During my time at the iSchool, I tried to participate in as many activities as possible; especially if it meant traveling by plane! Along with participating on the AsiaTech and EuroTech programs, I had the opportunity to be one of the students on the first Spring Break in Silicon Valley (SBinSV) trip in 2011. I may be better known for being the student who popped her kneecap out the day before the trip left and still decided to go! Although that was nearly 8 years ago, that one-week trip has time and time again impacted my career and life choices.
Group photo from the first SBinSV trip in 2011. That’s me on the left, in the yellow jacket, on crutches!
At the time, my only exposure to the working world was my first internship on Wall Street in New York. I became fearful of monotonous corporate life and the suit-and-tie mentality that came with it. I knew that I didn’t want to sit on a floor in a row of cubicles filled with people who didn’t collaborate with each other. The SBinSV trip showed me a completely different side of working in tech: colorful rooms with open offices, eager and excited employees with vibrant personalities, and generally a much more relaxed, yet hardworking culture. The biggest ‘a-ha!’ moment of SBinSV came when I realized that I could still work in technology without the look and feel of a standard corporate office. For the first time, I felt like I knew where I could see myself after the iSchool.
SBinSV, along with other personal reasons, drove me to move out west after college – but to Seattle instead of San Francisco. It was there I got a job with Avanade, a consulting company that worked specifically with Microsoft technologies to deliver solutions to clients. I worked with Avanade as a consultant for three years, until family reasons brought me back to the east coast. The decision to move back weight heavily on me, and either option seemed heartbreaking.
So I moved to Washington DC, closer to home, to continue my work in consulting. However, I could not deny how much I missed Seattle. I missed being in the center of a city that was a tech hub, sprawling with innovation with new offices sprouting up left and right. I missed the more relaxed nature that the west coast had and I missed the life that I built up on my own. I left Avanade and no longer felt fulfilled in my work. I was stuck between wanting to be closer to my family and pursuing the dream career I’d worked so hard for in a city I built a life in.
I returned to Seattle often to visit friends and it was a mere coincidence that one of my trips coincided with a new trip the iSchool was hosting that explored the tech worlds of Portland and Seattle, Peak2Peak. The iSchool’s director of student and alumni engagement, Julie Walas, asked if I would be willing to speak with the students, and I happily agreed.
It suddenly hit me that I was on the other side of the fence. I saw the students, full of wonder and inquisitive energy, and realized that was once me. I was once a sophomore, wondering where I would end up and what my place in tech was. I suddenly remembered what it was like to be a student again, with many questions on where (and how!) to fit into the world. Upon introducing myself to the students and sharing my story of SBinSV to Seattle and back with them, I realized that I was speaking to a younger version of myself.
That’s me, on the left, tagging along to one of the visits on Peak2Peak in August.
Many of the students shared the same fears I had at the time, and was having again. Questions like, “how hard was it to leave your hometown? Your family? How did you have the guts to start over in a completely new city? How did you find your place?” Their questions were intriguing, and also triggered personal reflection on my own life, my own decisions, and why I left for Seattle in the first place.
I realized that I was a hypocrite. I was encouraging these Peak2Peak students to venture out and try something new, and to explore something away from what felt safe. However, I myself was in a job that I wasn’t as excited about as what I had in Seattle. I knew that my career would have been better off where I used to be rather than where I was at the time. I reminded myself, just like the students I met that day on Peak2Peak, that the hardest thing and the right thing are often the same and that there is nothing wrong with an adventure away from the norm.
The students left an incredible lasting impression on me. I felt that I learned more as a guest of the group rather than a participant. I had a heavy feeling that I was not practicing what I was preaching, and that I should be the example I set for others.
Fast forward a few months, and I am happy to tell you that I have recently accepted a full-time position with Microsoft at their campus back in Washington state. I am now a Program Manger working on collaboration tools such as OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online. I often have to pinch myself to keep remembering that this is real and this is where life has led me.
I am in awe of where this journey has taken me. I had never expected to move across the country three times within four years. I also didn’t expect a week in California to continually make such a difference in some of the biggest choices I’ve made so far.
I continually thank Syracuse, its programs, devotion to its students, and trips like these that continue to make such a significant impact on both students and alumni. Thank you for helping push me to make the more difficult, yet rewarding decision to pursue my dreams and embrace the sacrifices that come along with them.