February 8, 1995

First Jobs Never Too Glamorous

Cynthia Hanson Chicago Tribune
 

Remember your first job? We put that question to some prominent career women, and, in some cases, we found the past was prologue to their present positions:

Dawnine Dyer, winemaker at Domaine Chandon: “I scooped ice cream and ate my mistakes. I enjoyed the flavors of what I did then, and I enjoy the flavors of what I do now.”

Judith A. Sprieser, chief financial officer of The Sara Lee Corp.: “In high school I pushed the hot wax button at an automatic car wash and reminded drivers to roll up their windows. I hated the mind-numbing repetition. It reinforced my desire to get a college degree so I wouldn’t have to do that kind of job forever.”

Eileen Conn, co-producer/writer for the NBC sitcom “Mad About You”: “The best part about waitressing was the free food. The worst part was being excluded from the clique because the most popular waitress hated me. I did everything to make her like me. Nothing worked. Then I realized: `Some people aren’t going to like you, and you shouldn’t waste energy trying to change them.’ ”

Cynthia McFadden, law correspondent for ABC News: “I taught skiing in my hometown in Maine. The best part was making it fun for the children in the after-school program. The worst part was picking up adults after they’d fallen.”

Deborah Tannen, linguist and author of “Talking From 9 to 5” (William Morrow, $23): “I sold cameras at Macy’s. I loved the way customers asked me questions and listened to my answers. I observed that the full-time sales people didn’t communicate with their customers. They stared off while the customers inspected the cameras. So I immediately concluded I should engage them in conversation.”

Beverly Harvard, chief of the Atlanta Police Department: “In college I issued equipment and collected fees at the recreation facilities. I enjoyed being in charge.”

Sophia Collier, president of Working Assets Management Co., the investment advisory to Working Assets Common Holdings, a socially responsible mutual fund family: “When I graduated from high school at 16, I started my own construction company. I recruited my friends for day-labor jobs like painting and cleaning. I posed as my own secretary to get work, because nobody would have accepted a company run by a 16-year-old.”

Gloria Allred, women’s rights attorney in Los Angeles: “In 1963 I was an assistant buyer at a Philadelphia department store. When I found out a male colleague was earning more money, I thought it was discrimination. I inquired about it, but I was told, `He probably has a family and you don’t.”’

Deborah Roberts, correspondent for “Dateline NBC”: “I ran the cash register at McDonald’s. I looked so dorky in my greenstriped polyester uniform, but I didn’t care. I was proud to earn my own money. I loved striking up conversations with people, which probably explains why I enjoy being a reporter today.”

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