I’ve been so busy with starting my new job, working on contract projects, and trying to stay warm the past few weeks (perhaps the most difficult task of all here in Philly!), that I neglected to share a really wonderful project that I got to be a part of last month!
It was a really valuable experience for me to have a low-stakes venue, supportive community, and deadline that forced me into creative writing again. I’ve had a very fraught relationship with writing (and, tangentially, any really creative work) for the past ten years, so it was a powerful opportunity for me to throw a piece of writing out into the world. Not only that, but I also met a new Philly friend in the process!
Ben Silbermann, the founder of Pinterest, has given keynotes at Alt Summit a couple times now. I remember people gushing about his talk the first time he spoke there, even though I wasn’t in attendance.
So I was really excited to see that he was back on the Alt Summit schedule this year as the closing keynote. He had a lot of really wonderful things to say, and I did enjoy his talk, despite being pretty exhausted from the previous three days packed full of really great content and new friends.
I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime towards the end of his talk or at the beginning of the Q and A session afterward, I got a sinking feeling in my gut. Why? Because I thought of a question to ask him. I knew if I didn’t ask it, I would regret it for a long time. I’ve never spoken into a microphone in a room full of that many people and I was shaking. But I had to do it. So I stood up and Ellen handed me a mic.
“Hi. My name is Lisa. I have a background in the humanities, but I’ve made a career transition into tech and I just accepted a position as a front-end web developer at Urban Outfitters. Do you have any advice or wisdom for people like me as we transition into an industry that isn’t necessarily welcoming, and at times can be downright hostile, towards women?”
Now, I know this was a Q and A session at a women’s blogging conference. He wasn’t prepared to talk about the massive gender gap in tech. To be honest, I don’t really remember his answer because I was so stunned that I had opened my mouth in front of so many people, but I do remember being mildly unimpressed. It boiled down to something about reaching out to other women in the industry and that changing social norms takes time. I do remember that he congratulated me on my new job, which was pretty surreal and awesome.
But, like, duh. Of course I’ve been networking. Of course I’ve worked really hard. I was a little disappointed he didn’t say something super brilliant. But to be fair, he wasn’t prepared to answer questions like that. And to be honest, it doesn’t matter.
The real reason I wanted to ask that question was to bring more attention to the issue. I wanted to bring it up in front of that audience. I wanted to bring it up in front of the founder of a huge and massively popular tech company. I wanted to be visible as a female web developer.
Social change is slow, it’s true, but visibility helps.
In the spirit of showing up and being seen, I applied to speak on a panel at the 3rd Philadelphia Women in Tech Summit, and I was accepted. I decided to apply at the very last minute, without worrying about rejection, just to see what would happen. I’ve never done anything like this before and I’m a little nervous. If you’re near Philadelphia and even vaguely interested, I’d love to see you there.
Is there any area you’d like to be more visible in? Have you taken any risks, “just to see what would happen?” Do you have any public speaking advice?
I hope y’all had a spectacular Valentine’s Day & weekend, if that’s your thing.
We really didn’t have any plans, which worked out well because some of Chad’s older brother’s friends from Carrboro, NC, got stranded in Philadelphia due to the snow this week, so we got to show them around.
The West Philly Valentine’s tour we took them on was full of my favorites: pizza and beer at Dock Street, a quick stop at Little Baby’s, and we finished the night with a show at Studio 34 before sending our friends back across the city in an Uber car.
At the Studio 34 show (it was a record release for My Gay Banjo, who create some super sweet harmonies), I was introduced to Hot Tears. She’s my new favorite thing. She’s deceptively meek while speaking with the audience, but then she starts playing and really opens her mouth. She’s got a hugely powerful voice and plays like a badass. She closed with a song that required audience participation, and it was probably my favorite moment of the night. All the denizens of West Philly chanted, “We grow all night,” over and over again on top of her soaring vocals & distorted guitar & pounding kick drum. It was a little bit magical.
