First: Purchased: Negotiation
Sylviane patted Leander’s shoulder and smiled brightly at him. He hoped he didn’t look as nervous as she was acting like he did. “We’re going. I’m driving, if that’s fine with you.”
Leander felt as if his head was full in a way it hadn’t been – possibly ever. He had taken notes in the seminar because Sylviane was – and because she’d given him a notebook and a pen and it seemed to be what you were supposed to do – but most of his notes had been looking at her notes and writing down something similar.
He had, he realized, no idea how to handle this whole school thing – and this had just been a seminar.
He’d listened to the woman at the front of the room talk – it was a discussion on how data could be used or abused in manners to make your business better for you, to make it better for your customers, or possibly both – and had written down a bunch of questions as he got confused, but when the time came for questions, he’d left that to people who were supposed to be here.
(Sylviane had, in three cases, written down an answer to his questions right under them, so he was glad he hadn’t asked any of them out loud).
Now they were out of that seminar and walking slowly – he had a feeling Sylviane was giving him a chance to process – down the hallway. He looked over at her and blinked a few times.
“Economics is weird,” she admitted quietly. “Business is almost weirder. And the science of business data is amazingly weird. You did really well.”
“You asked one of my questions.” He almost felt like he was accusing her. She’d phrased it differently when she’d raised her hand, but he’d recognized it easily
“Well, it was a good one.”
“It was?” He stared at her. He’d figured it was another one of those dumb questions f from not understanding what was going on.
“It was.” She patted his hand lightly.
More or less, it had been Why would you admit that you were doing something that would upset your customers or discuss how you were using their data?
The speaker’s answer had confused him even more – it seemed that some people would trust you more if you admitted you were up to no good.
“I think you know a lot more about people than most of the students here,” she added. “Probably more than me. I mean, I’m not sure how old you are-“
“Licence says 23.” That was sort of a gamble, but then again, they were in public, and that was the age Sylviane’s boyfriend was.
She gave him a look, but then smiled. “So a couple years older than me, yeah,” she picked up without issue, “but that experience in the military means you’ve seen things a lot of us haven’t. All right, Professor Calcimara’s office is a couple buildings over.” She gestured. “Thanks for coming to the seminar for me. I’ve been wanting to hear her speak for a while. One of the first Fortune 500 female CFOs.”
“She sounded… interesting. No, uh. She sounded like she really knew her stuff, and I understood a little bit of her stuff.” He huffed. “See? This is what college with me is going to sound like.”
“Let me tell you a secret. Everyone sounds like that here. We all do. It’s all new to all of us, and a lot of students here are really just eighteen, nineteen years old. So it’ll be fine; you’ll just sound… uh, a little bit like a football player, yeah?”
“…I can live with that, I guess,” he muttered. “Lacrosse?”
She giggled at him. “If you want to pick up a sport, I’ll work around it. I really will. I think that would be fun.”
“What, watching me practice? Play?”
“Why not?” She patted his shoulder. “Here we go, now up one floor.”
“Didn’t we just go down one floor?”
“This place is a bit weird,” she allowed. “Wait ’till you have to go North to get South.”
“I can’t wait,” he deadpanned. “So what does Professor Calcimara teach?”
“One class every two years in the history of business in America. She’s almost retired, but this one class, no matter what they do, people want to take it – I mean, I wanted to take it.”
“How’d you get me in, then?”
“Urrm, little bit of-” She wiggled her fingers in an “oogy oogy” gesture. “And a little bit of money.”
“A ‘little bit’ of money.” He looked at her. She shrugged.
“Hey, Dad wanted this, he can spend the money. It’s not a big deal, anyway. Here we go.” She paused by a door and knocked very politely.
Leander did his best not to look as nervous as he suddenly felt.
Professor Calcimara turned out to be a woman who had to be eighty if she was a day, tall, straight-backed, and taking no shit from anyone. She knew Sylviane, it turned out, from her freshman and sophomore student jobs and had been more than willing to let the girl into her class.
And as for Leander, he was pretty sure she saw right through him. She looked at him once, asked him a couple questions he could answer with barely any lying, and then appeared to tune him out like he wasn’t even there.
Slightly stung despite himself, he listened to everything she and Sylviane were discussing, trying to follow it – he got about a third of it – and when he could find a place to insert a question that didn’t sound, to his ear at least, to be too idiotic, he slipped it in.
He was pretty sure he surprised Professor Calcimara in speaking at all. He didn’t expect to surprise her in what he said; he wasn’t an 80-year-old genius expert in any field. On the other hand, he knew people and he knew trafficking, and they had ended up talking about labor and slavery.
“Can they leave, though, the workers?”
She raised her eyebrows and pointed a finger at him. “This is why I want to teach adults,” she declared. For a moment, Leander thought she was insulting him, but then she smiled. “Because they have life experience to bring to the classes. Yes. Yes – was it Lee?”
He was being tested. “Leander, Dr. Calcimara.”
“Leander. That’s a good question, and the answer is – it depends on who you ask. If you ask the workers, it depends on if they are too frightened to actually answer honestly. It also depends on the place. In some places, the laborers clamor to work in what would be considered sweatshops here, for overtime wages most Americans would scoff at. In other places, they cannot really leave, and they are making even less – but they work almost as hard. Motivation,” she added with a wry smile, “can be found in a number of different places.”
He smiled back, a little dryly as well, because he definitely knew that. “Yes, ma’am.” He deliberately put a bit of the military feel into his words, “it can. Thanks,” he added, because he was really here to be decoration – well, protection, but she didn’t need that in a professor’s office – and she’d been kind enough to answer his question.
“I think it’s interesting that you want him in all your classes, Sylviane, but I don’t think it will turn out to be any sort of disaster. Thank you for consulting with me – I know with your father’s connections, you can often do whatever you want.” The professor smirked faintly. “I believe we were just discussing that.”
“Motivation,” Sylviane agreed. “If you’re in the position to be able to offer the carrot or stick, rather than running from them, you have to consider what carrots and what sticks you want to employ. Lots of ways to motivate someone, but some of them will have a better end result for the world than others.”
“I wish more of your fellow students picked up on such matters that quickly.” Dr. Calcimara smiled, definitely approving.
Sylviane, in turn, gave the professor her own wry smile. “I suppose it’s fair to say that I’ve had more motivation than some to pick up on issues like that. And once you learn it, it sticks with you.”
“Good.” The professor nodded sharply. “This is a lesson I hope we can impart on more of my students, people who will be running the businesses of the world.” She eyed Leander. “How do you feel about being a visual aid, young man?”
He had a feeling she was looking right through him. “I – I think I could do fine with that, ma’am.”
“Good. I’ll warn you beforehand if we’re going to do that. Thank you both.”