When you put in a phone call to the Milpitas Chamber of Commerce, invariably, no matter the day or the time, you find yourself hearing the same familiar voice saying, “Milpitas Chamber…?”
That voice belongs to one CJ Ericson, a lifelong Milpitas resident and — for 10 years as of this past July — the Chamber’s Office Manager.
Prior to starting at the Chamber in 2009, CJ worked for 25 years in retail. Her last job was at Longs Drugs, before it got replaced by CVS. At Longs, she worked as Floor Manager and Photo Manager. But when she saw CVS approaching on the horizon, she started doing a little research…
CJ soon found out that once CVS took over a given store, it unloaded the full-timers and loaded up the place with part-timers. That meant no benefits. It also meant, to use CJ’s words, not being “treated like family.”
“Longs treated you like family,” she explained.
But with her 13-plus years there coming to an end, CJ started working the phones: ““I started calling everybody I knew, saying, ‘I’m looking for a job, I’m looking for a job…’”
As it turned out, over at the Chamber of Commerce, the Office Manager, Brian, was getting ready to leave. When the Chamber’s Executive Manager Gaye Morando happened to call a family friend of CJ’s to check on a Chamber applicant, the friend said that she couldn’t stand by the applicant, and recommended CJ instead.
Gaye called CJ and told her to come on in.
CJ, who’d started at Longs after being brought in by colleague, hadn’t had a job interview in 25 years. “I was so scared and nervous,” she recalled. “I didn’t know what to wear…” She also wondered (not that it mattered!) if she’d have to take a drug test.
Before long, there she was in the office, face-to-face with Gaye. CJ had never worked an office job before, and didn’t know her way around the common Microsoft programs, having only used them for the occasional letter or spreadsheet at home. What was her secret, then, to getting the job?
“I TOLD THE TRUTH!” she declared.
It also helped that Gaye Morando had long used CJ’s previous place of employment to get the Chamber’s photos developed. As a result, she knew CJ’s personality, namely that she was good at dealing with and talking with the public.
When she got the job, irony of ironies, “I didn’t even know what a Chamber of Commerce was!”
CJ’s predecessor, Brian, had a week to train her, but he took off after only three days. Said CJ, “I was kind of hanging…”
So she had to learn as she went, calling up people from her desk: “How do I do this? How do I do THIS?”
But in time, as she gained experience and comfort, CJ transformed the Chamber of Commerce office from an environment that had been largely paper-based to one that was modernized and computerized. Tom Valore, the Chamber’s one-time CFO, appreciated CJ’s habits of recycling and reusing, which saved the Chamber money by lowering the cost of office supplies.
CJ Ericson was born in Maryland. A self-described “Navy brat,” her parents moved to Milpitas when she was two years old. “I’ve seen this place GROW,” she shared.
Given her job, she’s uniquely positioned to know a great many city residents, which is perfect given her outgoing personality. “I like to get out and meet people,” she said. In the meantime, the office where she works is busy, with visitors coming in and out all day. Though she admits that she’s terrible at remembering names, she has a policy of being honest about it, rather than faking her way through.
“Milpitas is a friendly town,” she said, by way of pointing out why it’s such a good place to do business. “I like the people I work with, I like the ambassador team, I like the members, I like the events. They can be kind of stressful planning them, but they’re fun.”
Indeed, in her position with the Milpitas Chamber of Commerce, it seems like CJ Ericson has found a professional home within her geographic one:
“I don’t plan on going anywhere,” she said. “When I have a job, I usually stick with it.”