Editor's note: As most readers of our blogs know, we take a lot of pride in what we write and especially so with this blog. Although the blog is under my signature, literally every member of our team edited, wrote, commented and re-edited it to make sure every person’s thoughts are reflected.
This time last year we blogged about Steve Jobs’ death and the effect a co-worker’s death has on the workplace. We talked about how serious illness and death brings up fears, and how to manage both external and internal communications. We ended the column by remarking on the difference Steve Jobs made in our lives—individually, in business and as a society.
Little did we know, then, that we at The Alexander Group would be grieving one of our own this October. Robin Scheps Weiner, our colleague for ten years, lost a courageous fight with cancer this week. And although it is true that serious illness does bring up dark issues, Robin showed us there is an art to dying as well as living with grace, class and dignity.
Robin first joined The Alexander Group in 1999, and although we thought Robin’s life began at our firm, it didn’t. She came to us with more than a decade of recruiting experience. And her life encompassed more than recruiting. Robin was a native Houstonian—a rarity in this cosmopolitan city—and one of the few Jewish families that lived in the upscale Memorial area at that time. Her family owned a women’s clothing store where she worked as a young woman and not surprisingly became a clothes and accessories hound. Robin married Barry Weiner and had a beloved daughter, Alexis (now a beautiful young woman). And she had literally hundreds of contacts and friends who loved her as much as we did.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Robin worked for us in the early 2000s and then left to start her own business and to work for a national public accounting firm. But like many TAG employees, she returned; however, while she was away, she had been diagnosed and treated for kidney cancer of a type so rare that even MD Anderson Cancer Center didn’t treat it regularly. After rejoining The Alexander Group in 2006, Robin went through innumerable chemotherapy and radiation treatments, unimaginable pain and physical challenges, and yet she always returned to work with a smile on her face and her trademark, “How are yewwwww?” Who knew the word “you” was a five syllable word? Pam Kutner, a former colleague, commented that “even when Robin was at her sickest, she always started the conversation asking how I was. When she told me she was going into hospice, she asked if I was okay.”
When Robin communicated with business contacts, we couldn’t tell if she was on the phone with a friend or a candidate. When I met candidates that Robin identified, there was always the question, “Will Robin Weiner be joining us?” Robin loved talking to candidates and learning something new every day. Coincidentally, soon after her cancer spread, she worked on a search for a biotech client and the prospective candidates she was contacting all had experience with the drug she was taking, and could share their experiences with her.
We are a small business with many employees who have been with us for more than a decade. Yep, in many ways we are a family. And like every family, we all have our roles. Robin was the cheerleader, the one who was always concerned with how everyone else was doing and feeling. Robin touched every person she met. She was special like that. Part of The Alexander Group culture is that we don’t say no—don’t say no to clients and don’t say no to each other. Robin would have been totally justified in turning down requests for help given that she felt poorly much of the time. But she didn’t. Robin always said “yes.” She set the bar high for the rest of us. Tavia Ewen from our Houston office says, “Robin was a loyal and caring friend, someone who gave more than you could provide her in return. She took the young TAG generation under her wings, and never seemed aware of the huge impact she had on us all. It was just natural to her.”
Sarah Mitchell from our San Francisco office says Robin “always made the satellite office team members feel so welcome when we visited the Houston office. With a relationship based on the telephone, those of us not in the Houston office didn’t have the visual clues of her illness. By the energy, warmth, and enthusiasm for people and her work she exuded over the phone, you’d never know she was dealing with such incredible challenges.”
Beth Ehrgott, who joined TAG’s New York office in 2008, comments, “From the first moment I met Robin, she always welcomed me with her warm smile and sparkling eyes. It wasn’t until we worked together on a life science assignment that she told me about her long battle with cancer and how she was never going to give up.”
Robin often told us that TAG saved her life. She was grateful for the flexibility she had at TAG—she knew many employers would never have allowed her to continue to work as her illness progressed to the terminal stage, and TAG was the perfect fit for her. We at TAG always knew that Robin was special. What we didn’t—perhaps couldn’t—know was the impact she had on each of us. So, as TAG saved her life, Robin imbued the spirit of a courageous warrior into the tapestry of our firm and our hearts.
On Thursday as our firm came together to grieve and share remembrances of Robin, John Lamar commented “The Alexander Group has never had an office guardian angel before, but I bet we could persuade Robin to stay on in that capacity.” So Robin, you have a new position now—in our hearts and on angel duty.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to: Kidney Cancer Association, www.kidneycancer.org.