Intersection of Life + Career

I was lucky enough to connect with Brandon West this morning to talk about developer relations. (He literally wrote the book.)

Brandon asked me a question I can't say I've ever heard before: "What are your career and life goals?" The "and" struck me. I've never really thought of my life goals as being separate from my career goals. Which may or may not say something mildly unhealthy about my life view. 

I naturally spent the afternoon obsessively thinking about it. This is what I've come up with. (Yes, this illustration is my 267th draft. I killed a lot of trees today. Don't judge me.)

Professional

BE ELECTED TO POLITICAL OFFICE

I'm from DC. Isn't that enough? 

This has been a dream of mine since I was very small. My family are yellow dog Democrats — meaning we always vote Democrat. And for good reason. My grandmother grew up in rural Alabama with her widowed mother and two sisters during the depression. FDR and his social programs absolutely saved their lives. 

I believe strongly that we're all in it together. That most of us are only 3 mistakes away from the homelessness. And that being poor isn't a measure of morality or hard work but of misfortune. I want to ensure that all of us have the social safety net that allows us to reach for our goals and care for our families.

PROVE WOMEN CAN BE BADASS DEVELOPERS

It's not enough to be a badass developer. I'm a lady dev, which means it rests on me and others to pave the way for women and people of color. This matters to me

I want to continue to grow technically. Sometimes I forget I've only been doing this professionally for a year and it's OK to not know everything. Heck, do any of us ever know it all? No. 

I want to play in other languages (hello, Python and Go) and get quicker with syntax. I want to gain enough experience that I can identify solutions faster. And finally, I want to get better at speaking developer. The hardest part of being a junior is having an inkling of what the answer is and not knowing what it's called. 

(I also want to destroy the current style of technical interviews. But that's a different blog post.)

BE A CEO/CTO

I'm someone that can home in on a vision and make clear decisions. I'm a generalist which means I know a little about a lot. I have a small enough ego to recognize that I can't do everything and must hire people who are smarter than me. And I feel a deep responsibility for those around me, which means I won't be a fly-by-night leader. 

Personal

WIN A POWERLIFTING MEET

I am not as strong right now as I used to be. And it's hard for me to even type that. Pride is powerful. I feel guilt and shame when I go to the gym right now and can't lift as much as I used to. 

The truth is, it was almost unavoidable. I had a postpartum complication that took me out of the gym for 6 months and then I went to a code school for 7 — you try going to the gym during Turing. 

I had to focus on other things, my health and my career. I like to describe priorities as separate flames fueled by the same source. If your career flame flares up, the others will dim. And isn't that true? I find when I hit a stride in my personal life, my work suffers and visa versa. 

I'd love to get back to my previous strength level and eventually surpass it. It would be amazing to win a powerlifting meet. Even if I'm 45 by the time I do it. 

In the meantime, the gym is still my happy place. I can go, work off aggression, think through hard problems and listen to what I like to call my battle music. 

WRITE A BOOK

If you're wondering why someone who used to be a ghostwriter hasn't written a book, it's because writing a book is insanely hard. It takes intense focus and hundreds of hours of dedication. I lack the discipline, simple as that. This one is definitely a stretch goal for me. 

LEARN A SECOND LANGUAGE

My daughter is bilingual. She's two. This embarrasses me at a deep level. How is my two-year-old bilingual and I'm not? I got REALLY lucky. Her nanny speaks to her exclusively in Spanish and is the sole reason my daughter has this extraordinary advantage in life. 

I am partially fueled by a desire to not let my daughter outsmart me this early on in life. I'm first to admit she will at some point — isn't that what we all want? — but she's not gonna realize she's smarter than me until she's at least 16. 

But learning another language, specifically Spanish, also speaks to a deeply-held belief of mine: America's immigrant culture should be celebrated. 

There are 41 million native Spanish speakers in the US. And another 11 million who are bilingual. How cool is that?

But yes, it's mostly that I don't want to be outwitted by my toddler.

The Intersection

GIVE A TED TALK

OMG. Don't you want to give a TED talk?! I'd just about die. And then wave my hands in the air while jumping like a 7-year-old who just found out she got a puppy.

For me, TED talks are the pinnacle of public speaking. And it would absolutely be a dream come true. 

START A COMPANY

I specify product company here for a reason. I've run a consulting business before (where @editingemily came from).

I loved it. And it taught me an extraordinary number of hard lessons. I will always favor people with entrepreneurial experiences on their resumes for this reason. You learn things you would never observe while gainfully employed. 

It also taught me a lot about me. How I handle ups and downs. That I hate reconciling accounts. Why no one recommends starting a family business. 

But I don't like consulting and freelancing for two reasons:

  1. It's difficult to scale. Consulting by its nature is high-touch. As far as growing the company, you can hire more people or raise prices, but that's pretty much it. And there is a limit to how much money you can charge per hour. A SaaS product is created once and — if developed well — can be scaled and sold to millions. 
  2. Slow feedback loop. Humans are difficult. If you have 10 human clients, it's much harder to get honest feedback about what you're doing right and what you need to improve on. (People don't like hurting other people's feelings, even when you beg.) But if you have 10,000 customers, you can bet your butt they'll be complaining on Twitter the minute they don't like something. And those angry tweets and emails are gold. 

So what's the product? I have a folder with all my cockamamy ideas. But that's a few years off at least. I have a few more lessons I'd like to learn first.

MENTOR + CONNECT

There is no better feeling than the helping someone else. It doesn't matter what it is. Maybe it's as small as an introduction or a job referral. Or helping dozens of Turing students get through the program — both technically and mentally — so they can become kickass developers too. 

The bottom line is I love people. And if I can do something to help another human, I'm going to. It brings me endless joy and makes me feel fulfilled both personally and professionally. 

That's the list. It'll likely change and evolve as I grow. But it's a good starting point. 

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