Patti Pokorchak is an absolute force of nature. She is a tech pioneer and award-winning sales and marketing executive.
As a teenager, she became the first female tech professional at IBM’s Hamilton office. By the early 1990s, she was a founding member of a software company whose barcode system became one of the world’s best-selling asset management systems.
After 10 years at the software company, Patti started a successful hobby farm and garden centre outside of Ottawa and wrote a book about being a serial entrepreneur and, consequently, being an accidental farmer.
In between the software company and hobby farm, she spent 10 years in Europe traveling solo, getting lost and working. Despite not speaking fluent German at first, she quadrupled her starting salary in three years in Germany to six-figures (what dentists were making). Her claim to fame is pissing off Bill Gates when he was still a “nerdy geek with a limp handshake.”
These days, Patti Pokorchak lives in Toronto as the business development strategist for her latest company, Small Biz Sales Coach. She still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up.
What is our favourite story from Patti’s past? When German tech companies were still categorizing their job postings as male and female positions, Patti applied for the male-only tech jobs instead of female receptionist jobs. To everyone’s surprise, she actually received an offer.
We’re honoured to share Patti’s story on Influence Digest – she’s written a letter to her 25-year-old self. This would have been around the time that she exited from IBM Canada and was getting ready to embark on her year-long trip to Europe (a trip that ended up lasting much longer).
The Letter to My Younger Self project is a special blog series for our upcoming pitch competition, Canada’s Next Top Startup.
Dear 25-year-old Patti Pokorchak,
Smiling goes a long way to making friends and having more fun!
As a painfully shy teen, I read a Seventeen magazine article on How to talk to boys when you’re shy? and they said smile and ask questions. Who knew that that advice would help me sell millions of dollars worth of products and services around the world?
An introvert is better at selling than the stereotypical extrovert. Introverts like to ask deep questions, listen intently and then speak as little as possible, all the traits for being great in sales. Who knew that would be my future profession and business?
Don’t be surprised at where you go in life – stay open to opportunities. Making a ton of money in sales by the age of 25 let me start living a life without regrets. My biggest fear was settling for the status quo and being typical. I ended up traveling in Europe for a year and working there for eight years.
Sometimes you just have to stop contact with the toxic people in your life, even if it is your mother.
At the age of 42, I realized that I was TERRIFIED of my mother. I was a 5-hour drive away from her but I could not pick up the phone to wish her happy 70th birthday. My partner and I put her on the speakerphone as I knew I HAD to call her or face the consequences of her anger, which frightened me even more. That day was the start of a long journey, healing the impact of my lifelong trauma which I could not deny any longer. My mom continues to abuse me so I no longer have contact with her. It’s ok. I have others in my life who love me unconditionally.
Your parents are not always right nor do they deserve to be put up on a pedestal. They just do their best. Forgive them, forgive yourself and move on. Get professional help if the trauma impacts your life today. There is no shame in getting help.
Good News: Therapy Works
I have fingernails which only resulted after 1.5 years of therapy as I uncovered the reasons why I bite them. Trying to stop biting my nails before resolving the issues had never worked. Solve the issues, solve the unwanted habit.
Ask for Help!
If there is one thing I’d do differently, I’d start asking for help earlier in my life. As one wise friend said, “you help others so much, so why deny them the pleasure of reciprocating?”
What anyone else thinks of you is none of your business!
What YOU think of yourself is THE most important thing. It took me decades to realize that I needed to love myself first and make me happy and not worry about others. Trying to make others happy will never work as it’s their choice not yours.
You cannot change anyone but yourself.
Trying to change someone else is a waste of time. Work on yourself and as you change, the caring people around you will notice and change with you. The ones who are set on being right, will stay being right by themselves. You can be right or you can be in a relationship, you can’t be both.
STOP Being a People Pleaser!
Focus on making yourself happy as no one else will. Your happiness is totally dependent on your choices and how you CHOOSE to feel and respond to situations. You have all the power to be sad or glad. ALL of your life is your choice, your responsibility, so stop complaining about it and go live it.
Grades Do Not Matter
For my BComm, I got straight As and was on the Dean’s List and then I was kicked out of my MBA program for being .2 below the minimum marks due to my life going to rat shit that year. But I appealed (the birth of Persistent Patti!), got back in, and graduated. My life has been full of accomplishments since then.
Grades really don’t matter as long as you’re trying as hard as you can.
If you’re not pissing off people, you’re not trying hard enough to innovate and stand out.
I have a list of famous people I’ve pissed off starting with Bill Gates. He was still a skinny geek with a limp handshake when I first met him in the early 80s. I crashed Microsoft Word in front of him and his important prospect, so he elbowed me aside with an ugly look.
I once held a birthday party for the imaginary dog mascot of SageData’s barcode system, where 100 people came and our local mayor brought in the cake as we all sang happy birthday. We sold millions of dollars worth of systems based on my invented barcode system, for which we won an innovation award.
You ARE ENOUGH
Be proud and confident. You are good enough. You are enough
Live a life without regrets. Have adventures. Take risks.
Live life on the edge so you’re excited about waking up in the morning.
Be grateful for all that life gives you and give back. It’s in giving that we are happiest.