How My Life in America Started , and About My First CEO

My move to America won’t be possible without Pam – the CEO of the company, which hired me for my first job in the US. She was an outstanding personality and quite a controversial character, but one thing for sure: it’s only because of her that my move to America has happened.

Granted she was considering the interests of her business first, and for sure I was initially paid on the lower margin of the acceptable pay rate for a position, but she took on herself a responsibility of bringing me over.

In was not only about the money (although if you think about it, with myself and my three children, there were four visas and four airplane tickets to pay for, and as I’ve mentioned earlier, I had no money at all, so all these costs were upfront).

But what is more important, she’d taken on herself a responsibility of being in charge of me and my kids – remember, how my other two potential employers didn’t want to take any responsibility of bringing over a single mother with three children?
Pam did. Not without some risk, but being a divorced mother of two small children herself, she understood a thing or two about me.

If you recall my conversation with John R. before my departure, you remember that he was reassuring me, that I do not need to take any extra money along, because “I am going to America to make money.” It didn’t occur to him, that a person is being paid at the END of a pay period, while you need to pay your rent at the BEGINNING of the month, not mentioning a deposit, and once again, three hundred dollars was all I had.
Moreover, in my first company employees were paid monthly, and with me starting on October 23 I had to pay a deposit and nine days of rent, then receive only 1/4 of my monthly check, and pay November rent… And I also had to pay my other expenses till my November check would come.

My company, personified by Pam lent all this money to me. But that was just the beginning of my financial troubles.

One of the decisive factors which prompted my fearless departure to America was the assumption that G. and his family will help me in many ways, including childcare. I will leave for the future a more detailed explanation of what exactly happened, but as a result of it only a month after my arrival I had to move out, pay a fine for lease breaking, find a new apartment, pay one more deposit, find a daycare for my children, and transfer them to a new school. At that time, I was not practicing yoga and has been quite hysterical.

Pam called me into her office, interrogated on a topic of whether this all was a part of the original conspiracy, and after being reassured that I didn’t plan anything like this and that I honestly and truly wanted to work for her, she said: OK, then I know what to do.

And she did. On top of all her responsibilities of a tech startup CEO, she managed:

  • To find out the conditions of my lease termination and negotiated a discount
  • To find a new home for me and not just a home, but a place in 2-minutes walk from the Buehler YMCA. Besides, this place was located close enough to our Barrington office, so as she put it – anybody could drive me to/from work. Oh, did I tell, that I did not drive at that time either?
  • The new place had a move-in special: second month rent-free. Understanding my dire circumstances, she’d negotiate a different kind of special for me: I was allowed to pay my security deposit a month after I move in, instead of rent.
  • Since at that time I was still having trouble talking on the phone and especially understanding other people talking over the phone, she has assigned our office manager to help me to call the electric company, phone service provider, to come with me to school, etc.
  • She called the principle of our new school and negotiated the placement for Anna and Vlad in the morning kindergarten class – three months after the school year has begun, not one, but two children not speaking English.
  • She also found out which of the nearby after-school programs had the bus service from our new school, and enrolled Anna and Vlad into this program.

My move was on Thanksgiving weekend. That year the Thanksgiving had fallen on the last Thursday of November, making the last business day of the month November 28, which was also our payday. I have no idea how in the world she could negotiate with the bank, but somehow Val was able to transfer some money to my account the same day the check was deposited – one more debt for me, but it allowed me to move in.

But that was not it. Pam also requested both her brothers to help us with the move, and on Thanksgiving Saturday a caravan of four cars was standing in front of my first American home. Everything was loaded and moved in one trip.

After that, there were ten difficult months. Months, when I truly lived from paycheck to paycheck. Months when I was counting not even each dollar, but each cent. Pam would enter my life at random times, never bothered to call before showing at my doors. She would drop off her old microwave, or she would start calling my neighbors at eight o’clock in the morning on Sunday to find out which cable company was servicing our building. She would help me in a million different ways while keeping saying that she is doing all this for her egotistical reasons: she wanted to make sure, I am working, not worrying.

She was a typical businesswoman, an American businesswoman, some times on the caricature level. She would readily admit, she never been to the Art Institute, and was genuinely curious, why would we want to go there more than once. She would mix Austria and Australia. But at the same time, she taught me a valuable lesson of treating all people equally, talking to our cleaning ladies with the same level of respect, as to our investors. She thought of us as complete savages; after all, we didn’t know better than wearing the same clothes for several days in a row. But precisely because of that I could ask here all sorts of things, like what to do, when your children are invited to the birthday party, or what does Breakfast with Santa mean. She would explain, that it’s OK to have one present from both twins, that the cost should be around 10-15 dollars (at that time), that presents should be wrapped, and that children should be dropped off and picked up at the time indicated on the invitation. She would explain how to make an appointment with a doctor. She would fill in a YMCA financial assistance application form for me. She would never leave the office without making sure that somebody is driving me to pick up the kids and then home.

She was difficult at times. It could be close to impossible to change her opinion on some technical issues. But if not for her, I won’t be able to buy a house after less than two years in the country, with no credit history. And many other things won’t happen either.

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