AOL – Can You Really Go Home? My Ex’s 25th.

For TEN years of my professional life, I grew into the marketer I am at AOL.
I consider those years, at least to this point, my “Glory Days”.  In many ways, AOL was my college campus, where I learned to be an Extreme Marketer!  I have so many stories to tell, but suffice it to say, when I was laid off in 2007, along with 2000 wonderful coworkers and friends, I was not mad, but a bit sad and very grateful for the opportunities the company gave to me, and the ones I was able to make for myself.

Last week when I was told that AOL Alums were being invited to The AOL 25th Birthday, I was hesitant to RSVP at first.  Especially since after I left, I had worked at a few places and consulted on projects that never quite measured up to the adrenaline high I got off of working at AOL.  Much of my AOL promotions work was with my favorite boss of all time, and dealing with network TV producers and later at AOL Mobile doing an  in-film product placement campaign.  AOL was my “hot boyfriend” that didn’t want to commit and broke up with me but very nicely.  So like an ex who left me, AOL got over me and went on, yet I still had lingering feelings of wanting to go back and try again.

AOL continues to be that “hot boyfriend” to my potential employers – I find that in many  interviews, when I discuss all the fun cross-media campaigns I managed, I get the same “well, our work here might not be as sexy as what you are used to” – as if they are the new boy I really want to date, but is too insecure and feels not hot enough to take me out.

So a few hours before the event yesterday, I decided to go and check it out.   I was probably not going to know a whole lot of the current employees, but was hoping to see some of my old friends/Alums. (most who are now friends with me on Facebook) 

I want to say it made me feel good to be back:

  • I enjoyed catching up with my first boss when I was a temp in 1998 – he is going to be a grandpa, so hard to imagine!
  • I saw some of the ladies I remember from my earlier days in HR, and later when I moved into Network Promotions.  I was pleased to sit and have some time with a few of them.
  • Said “hello” to Ted, Steve, and a few of my favorite execs from the past.
  • Got to hug a few of my favorite teammates, including my beautiful ex-boss who has really come into her own!
  • During the presentation, I actually felt good about being part of AOL’s history, was appreciated, even though AOL “broke up with me”. (and that decision was with another set of execs that I was grateful were NOT part of the celebration)
  • And yes, it was VERY interesting that the last set of top execs wasn’t present, no comment. ;-)
  • Loved, loved LOVED the Kara Swisher tape  – see it here! (scroll down under the cat pic)
  • Saw the official unveiling of May 24th as “AOL Day” in the State of Virginia.

Here are a few things I found out about the “ex”:

  • AOL no longer has guard gates! I mean, that was odd to see, I recall fumbling for my badge on many mornings, even crossing the street to go to a meeting, and asking  “help, can I borrow your badge?!” to get to my meeting in time.
  • There is no “across the street” – the campus is now cut in half!  I guess after all the layoffs, eventually they would have to consolidate.
  • AOL seems to like the young ones – I could be wrong, but wherever I looked, anyone that didn’t have a name badge (Alums) I estimated that almost 90% were in their 30’s or under.  Again, not sure if that is a fact, just an observation of my “ex” who seems to like them young.  

And, lastly, from what I understand from some current employees, not sure if it’s fact:

  • AOL doesn’t want me, or any other ex-AOLers, back!  This is what I heard at a few tables, but who knows.  If so,  talk about moving forward.  There is such a pool of talent that made that company great, it’s a shame they wouldn’t tap into it.

So I guess if you’re an ex,  you really can’t go home.   However, you can go there to remember the time that was, celebrate your time in AOL history, have some good laughs, see good friends, and pray that the next gig is a better rush.

Happy 25th AOL!

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