Shiloh Gulickson, a friend of La Femme Collective, will be sharing her story about her experiences in multiple sectors of the tech industry over the next two weeks. Check next week for a new piece!
If anyone had asked me ten years ago what I thought I would be doing today, possibly the last thing I would have said is that I was going to work in tech. In high school I always assumed that I would sort out any big life decisions during my college years. Yet when I graduated from college I had a degree in Cultural Anthropology and absolutely no idea what I was going to do next. Meanwhile, it felt like everyone around me knew exactly what opportunity they were going to pursue.
So, I decided to put off my decision of what to do next by going back to school. Libraries and books and fellow academics were my comfort zone, which naturally led me to graduate school. I chose a program purely based on a topic I was passionate about: human rights. I did not necessarily know what I was going to do with a degree in Human Rights, but that felt like a problem to ponder at a later time. However there was a catch in my new plan. The program I was accepted into was in San Francisco, a city I had never been to before. Despite my uncertainty, I decided to go for it anyway.
"The one feeling I hate above all else is regret and I knew that if I did not do this, I was always going to regret not taking the risk."
That being said, I was absolutely terrified and overwhelmed and probably cried more that summer than at any other time in my life. Within the span of a month I had to leave my home, move to an unknown city, and start school...again.
For the first six months, I hated San Francisco. My classes were interesting enough but it was tough to meet new people. The city felt intimidating to me and I could not wrap my mind around what my place in it was. I decided I needed something else to distract myself, so I put out my resume with the goal of finding an internship to start building up my professional experience. I must have applied to at least forty jobs, across a myriad of roles and companies. I ended up landing an internship working with nonprofit partners at a small startup called Causes.com. This would end up being the first step along my tech journey. Startup life proved to be a fantastic first foray into the tech world. I was completely wide-eyed over the brilliance of the people I was working with. And the free food in the office kitchen was pretty great as well. Finally, it felt like I had found my place in the city. Within a few months I had acquired a great job, a bunch of new friends, and a focus to my Masters thesis: a guide for social activists using social media.
After nearly a year spent at Causes, in which I did everything from account management to content curation, I decided to apply to Facebook. I wish I could say that at this point I knew that tech was my calling and my path was finally clear. But that not the case. For the most part, I was just as uncertain about my career path as I was when I first graduated college. What I had discovered though is that I really loved working at a tech company. I was instantly drawn to the community, pace of work, and problems being tackled.
Five years ago I was quite naïve about the tech world but with naivety comes a sense of freedom that anything can be possible. Since I did not see a tremendous amount of professional growth opportunities at Causes, I combed through the Facebook job listings and sent off my application for a few open roles. I ended up securing a job on their Developer Operations team. I absolutely loved working at Facebook and my admiration for this new tech-focused world I found myself in continued to grow.
After a year at Facebook, the opportunity arose to join a comparable team at Twitter. For the first time I had the opportunity to help build a team still in its early stages. In February 2013, I joined the Platform Operations team at Twitter. During my time at Twitter, I started to realize that I loved working directly with partners utilizing the Twitter platform to build their businesses. I started to branch outside of my Operations role by pursuing projects that aligned with my personal interests. This led me to a role on the Business Development team where I worked on partnerships with some of the biggest mobile applications in the world. In this new role, I was able to travel to places like London, Berlin, and Tokyo. I was afforded the opportunity to work with amazing partners who are building mobile experiences that change the way we go about our daily lives.
Recently, after three incredible years at Twitter, I made the decision to accept a new role at Google within the Global Partnerships organization. Since I am only three months into my new job, I am once again in the position of feeling equal parts excited and utterly terrified by all the unknowns that come with starting something new.
At this point in my life, I still do not have all the answers. I continue to tell people that I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up. But I have also accepted that not knowing or having your life figured out, is okay. For me, what I have managed to obtain are a set of North Stars. By that, I mean I have decided upon a set of goals I want to achieve: places I want to live, experiences I want to try, and challenges I want to face.
I wanted to share this part of my career journey to let other women know that it is okay to not have everything figured out yet. Like a lot of other people, I can be really hard on myself. The desire to be successful in my job does drive me, but it does not define me. For me, pursuing my passions has led me to a place I never anticipated. There have been tons of high and (probably even more) low moments. For every success I have had, there were twenty failures that preceded them.
In the age of social media, it can be easy to fall into the pattern of determining personal success by comparing your achievements to those of your friends, family, and even complete strangers.
But each and every one of us will have our own individual path and no two will look exactly the same. My own journey has been far from linear and continues to evolve every day. As scary as the unknown can be, I am really excited to see where I end up another ten years from now. The only thing I am certain of is that I will, once again, probably be somewhere totally unexpected.