Somewhere in Silicon Valley a guy named Gray Powell is becoming a cautionary tale. The 27-year-old engineer was celebrating his birthday a few weeks ago over German beers at a place he'll not soon forget (or, surely, return to), the Gourmet Haus Staudt. In addition to leaving behind age 26, he went home without his cell phone, left sitting on a bar stool. Now, this wasn't just any just any company cell phone and this wasn't just any company. This was Apple, whose zeal for security is the stuff of legend. And, the mobile phone? It was only Apple's prototype for its fourth generation iPhone, arguably the most hotly anticipated launch of the summer.
Now, it's unlikely that something like this would happen to you, but what if you misplace something valuable and important to your company (and, perhaps, even more to your competitors)? Don't catch the next plane for Mexico. Instead, do this:
1. Come Clean.
The minute you realize a product of this magnitude is missing—one that has the potential to affect others and blindside your boss—disclose it and ask for help, says career expert Cynthia Shapiro. "Honesty is the best policy," says Greg Garrison, the president of Vrecruiting, a national recruiting services firm. "Everyone misplaces a cell phone or their keys once in a while. This phone just happened to be a coveted iPhone prototype that he was 'testing.'"
2. Be Helpful.
The person who found it was trying to return it but didn't know who to contact. We know that Apple operators gave him the run-around. Make it very, very easy for the finder to get it back to you. A good start would be to give your email and another phone number to the venue where the product was last with you. Says Holly Green, CEO of The Human Factor consultancy, "He should have reported it immediately to the bar where he lost it."
Beyond that, make the tracking effort a group activity with your co-workers to generate the most positive outcome possible. "That's the best way to save your job from a big mistake like that," says Shapiro."
3. Accept It.
Life happens, though this may be the last prototype you get to test. It's unlikely Powell will lose his job over this—especially considering how high profile the story has become—but you may not be so lucky. Hope your employer (or, your potential next employer) is understanding.
4.Use The Experience Wisely.
If your company doesn't already have guidelines on how and when to expose a prototype to the public help draft them. Be instrumental in helping your group prepare for the same type of situation you just experienced. "What issues have we not thought of that you could happen?" should be your main question to answer, says Green.
Final thought: "A truthful and earnest story is the play," says Garrison. (And, it goes without saying, you shouldn't take out invaluable company property to a goofy-named bar where you are drinking on your birthday. Very bad idea)
Have any experiences to share along the Gray Powell lines? Put them in comments. We'd love to hear how YOU handled it.