I was in a committed relationship with the city of Chicago. My plan was simple: after graduation, I was going to move back to Chicago from Syracuse. I wanted to work for an established corporation as an entry level data analyst. Then I would work my way up the chain.
I spent the last 6 years refining this plan so that it would be foolproof; no spontaneous career changes, no struggling to make ends meet, and no risks. But the one thing I didn’t factor into this equation was the iSchool’s Spring Break in Silicon Valley (SBinSV) immersion trip, and how in 6 days I managed to flip my future completely upside down.
Before going on SBinSV, my vision of startups and tech companies was rooted in the idea of a few white men in khakis and button downs talking about how we need a new app to advance as a society. That’s not what I saw on this trip. Three things stood out to me about the companies we visited: passion, action, and representation.
Passion is one of the most important components to having any enjoyable experience. Humans desire passion but will sometimes settle for less. One of the companies we visited this week was Density, a startup that focuses on a platform to count people using the science of depth perception.
When our group spoke to the co-founder and current CEO, Andrew Farah, it wasn’t hard to see that he was passionate about what they were doing at Density. His eyes would light up as he talked about his team and the clients they served. He talked so highly of the work they did and praised the path it took to get there. As he spoke, he emulated so much energy and passion; it was almost magical.
Meaningful action can sometimes be lost when it comes to making money or even being afraid of rejection and failure. Every industry comes with its probability of failure but it’s the actions they take that determine their future. Bugcrowd is a startup that functions as a cybersecurity crowdsourcing platform that attracts large companies looking for researchers to solve their technological problems.
There was a desire for every single person on the panel of employees to make a difference in the realm of cybersecurity. They came to work every day to shake up the way cybersecurity is practiced among hackers and compensated by big companies. They are making big moves in this industry, even with its risks, and it has already started to have an impact worldwide.
As a black Muslim woman, representation in the workplace is something I hold to a high place of importance. No one ever wants to feel like a token, especially if it’s in your workplace.
And lastly, representation. As a black Muslim woman, representation in the workplace is something I hold to a high place of importance. No one ever wants to feel like a token, especially if it’s in your workplace.
TuneIn, an audio streaming service that delivers live news, radio, sports, music, and podcasts, hosted my class as well. They held a panel with representatives from different departments and that was when I saw myself in Silicon Valley. Employees of different races, cultures, and gender identities sat together and spoke about the power of their service. They sat together, with their visible differences, and made me feel like I could be up there one day.
Silicon Valley is not at all what I expected it to be. Now, because of that, I may have to re-evaluate my relationship with Chicago. I can see myself living here, thriving here, and (weirdest of them all) working at a startup. I don’t enjoy taking risks, but after this trip, it doesn’t feel like one any more. All I have to do is keep an open heart and say yes.