People quickly form a quick judgment about how they envision working at the national headquarters of USA Swimming.
We have heard it called the “Ivory Tower” or the “Death Star” and even the “Dark Side” and we take that in good fun. Those folks haven’t walked a day in our shoes. The fact is that it’s one of the most fun places to work, with all the quirkiness of a family.
I started working at USA Swimming as an intern in 1990 before getting the opportunity to serve as the Communications Coordinator from 1993-1997. From there I worked at the U.S. Olympic Committee and Warner Bros., in Los Angeles and had the chance to come back to USA Swimming in 2005 in my current role.
Do you want to know what it’s really like? On this Thanksgiving 2013, I wanted to capture 10 odd, and maybe even eccentric, reasons why I am thankful I came back.
1. The completely awkward 3:00 pm birthday celebration with cupcakes in the Business Development Division.
2. Our Club Development Division celebrates National Pie Day each year. Mock it at your own peril. You will get cut off.
3. One area of the building is actually referred to as the Hallway of Fun (yep, Club Development).
4. Matt Lupton, our Art Director, draws cartoons in every meeting he attends.
5. Matt Lupton created new “titles” for everyone in Business Development. Like a nickname, you may not create your own. Mine read “OCD CMO” for a couple of years before being replaced with the Talladega Nights inspired “Chief of Shake and Bake”
6. Departing employees get a commemorative Splash magazine cover. They are part smart aleck send-off and part roast. The tradition started pre-social media and will stay that way. However, they are on display in our first floor break room.
7. The Business Development Division has an impromptu “team meeting” late in the afternoon on Fridays 2-3 times per year.
8. The Business Development Division has become a hub for “too soon” jokes and great pranks:
o An employee was once convinced to dress up for Halloween, when no one else did
o Someone had his car filled with promotional squeeze balls
o Someone’s office was filled with plastic cups
o Someone’s office was covered with Post-It Notes
9. The Accounting Division hosts a monthly social for the staff featuring ice cream and even bratwurst.
10. The grand finale: New employees attending their first U.S. Aquatic Sports Convention must get up in front of the staff at dinner and tell a story that either “entertains, inspires or informs” us according to the official rules. The unofficial rule is that it must entertain. No one has dared try to inspire or inform. It is my single-favorite social function of the year and we are sore from laughing by the end of the evening. (Note: Watch out for the quiet ones, they usually kill it.)
Come walk a day in our shoes and you will see why it is a successful National Governing Body and we like to have fun doing it. Yes, it’s odd and eccentric sometimes, but it’s MY odd and eccentric place to work.