The view from my office in Transamerica tower on the 20th floor is the reason I took this public relations job. From my corner window, looking through the stem of my wine glass, I have a panoramic view of San Francisco Bay. The fog is pushing through the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge as if trying to escape from the prison of the sea. What a perfect metaphor for my shackles.

I am trapped in a high-paying job in an office with a great view…and I’m drinking wine at 5:30 p.m. because I’ll be working alone in this panoramic paradise all night. All by myself.

The fog overtaking the bay blurs in the background as I focus on the wine in my glass. The red nectar is my muse and the reason I’m here all night. We just landed a new client – a boutique vineyard in Napa Valley. It was an important win for me as the senior vice president in charge of food and beverage clients.

We just launched work on this new account with Noble Vineyards repositioning a new vintage of Petite Sirah against its Washington State Yakima Valley competitor. We won this account on our acumen and command of the wine industry. I assigned management of the account to a junior executive I just promoted to account supervisor.

The headline in her first press release read: Noble Vineyards Releases Award-Winning Petite Syrah. She sent it without my approval because I was in a meeting trying to close another big client. That was a critical mistake on her part. It would take a fairly mature wine connoisseur to notice that a Petite Sirah is not the same grape as a Syrah, which does happen to be the same grape as Australia’s Shiraz, but that’s not the point. She sent the client’s first press release with the name of their award-winning wine spelled wrong.

In the PR field, misspelling the client’s product in a press release is an unforgivable sin. We could have been fired, but I talked the client off the cliff…by throwing myself off first. With a rock of fear and dread in my solar plexus, I approached the client with the error and offered to supervise the account myself and win back their trust. The pressure is like a vise on my chest, so heavy that I have no choice but to create the most amazing product launch they’ve ever seen. That’s no small miracle.

I’m a senior vice president in charge of 12 accounts in the food and beverage division at Keller Donohue, the top billing PR firm in North America. I don’t have time to do this, but I can’t let this client go. The success of this account is pivotal to my consideration for managing partner. The significance of this promotion, however, is far beyond the money or stock options.

The stakes affect every woman in our firm, if not in our industry. If I succeed in being promoted to managing partner, I will be the first female managing director in the history of our company. My failure to achieve this promotion could impact the careers of women in every region, could limit access of female executives to top seats in the industry association…and would give my father and mother one more reason to condemn my move to San Francisco.

The circumstances of my departure from home … Could they forgive me? Would she? Nobody in my world knows how I ache to hold a baby that’s mine … again. That’s another story I never tell in my San Francisco world. I gave one baby away. Is there any hope for a second chance? The only way to survive the specter of my past is to be the first female partner and kick some glass in this firm. That’s how I’ve survived the past 22 years.  It’s going to be a long night.

DISCUSS
What strikes you about Nora’s story?
What advice would you give Nora in this scenario?
What images of your past does this story bring up?