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Growing Up on the Phone

I grew up on the phone.

In Ms. Windley’s 2nd grade class, I asked my first crush for her phone number. She obliged, which ended up being the only confidence booster I needed to ask girls for their phone numbers throughout life, though back then I still had a significant barrier in my way to phone usage.

As a kid, my mom was on the phone a lot. I knew to not impede when she was in her room, talking to friends while simultaneously fast-forwarding through that day’s episode of All My Children. As I was becoming more and more interested in girls, I began negotiating with my mom that “we both” needed me to have my own phone line…you know, so my mom would get to use the phone as much as she would like. Around the same time, we got AOL, so it naturally made even more sense to get a second line.

After competing with one another for phone time long enough, in 5th grade I got my own phone line, and the rest was history. Now I was on the phone a lot. Though it would be impossible to recall just how many hours I spent on the phone, I knew that most middle school nights, after practice and homework were out of the way, it was phone time. As an only child seeking connection from other kids each night, the phone became the easy go-to. I was the kid who did not have a phone curfew, but I knew my friend’s schedules and made my rounds each night. There were many weekend nights where my friends and I would fall asleep on the phone together until one of our batteries died. This didn’t stop in middle school – in high school, I stayed up many nights until 2-3-4am on the phone, the usage at an all-time high.

So, when I was interviewing with Vaco in 2013, five years into my professional life, and the person hiring me was focused on my willingness to “pound the phones”, it was easy for me to convey my comfort on the phone. He would say things like, “but you haven’t had to use the phone as much in accounting, and our business runs on the phone.” Hmm…do I tell my prospective employer that I knew all the words to the flavor-of-the-month R&B songs to sweetly serenade was my girlfriend at the time…on the phone?


Now nearly 10 years later, it’s crystal clear that without the phone I would be far less successful. I see more junior talents defer to an email or text when a 5-minute phone conversation would be so much better. I even hear teammates say, “I talked to” or “I spoke to” someone and diving a little deeper, they most certainly did not actually talk to the person but rather relied on the electronic communication, falling short of really knowing what the result of that communication might be. During a period where we are all as busy as we have ever been, it’s easier to justify short-cuts in favor of speed, but you can only find success in volume for so long, and the voice-to-voice touch of a brief conversation is much more of a reliable relationship builder than reading one-sided text.

When the pandemic sunk in, everyone’s default became the virtual video meeting. I understand a video meeting for an initial introduction, but me asking someone that I’ve spent 5+ hours of phone time with for a virtual meeting? Wasn’t and isn’t happening. Some may argue that you can’t connect on the phone (“you must see body language.”) which, given my history above, I couldn’t disagree with more. In fact, the phone allows me to better focus – not on if someone is making eye contact with a camera or their email inbox – but on the conversation at hand. If we have a long-standing relationship, I’m not steering to a video meeting.

There will always be something comfortable about the phone for me, and I’m glad I found a career where my consistency on the phone drives professional success.

And if you need me? Call me. I’ve had the same number since 5th grade.


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