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The Audacity of Choice

The Audacity of Choice

A year ago today, I started a new journey. Three days before then, on a fateful, tear filled Friday, I took a leap and left a good paying job with great benefits (free lunch, fully covered health insurance, generous 401K, amazing parties, wine and beer on tap in an amazing cafeteria area where the ceiling is designed to look like stars and the fridges are always filled) and awesome coworkers for an future unknown.

On that Monday morning, 366 days ago, I floated into the nervous energy of a newly minted workspace where 23 other women and I would dare to stretch and grow and learn a new skill. We were the first cohort in this new space, the second to be a part of this great experience called Grace Hopper Academy*, where we would come to learn the tenets of Fullstack Javascript; a first step in becoming talented software engineers.  

So much has happened in a year. The women I met there were fierce, smart, dynamic and daring. We built apps, played with hardware, won hackathons together, learnt how to build in groups and handle great amounts of stress trying to deliver code on a deadline. We impressed the men of our coed brother school (Fullstack Academy) with how scientific and in depth we got. We built a great community for sharing knowledge and growing together, attacking challenges with a level of teamwork, that helped everyone improve their skills. It was amazing. 

It wasn't all roses. And we made each other and ourselves cry. Just like the day after a hard workout, our brain muscles would ache from all that was getting crammed in. We spent the better part of 14 hour days coding, debugging, laughing and sharing stories for 3 whole months. We made friends with each other, with the cleaning staff and security. We put in the work. Our significant others and friends missed us, making concessions as we saw each other more than we saw them. We broke ourselves down, to build brand new cyborg versions that could see the world in code. 

A year from when it all started, I have cohort mates working for American Express, Priceline, VaynerMedia, Viacom, Major League Soccer and so much more. Of the 24 of us, 21 made it all the way through and I'm proud to know every single one of them. 

Taking a chance, getting messy and making lots of mistakes is the only way that you can truly know the extent of your power and ability. 

Today, since leaving my very cush job, I have traveled to places I'd never been, I've met people it would have taken me a lifetime to meet otherwise and then drank and ate with them, some even know my name. I have doubled my value for employers and I'm helping to build an app that will help other people like those women who first sat next to me in that class a year ago to find jobs. 

I took a risk in making that choice to leave. I was humbled and broken down to my smallest fraction. I learnt the value of investing and building a strong community. I gained an uncomfortable and intimate knowledge of the American health insurance system, how unemployment benefits work and the tax responsibilities of an independent contractor. 

It has definitely been a rollercoaster of a year. My life is not perfect, but it's one that I stepped out and chose, which makes it mine. Wonderfully and fantastically, audaciously mine. 

What are you going to own yours? 


*Now called the Grace Hopper Program @ Fullstack Academy

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