Life at Stanford: a few pinch-me moments.

At present, I’m four days in at Stanford, and while I historically haven’t written much about my employers on social media, I’m basically a walking heart-eyes emoji here so far, and that’s kind of forcing me to change up the game a little bit.

First off, a fun fact that was shared with us at our new-hire orientation/”Welcome Day” on Monday: In the past twelve months, Stanford has had 2,000 jobs posted on their careers site. For those 2,000 openings, over 150,000 applications were submitted. Assuming all those jobs have been filled (they haven’t), that makes the hire rate at Stanford only 1-2%. The acceptance rate for this year’s incoming freshman class: 4-5%, depending on a few different metrics. It’s officially harder to become a Stanford employee than a Stanford student. (Not like I’m, you know, bragging or proud of myself or anything. NAHHH.)

The head of University HR spoke at this orientation, and the phrase with which she opened shot chills down my admittedly basic, cliché-loving spine: “This will call upon the best that’s in you.” Stanford is an organization with a culture in which innovation is not a bonus, but a byword. Expectations of excellence across the board are taken for granted, and every single person I’ve encountered thus far is formidably, intimidatingly intelligent. Along those lines, being your own best person is a given, and the university provides incredible support to make that possible. For instance, we get an $800 budget semi-annually to spend on continuing education – aka actual Stanford for-credit classes. That money, if not used, is lost, and since I’m starting late in the game, I basically have to burn through my first-half allowance by August 31. What’s a girl to do? Sign up for Great Opera Performances on Mondays, Innovation of World Class Museums on Tuesdays, and History of Wine (which comes with a Napa field trip mid-quarter!) on Wednesdays, obviously. I’m beyond excited to be a student again – to keep up my French studies, take business classes, and explore other disciplines just for the hell of it. Being able to call myself a Stanford student? For free? Someone please actually pinch me.

And that’s the tip of the iceberg. Stanford’s health and wellness program is comprehensive…my health insurance cost is 100% free in-network, including well visits, prescriptions, and dental/vision. As employees, we’re invited to complete a full holistic health and wellness survey annually, and to follow that up with a free screening and counseling session on how to reduce stress, eat better, and set/meet fitness goals. That screening and plan establishment is incentivized by up to $800 in cash bonuses, just for joining and participating in the program. We can also take a variety of wellness classes…fitness, nutrition, stress management, interpersonal skills, etcetera – at a heavily subsidized rate. I’ll be taking yoga every Friday over lunch and starting my day every Thursday with bootcamp, and am taking a few seminars in meal planning, sleep therapy, and mindfulness…all before September.

Most significantly, and delightfully – my coworkers are, so far, amazing. The tradition in the finance group is to greet every new hire with a brunch welcome party on his or her first day, and to introduce the entire department all at once. I’ll admit, I was completely overwhelmed on Tuesday to meet over 75 people in one hour-long period, but I’ve since been bowled over by their effort to be inclusive and welcoming. The number of people who have offered to help me figure out the coffee machine, find the supply rooms, navigate the intranet, or explore the area’s lunch options has outpaced any (paltry) expectation I had. My bosses are also both fantastic, encouraging me to spend the first week experimenting and exploring as I see fit and to guide myself through the onboarding process at my own pace.

My first impression of Stanford came together at lunch on Tuesday – an all-department retirement party for a woman who had worked for Stanford’s finance group for a whopping 43 years. As we ate paninis and cake, a dozen or so of her coworkers, direct reports, old bosses, and the leadership of the university’s finance teams gave speeches that were rife with inside jokes, Stanford legends, and paeans of praise for her commitment to this place. The retiree in question was in tears by the end of the first toast, and the rest of the room soon followed suit. I couldn’t help but look around, kind of shocked at the level of emotion and pride that this place inspires in people. Maybe I’m hopelessly romanticizing things, or maybe my Day 3 starry-eyed excitement to actually be here and be a part of this is clouding my judgment…who knows? All I know is that if I actually did pinch myself every time I had a “pinch-me” moment, I’d be black and blue all the way up both arms. I remain immensely humbled and grateful for this opportunity, and cannot wait to see how Stanford calls upon the best that’s in me as I move forward.