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Mica Eades

“For the last two or three weeks, I’ve been in the office from 6:30 a.m. until 9 or 10 p.m. running around like crazy. My coworkers have seen me literally running down the halls lately because I don’t have time to walk between meetings.”

Age: 26
Company: Sun Microsystems
Position: Financial Program Manger
Hometown: Redwood City, California
Education: Loyola Marymount University; Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University
Marital Status: Single
Hours at Work Each Week: 60 – 75
Commute: 30 – 45 minutes each way
Email Messages Received Each Day: 75 – 100
Lunches Eaten Out Each Week : 2
Meals Cooked Each Week: 3
Monthly Rent: $1,200 for a 700 square-foot, one-bedroom apartment in Fremont
Items in Her Silicon Valley Time Capsule: “A cell phone, a Palm Pilot, a laptop, and a laminated card containing all of my 20 million user names and passwords.”

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Mica Eades is a speed demon. At age 26, she has accomplished more academically and professionally than most overachievers ten years her senior. Since joining the Sun Microsystems team in late 1997, the well-spoken daughter of a South Bay teacher and doctor has scaled the corporate ladder with dizzying speed and forethought — navigating the company’s immense finance department, heading a major corporate social justice project, and helping to forecast the financial requirements of a new product line. Not bad for a twentysomething Valley girl in her first “real job.”

Eades jokes that her choice to pursue an MBA immediately after graduating from Loyola Marymount University was, in part, a financial imperative: “I got my MBA before I was used to having any money, and I received a half-tuition scholarship, so I cashed in a coupon as well.” Competing against colleagues twice her age with impressive corporate titles, Eades quickly overcame her feelings of intimidation at Cornell. When it came time to pursue her first real job, Eades turned westward with confidence. “I knew I would have better luck finding a job in Silicon Valley because the East Coast recruiters look for years and notches on your resume. Here, it’s more about your energy level and your ability to quickly get up to speed.”

In the game of acceleration, this girl is a pro. At work from 6:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. some days, Eades has worked her way up to financial-program manager, a leadership role that allows her to interact with marketing and engineering teams. In addition, she rubs elbows with a diverse subset of Sun employees involved in the company’s African-American Scholarship Essay Contest. As chairperson of that effort and founder of her own local nonprofit group, Eades knows her time can buy more than a new BMW or a condo in Saratoga. “If I did less work at Sun, I would just devote that extra time to community service,” she says. “They are equally important and they keep me equally busy.”

In the following interview, Eades contributes the perspective of a Silicon Valley rookie with big dreams and short weekends:

Describe the speed of life in Silicon Valley.

Overwhelming. The cost of living is overwhelming. The traffic on the freeways is overwhelming. The fact that you could be hired by one person, and managed by his or her replacement in a two-week period is overwhelming. You just don’t have time to stand still. But I think people thrive on that speed. Otherwise, why would they be coming here? It’s certainly not because everyone makes it rich. I mean, give me a break.

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How would you define failure in today’s economy?

Failure in Silicon Valley is missing an opportunity. Not finding that big deal or missing a pivotal point either in your life or in your company’s life. Reading the signs incorrectly and going the wrong way – that’s failure.

How did you adjust to Silicon Valley life after leaving business school?

Sun was my first “real working job,” so I began with an insane work schedule. I was in the office every weekend and longer than everybody else. And I created a huge imbalance in my life. I love community service-related activities, but I had stopped doing them altogether because I was so wrapped up in work. I have since come to terms with the peaks and valleys of my job. Sometimes I work all night long and through the weekend, and then other times I leave at 3 p.m. or take a weeklong vacation.

After two years on the job, how do you strike a balance between your work life and your personal life?

After graduating from business school, I started a program called Teen Pearls that is affiliated with Alpha Kappa Alpha, a Greek organization of which I am a graduate member. We take high school girls from East Palo Alto on cultural and recreational trips. Teen Pearls really focuses on personal growth and development — a meaningful experience for the girls and the volunteers.

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I am also the chairperson this year for Sun’s African-American Scholarship Essay Contest. So far, we have raised $50,000, so we are giving away $42,000 in scholarship grants to African-American college-bound high school seniors in the Bay Area. To apply, the students must write a two-page essay and go through an interview process. We read essays two weeks ago, and next weekend we will have our first round of interviews. It’s an exciting program. I’m proud to be involved in Sun’s outreach efforts.

Can you relate to people who work outside the Silicon Valley sphere of speed?

Certainly. One of my close friends works in city planning, and builds community housing for folks who can’t afford homes. His job really helps people. In contrast, I spend the day crunching numbers and dismissing a million dollars as no big deal. I find our friendship to be very refreshing. I need that reality check.

How important is money to the typical Silicon Valley dweller?

If you want to buy a house, money is very important! I can only imagine how recent college graduates can afford to live out here. I think a lot of people live at home until they can afford to rent a place. Frankly, I would like to buy a home. But since I’m single, I only have two options: wait for my options to mature and use them for a down payment, or get creative with roommates until I can save enough money.

How does Sun help its employees keep up to speed?

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Sun has a shuttle service from the CalTrain stations to the various corporate campuses as well as from campus to campus. During the day, shuttles are used as personal taxis. It’s almost as if you have a chauffeur available to you at all times.

The Sun campuses also include services such as a gym, a dry cleaning service, a photo developing drop-off and pick-up, a video rental shop, and a thing called Safeway Direct that allows employees to order groceries at work and pick them up the next day from the parking lot. Sun has done a good job of keeping its employees close to their work.

Return to Life Behind the Silicon Curtain

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