Dear compassionate and caring individuals who give a crap what I’m up to,
You might have been confused about where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. Well, after eight weeks in the US and two back in Melbourne – I thought it was time to post an update. The post to read for background info is the one duly-titled ‘New adventures‘ – it covers quitting my job in May and “chasing a dream”. You can also read a statistical summary of my trip here.
So, it all starts back in November 2009 when I woke up one morning and all I could think of was that I wanted to go to San Francisco. From then, until the day I departed from Melbourne, I literally had this thought in my head. Purring away. Consuming me. “Kate, go to San Francisco, go to San Francisco.” You can imagine with this occupying my mind – being settled in the moment was difficult. I felt as though my feet were firmly on the ground but my head was in tomorrow’s clouds. Stretched.
I wanted to not only visit San Francisco and the Bay Area, but if I liked it – consider staying to work and play. I started asking questions back in January and got some great insight on life in SF from the likes of Aussie expats such as Cathy Edwards and Wade Millican. I started researching. I accrued information guides, I bookmarked links and I liked all the Facebook pages possible. What would I need to do to make this happen?
What is it about the San Francisco Bay Area I prematurely fell in love with? Well, instead of me reciting cliché Twain quotes to you – I guess Paul Kantner’s quote from 2000 sums it up best: “San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality”. To say the least, San Francisco is progressive. It has the will to constantly change and evolve. Its people continually strive to create an incredibly-liveable ecosystem and multi-faceted community. It is arguably the world’s innovation hub and testing hotbed where anyone who has an idea or a vision is encouraged to make it become possible. Sure, you can say these things are available anywhere in the world but if you look at the support system and success (and failure) rates – you realise it’s special. Not to forget, it has bikes. And food. Oh, the food – how I miss thee!
I must credit Edward Harran for providing the dynamite for me to book my tickets and finally go. Eddie had just got back himself and as we sat conversing at the pub one night, I kept listing the limitations of me going. He responded: “You’ll never know, if you never go” and don’t suffer from “paralysis by analysis”. He was right, I could find solutions to any issues that arose. The next day I booked my flights.
I had an amazing two months away. I met so many people. I saw so many things. I had some fantastic conversations about technology, startups and people making stuff happen. I got lots of inspiration and many ideas that I am motivated to act upon.
It wasn’t all roses though. I spent a lot of time exploring the next steps with my career and I found I had a problem… too much choice. An embarrassment of riches. Choice is a weird phenomenon. It seems it never reaches equilibrium. On one hand, you have many desperately in need of choice to better their lives and on the other, you have those too-fortunate individuals perplexed by the excess. Before I left, I was getting calls here and there about social media roles – mainly at digital or creative agencies and also consulting contracts. It was six-figure salary city. However, I wasn’t certain this path was for me. I view social media in a holistic way and have since come to the conclusion that the term is almost redundant and better encompassed under a broader digital marketing strategy. So, I decided to leave it to Tom, Dick and Harry.
While in the US, I started chatting to upcoming startups. I also started looking around at larger tech companies, but out of all the monoliths – Google was the only one I resonated with workwise. I was greatly appreciative when a friend put my resume forward. I had an interview for a communications manager position in Mountain View and did a second round, which included a follow up writing task. It was quite surreal as if you’d asked me a couple of months earlier what the dream was, I would have definitely replied: “Google” but going through the process, I wasn’t so sure. Around the same time, I was catching up with a couple of Melbourne friends from Y Combinator funded travel startup Adioso. The guys were in San Francisco finalising the features on version three of the search engine in preparation for their global launch. At first the conversation revolved around engaging me to do media relations for the launch, but it then turned into scoping if the fit was right for a longer-term gig.
The more I thought about working with Adioso, the more I started getting excited. A forgotten sensation. A small, incredibly smart, experienced and agile team capable of having a real impact on the industry and the world. If I wanted to be at the cutting edge of technology and startup land – this was it. I couldn’t resist – I joined Tom, Fenn and Andrew. Other opportunities could wait. You can read the introduction post here. The next three to four months are going to be an interesting time for the business and the plan is to open a San Francisco office in the not too distant future.
But, alas, the career decision doesn’t provide the ending to this update. I would like to share some of the lessons learnt along the way:
- You have to take risks to get what you want. And sometimes that involves risking everything. You’ve got to be prepared for nothing to get the something.
- Don’t try to change everything at once. I was experimenting with changing my home life, country and career all in one go and it was stressful!
- Don’t expect answers at the end. You find insights through the pursuit of answers. More questions are better than answers and it’s the quest, not the treasure chest that matters.
- Listen to and work with yourself. You are unique and thus operate uniquely.
- Appreciate and explore the lows – I find I’m at my most creative while there.
- Don’t make the rookie mistake of externalising happiness.
- You can read as many books, blogs and tweets but you have to experience things for yourself to understand and absorb a message.
- Get uncomfortable – challenge yourself. This is how you grow.
- Find the big league of your industry, go play in it and surprise yourself when you realise it’s not so big.
- Do things differently and see how you go. E.g. I’m incredibly organised/planned so I let go and tried drifting.
- Spend the majority of your social time with people who really care about you.
- Your connections help but your smartness and determination are what get you there.
- If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.
- Don’t define yourself by what you do. Do nothing and define yourself then.
- Don’t ask yourself what you want to do, ask what you need to do.
In summary, just be… and go.
Thanks for reading.