In April 2013, I moved to Austin. I had no job, no degree, and modest savings. Those first few months, I sent my (non-glamorous) resume to over 200 openings. Anything that paid rent was an option. I even tried to be a zip line tour guide. Nearing the end of my savings, I finally got a call from a temp agency that needed customer service reps for a durable medical equipment company. The commute was terrible, but it was an opportunity to show other people that my lack of experience or degree didn't define my ability to succeed.
During those next 6 months, I picked up other work and tasks:
- Churn reporting in Excel (yeah, I know about pivot tables and vlookups)
- Accounts Payable
- I.T. services for the 200+ devices on two networks, an in-house server (HIPAA), and assisting with a VoIP replacement
I wasn't just good at my job. Leadership and folks from other teams saw that I excelled. Normally, you'd think that would turn into a promotion. It didn't. Instead, a co-worker saw an ad for a hiring fair at a local tech company. She sent it to me and said, "They're looking for rockstars and A-players. That's you." Her thoughtfulness turned into a $4/hr raise with a shorter commute and better benefits in a tech support role.
And six months after that, I was approached by the enterprise sales team. They needed pre-sales engineers to talk with prospective customers about their technical needs with the platform. My salary doubled and I was no longer hourly, which meant unlimited vacation. In 2 years, I went from needed SNAP benefits to making the average salary of someone with a Bachelor's degree.
One day a coworker-friend asked me, "What do you want to do? What's your goal?" At the time, I hadn't given it much thought. I still wanted more, but I didn't really have a direction because my goal had been, "don't feel like I'm struggling to keep my head above water". With introspection, I knew the part of the sales job that I loved the best was taking to technical people and helping them solve problems. So off he went to the VP of Engineering to suggest my candidacy for a developer advocate role.
Moving into the Developer Advocacy space was a challenge for many reasons. But when I'm challenged, I often thrive. I love learning and I love helping others, all of which developer advocacy enabled me to do. Explaining what I did was a different kind of struggle, but completely tolerable for the joy of finding work I enjoyed.
After two years, I decided to leave my first company in tech for another. I moved from developer advocacy to product marketing (for developer tools) and I'm being challenged again. My goals are more lofty than I would've imagined them in 2013, but they're also achievable.
I describe myself as starting in tech in 2012, but it was a (mostly) unpaid role in the gaming/esports industry. The experience has helped me with land jobs, but there's not enough time in this post to cover gaming and tech.
How many people of color, white women, queer, or non-binary people are you following on Twitter or consuming content from? If you don't know the answer go find out.
Have you read a book about racial or gender inequality? If you need a recommendation, check out this thread on Twitter.
Being an ally is not a passive activity. It is not waiting for an opportunity. The opportunities exist, so pursue one or twenty.