a badger fell through the ceiling.

There were regular conferences for software customers held onsite, so the amenities included a hotel, a bowling alley and an excellent cafeteria. Food was free for employees. I’ll say that again. Food was free for employees, and soda too. A former company president overheard his son raving about how good the food was at school, so he enticed all the women in that cafeteria to come work for him. Oh, and people could wear shorts and flip-flops to work. (Although my officemate was tapped on the shoulder one day and told her short-shorts were a bit much.)

Why then, would anyone ever leave a place like that? In a word, Jim Garrett. He was hired to head up marketing and let’s just say, we didn’t see eye to eye. In fact, Jim was quite tall, so my nickname for him was Little Big Man. His ideas were bad yet he believed he owned the world. When I left, it had come down to the wire as to whether I would quit or be fired. In the end, I quit and they walked me out the door.

Before that, I’d always been one to have my parachute open before jumping. And I never burned my bridges. This time, things would go differently, but not for lack of trying. Just before D-Day, I’d actually been flown to Columbus, Ohio for an interview with an ad agency. Columbus also happened to be the headquarters of Checkfree, the company that had just acquired Servantis.

It seemed farfetched that Rick and I would move for my job since Rick would then not have a job. But the recruiter was persistent and I was getting desperate. Despite appearances to the contrary, good copywriting jobs in Atlanta were not that easy to come by. Sitting in the Columbus airport after a long day, I looked over and saw Pete Kight, the CEO of Checkfree, on the other side of the waiting area.

Pete Kight, according to what I had heard, had started out as a fitness buff, big into triathlons and what not. He opened a gym and started signing people up for memberships. The golden ticket was the software system he created that automatically dinged members for the monthly fee, whether or not they showed up at the gym. It didn’t take him long to figure out how real money could be made, and he kept it going by expanding this software to handle large-scale online payment systems. Which is how Checkfree had come into being.

When I saw him, my hands started shaking, but I thought, ‘It’s now or never.’ Hiding my trembling fingers in my coat pocket, I walked over to him and interrupted his conversation. I told him who I was, where I worked at Servantis, and that I would be leaving soon. He stared at me. I said there was a person in charge of marketing who was very hard to deal with. He nodded curtly, said “Thanks, good luck,” and returned to his conversation. I went back and sat down, and not too many days after that someone from Servantis HR walked me out to my car.

Walker: A Spiritual Memoir by Jill Loree

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