by Hailey Mensik, Arizona State University
Growing up, I hated when people asked me what my dad did. He was a technology salesman, working for companies like IBM, and it was boring to explain and even worse to watch people have to listen.
His jobs were always stable and offered good healthcare. Commissions made some years better or worse, but didn’t force us to drain our savings – until two years ago.
He was offered a job at a company that makes video conferencing software and sells it to other businesses. Think Skype, but better. The video and audio actually match up and you can do fun tricks like draw on your screen and share it with others. It’s located in Silicon Valley, but he was afforded the luxury of working from home, as it is a video company. He did however take a 50% pay cut, and over the past two years, drained our family savings. He also got a lot busier, and started sending me Gmail calendar invites for lunch.
I learned that my dad took the job because the company was a startup – it was small and new, but quickly gaining clients and hoping to build a scalable business model that others felt optimistic about too. It planned to go public, and sold employees discounted shares of stock that would hopefully appreciate and incidentally boost work ethic. He could’ve stuck with a boring, safe job, he said, but this choice was high risk, high reward. Sometimes companies say they’re going public and don’t – and even if they do, the stock could tank, he warned.
The company is called Zoom, and went public earlier this year at $36 a share. As a business journalist I’ve always been more drawn to human interest stories, and shied away from stock-market coverage. Standard journalism ethics dictate I’m not allowed to report on the company my dad works for and family has stock in – but I am allowed to pay close attention to it, which I’ve been doing since March.
As it happens, the stock has risen significantly. My dad doesn’t divulge much information to his inquiring daughter, but thankfully, when a company goes public, it has to release its financials to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which I know how to read!
My dad’s new job has been an incredible, unconventional learning experience for me. For the past few months I’ve actively followed a single company’s stock, trying to analyze what factors could be pushing its value up or down. Most recently, the stock was exceptionally high. Too high, I learned, according to analysts. It reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings that experts said just couldn’t keep up long-term. I’ve also observed the value bounce up and down amid Presidential trade war tweets.
I learned a lot about careers and employment through my dad, which is timely because I graduate this winter. After decades of steady, stable jobs he decided to risk it all, aka two years of lost evenings and family time, and no savings to fall back on if anything happens to us. A looming recession and other fears weigh heavy with just a few weeks until he can sell the stock. But whatever happens, my family will certainly be richer in experience and knowledge.
Hailey Mensik is a student at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.