What a year. I am beyond grateful for all the countless opportunities I’ve received in the last 365 days. I think 2014 was the year of “just doing.” Here are the highlights:
In all honesty I never expected a lot of those things to be in the same year. But if there’s anything I learned this year it’s that there’s no particular way things should be. They just are and learning to adapt is part of the fun.
The months leading up to my graduation in 2013 and thereafter were a bit emotionally tumultuous. I had always been one to have a set plan and avoid deviating too far from the path written in the books, or what people had told me, etc. At the beginning of the year I had become a bit disillusioned by my first job out of college (I wasn’t the only one of my friends… it happens). It wasn’t a bad gig, but it wasn’t for me. However, I had nowhere else to go and being “funemployed” was not what I had envisioned after college, so I stayed and tried to make the best of it.
My biggest issue was that I felt like I wasn’t learning anything. And maybe it’s because I’m naive and was expecting a lot out of my first job, but I was learning more (at least technical things) through hackathons and side projects. It was difficult and confusing because what I wanted to be doing and what I needed to be doing, at least to survive, weren’t the same. Everyone always tells you to follow you heart and do what makes you happy, but I always had the counter argument that happiness doesn’t pay the bills.
And this is still true, but one thing I learned this year is that with enough patience and persistence you can survive doing what makes you happy. For a while it sucked and I looked for a way out of my job. I interviewed with several other companies (former employer: if you’re reading this SORRY!). So I had a full-time job, was searching for a new job, and spent most of my “free” tinkering with code or at a hackathon trying to learn something new. I don’t know how my girlfriend puts up with it, but I am VERY thankful. Bentley, you are beyond amazing.
the next part is an account of the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon which I never wrote down so you can skip this wall of text if you so choose.
Then on May 4th something totally unexpected happened. On May 3rd, I woke up with very little motivation, but had tickets to the NYC TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. I was having second thoughts about going and instead wanted to just stay under the covers. My girlfriend encouraged me to go and it took every ounce of motivation that was left in me to throw on some clothes, put on my bag, and grab my Oculus case before heading to the Manhattan Center. I ended up hacking on a VR app to visualize urban project proposals. I remember texting my girlfriend with the idea and getting something along the lines of “wow that’s such a serious hack for you.” I hadn’t really done 3D graphics before, but tried it anyway. It took me a couple of hours to get it off the ground and I almost gave up at one point, but eventually I had something working. My girlfriend came to the presentations the next day and she can attest to how nervous I was. I wasn’t a CS major, I had just started doing all this web dev stuff, and everyone around me was some startup coding “ninja” or “guru” or seasoned hacker. Not to mention this was hosted by TechCrunch so I felt like there was no room for funny business, everyone was here to win. I went up to present and it was a disaster. I had 60 seconds. I was switching between my laptop, my phone, and the Oculus. And I had barely rehearsed because a) I didn’t think I stood a chance, but thought I should at least showcase what I stayed up making b) do better when I don’t overthink what I’m going to say. I got off stage and my hands were shaky and I remember telling my girlfriend how terribly I thought it went. I thought I had a really good shot at the Esri sponsor prize, but after the presentation I thought I had messed that up too. Well to cut to the chase, I ended up winning the Esri prize, but I also won 1st place the hackathon. I was in utter disbelief. And maybe this isn’t as big a deal as I make it out to be, but to me it meant a lot. It gave me confidence. It gave me flexibility. It opened up doors. I remember my mom called me crying because she was watching the livestream after I had told her what I was doing.
I could finally quit my job without having to worry about how I’d maintain financial stability for the next couple of months or feel guilty about letting my parents down by being out of a job for a while. So I did.
I had no idea what I was doing and in retrospect winning a hackathon is not validation for whether or not you have a viable business on your hands. But I’m glad I was delusional enough to think so. Shortly after, I was lucky enough to be a part of the first Orbital Bootcamp, which led me to start this blog, but also pushed me out of my comfort zone and deflated my post TC Disrupt ego. In a good way! Gary’s mentorship and advice helped me realize the importance of talking to people, embracing struggles, and learning to learn. This really helps to sum up everything I’ve learned this year. I was always looking for what I shouldbe doing next. I sought advice from people, books, websites, etc. in hopes that one of them would have the answer. I’ve always been a sucker for self-help books. But being lost and finding your own way out is awesome. At the time it may suck, but once you’re out you really appreciate it for what it is. That’s not to say taking advice is bad, but that there is no cookie cutter advice.
Vrban was created 7 months ago. Today it’s more than a URL to some hack made in 24 hours. It’s become a journey and part of who I am. It’s also more than just me now. It’s also Russell. It’s also our beta users and everyone else who has sat down to hear our spiel and give it a chance. It’s everyone who has given me feedback and advice.
There are certainly days where I feel more lost than I did the day before, but I know that if I can rough it out I’ll come out knowing something new. To everyone who has helped me through it all thank you. Your support means everything.
Thank you Russell for being an awesome co-founder. Thank you Bentley for talking sense into me every day and putting up with my shenanigans and delusions (the list of everything she does for me is way longer than this and I can’t thank her enough in a couple of sentences). Thank you parents for being so supportive. Thank you friends for helping me keep my head up. Thank you Gary for the opportunity and endless advice. Thank you everyone @ Orbital.
You’ve all helped me become
comfortable excited with not knowing what’s next.
2014 was awesome and I can’t wait to see what happens in 2015. Stay tuned!