I really recommend listening to “Follow You” while eating some of this super easy Nutella pudding that Joanna featured earlier this week. I made some this weekend with Justin’s Hazelnut Butter rather than Nutella, which made it a little weird. I ended up melting all the pudding back down and adding about double the milk and half a cup of sugar & now it’s perfect. I whipped up some sweet cream to top it off, and now I’m eating it and listening to “Follow You” on repeat.
Both the pudding and the song are luscious and decadent and rich, perfect for any sort of luscious and decadent and rich holiday like this one, no matter your relationship status. Eat, listen, and enjoy.
Earlier this week I shared what I’ll miss most about making my own schedule. So it only seems fair to also talk a little bit about why I’ve decided to return to the 9 to 5 world. This whole freelancing topic has gotten out-of-hand trendy and super glorified in certain blog circles, with everyone and their mother suddenly being a budding “expert” on how to be an independent worker. So I also hope to bring some balance to that conversation.
When I first left my proofreading job to go on this sabbatical, there was nothing but a but the fog of possibility before me. The plan was to learn as much as I could and then hope that the road would take shape. I thought I’d likely either work towards a full-time independent business or try to get a full-time job that would be a good fit and help me learn even faster.
Though I definitely plan to keep taking independent contract work, there are many reasons why I decided to rejoin the ranks of the employed-by-others.
I’ll be surrounded by a team of people I can learn from on a daily basis.
I’m more productive and organized when I have an externally structured schedule. I wish this weren’t true about me, but it is.
There’s no clock to stop. When freelancing, I stop my clock when I get up to get a drink or go to the bathroom. When working for someone else, I get paid even when taking a bathroom break.
Snow days are snow days again. (This is no small thing right now.) And if I choose to work on a snow day, it’ll be to get ahead on freelance work. (Or maybe I’ll get a work laptop? It will be a necessity if this slop keeps up much longer…)
I’ll get to have a hand in things that a ton (thousands? millions?) of people will see.
I can learn so much faster if there’s external pressure to pick up a new technology or skill for a pending project.
I’m unequivocally introverted, but human interaction is healthy. I tend to work like a hermit, even with access to excellent coworking communities. It’ll be good for me have friendly work acquaintances I’ll (be forced to) see every day.
My version control workflow skills will improve greatly by working with a team and having to merge and resolve conflicts and with others, rather than being the only one committing to a code repository.
I won’t be the one having to chase someone down to get assets or information I need.
It’ll be easier for me to take on passion projects or non-paying creative endeavors when I know I’ll have a baseline of regular income.
It’s a huge confidence boost to know that a place I wanted to work at wanted me to work for them. If I succeed, it’ll be a testament to the value of the time I put in to learning and growing over the past year and a half.
I’m super grateful for this past season, but I’m equally excited for the one ahead. Like I’ve said, I’ll still be taking select independent projects, so I’ll get to keep some of the perks of that while also benefiting from all of the above.
Have you ever returned to a regular full time job after freelancing? Any favorite pros/cons of either set up? Tips on managing both?
I started my new job at Urban Outfitters this week, so I’ve been reflecting on the little things I’ll miss about the time I got to spend on my sabbatical & freelance time.
Grocery shopping in the middle of the day while everyone else is at work.
Running errands before rush hour.
Time for regular morning pages.
Scheduling appointments or car maintenance at non-peak times.
Support in the form of coffee dates or lunches with other independent workers (like the lunch date at Terrain I had with Sarah last week).
The opportunity to cowork at IndyHall or The Fireworks, a new coworking space just a couple blocks away from us in West Philly.
Location independence — this past year we’ve been able to work from places like the Ace Hotel in Manhattan, Chicago, and Utah.
The cats. I’m a legit cat lady.
Later this week, I’ll be sharing the flip side: What I’m looking forward to most about my new job & new schedule. This is quite a list, but I’m excited to share what’s compelled me to go back to the 9 to 5 world.