I have a list of heros. I keep it running in my head constantly. I started compiling it early on. It was necessary. It was survival.
As a boy I loved playing hopscotch on the playground, even though it often led to getting pounded on the playground. I quickly figured out who to run to when things got dicey with the anti-hopscotch gang. Thankfully, even in third grade those ruffians knew certain things were absolute. You did not screw with Ms. Corden, or try sly with Mrs. Murdoch, and you especially didn’t mess with Mrs. Jeffs. Her cat eye glasses and Thatcher up-do made her fierce. I, of course, made extra sure all three loved me. Survival and all.
It started the first couple times I had trouble out in the yard. Ms Cordon took me in, patched me up and let me sit in her class while she ate lunch. She let me draw, dance, look through Encyclopedia Britannica and tell her stories of my imaginary animals. I had an elephant. His name was Philip. He lived in a hole in my backyard. I still swear he was real. She did great at seeming fascinated. She also did great at stopping a little boy’s tears.
I’ve always been curious, and Ms. Corden, Mrs. Murdoch and Mrs. Jeffs, they made special assignments to match whatever I was into that day. They let me ask questions. A lot of questions. I felt like I was always learning something. As it turns out, I was right. I realized later it was because they spoke to me like they spoke to each other. They were at work after all. They weren’t interested in baby talk and neither was I. I learned more for life with that kind of straight talk than anywhere else. My need for it stuck.
In fact, my life has been a consistently orchestrated repeat of 3rd grade in regards to how I maintain the accuracy of my moral compass and objectivity. To that end, my list of heroes has grown long. Not surprisingly, the great majority of those names are tough, smart and very straight talking women who all share the kindness of my 3rd grade teacher bodyguards. Also not surprisingly, the Graf Lantz org chart pretty much reflects that list by design. Or maybe by divine. Either way, I know who to go to when I need setting straight and I’ve made sure to surround myself with a team of women who have zero problems doing just that at Graf Lantz.
That’s why I’m glad there’s an International Women’s Day on the calendar. It always reminds me of the direct line between where I came from and where I am now. It is a line of the great Women who not only brought me here, it includes great women who are taking this company to the future, rooted in a culture where women's careers can thrive and their achievements are celebrated.
This year I want to introduce you to a big part of that future. One look at our company org chart shows it is populated by many amazing women who literally teach us new things daily. At the top of the chart sits Menaka Gopinath, President / COO of Graf Lantz. Menaka has been on my list for a long time. Holger and I have known her for 20 years and we’ve been close friends for most of it. As we grew the company, we were secretly adamant that, one day, Menaka would lead it. Last year in early July we met that goal. Menaka’s advocacy for empowerment and her experience in business give her a unique perspective that strengthens the culture, values and the future of Graf Lantz. I want to share our gratitude and excitement with all our customers and introduce Menaka here for International Women’s Day. Dear Graf Lantz Customers, meet Menaka Gopinath.