The Turning Point in Your Career? ‘New York Times’ Tech Reporter Recalls Meeting Steve Jobs

Last night in Manhattan at The WiCi Awards, New York Women in Communications’ event honoring rising stars in communications, the honorees were asked about the turning point in their career.

Jenna Wortham, honoree and technology reporter for The New York Times, shared a story that certainly wowed. And it reminded us why we love communications and journalism in the first place.

Here’s her story:

“I was hired to work for The Times when I had no experience and actually turned the job down in the beginning because I didn’t think I could do it because I didn’t go to J-school. I wrote about t.v. shows for a website from time to time. I didn’t have a ton of hard core business reporting but I had been working at The Times and was really inconspicuous at my desk….when you’re young and you’re green and starting out it’s hard to shake that.

I remember this experience of being invited to a product demonstration and I had been at the job maybe a year or two. I was still incredibly nervous and I got the invite — I didn’t want to say yes but there are some things you can’t say no to so I said yes. I was anxious and I was freaked out, so I didn’t sleep the night before. I went to work the next day and I’m sweating thinking, ‘I’ll get through this.’

So we go up to the room and we have this product demonstration and it’s Steve Jobs of all people.

I’m just blanking out because he’s a very impressive person but not only that, I’m in this room with all of these peers and colleagues I had been reading for years. Ten years ago if someone asked me what career I wanted, I would have pointed to one of them in the room. Just sitting there with them was already an incredible experience. I didn’t want to talk, I just wanted to bask in it.

At the end, my boss at the time gives me an evil look like go over there and talk. So I walk over and stick out my hand and say, ‘Hi Steve, thanks for coming, it was great. I really appreciate you walking us through this product you’re launching.’

And he looks at me, I said my name and he says, ‘Oh, I’ve read your stuff.’

And I don’t remember what else we talked about! I completely blanked out but I don’t remember; I think I was blown away but I do remember it was this really interesting moment.

I had been picturing myself up until then just putting words into a document and showing it to an editor and hoping I didn’t get fired, hoping I didn’t lose my job. There was this moment, there was this self-awareness that the work that you’re doing and the work that you’re putting out is being recognized by lots of people and you have the power to influence and change even if you don’t think it.

And Steve Jobs made fun of something that I wrote and was slightly critical and in itself was kind of mortifying but he read it!

You know, you think these things are meaningless, it’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day but think about this tiny little thing I stayed working on until 9 p.m., it’s not going to matter, but it all matters….That was a moment of taking myself more seriously.”