I've always wanted to do a road trip around the United States. I didn't think it would be mandatory.
But here we were. We needed to be out of our apartment by July 25th, at my sister's San Diego wedding by July 28th, in Spokane Washington by August 3rd (wedding reception), and in Washington DC by August 8th (1st day of work).
There weren't many options. We could have a moving company handle our stuff and organize a dizzying arrangement of flights. Definitely possible, though the anemic, tuition-scarred, hospital-bill-laden, wallet would certainly suffer. After evaluating the costs of getting situated in DC, this option was eliminated. We chose the second option... selling off whatever we own that cannot fit in our car, and driving with the rest on a 5000 mile, 2-week, road trip.
We didn't own much, by current American standards but it was still very difficult. We built a complete inventory of everything we own... totaling about 1000 distinct items. That's when the purging began. We evaluated everything (at least subliminally) on a value per unit volume basis. Some things had monetary value... iPods, jewelry, and so forth, while others had emotional or sentimental value (ticket stubs, photo albums, etc). At some point, a threshold was drawn, and those with the least value per square foot were purged. Like a controlled house fire, burning all our possessions except those we can carry in our arms, the purging raged for several days.
When it was all over, everything we owned fit into the back of our car. To my delight, the feeling was incredibly liberating. Owning a lot of things is stressful. You have to find places to put them, tools to fix them, ways to clean them, time to organize them, and energy to move them. Perhaps I'm a minimalist at heart.
We were homeless. There wasn't even a place waiting for us when we would arrive in DC. We drove during the day, and I was supposed to be apartment hunting online each night but the task always seemed to get ousted by something else important. A lot of time was spent sleeping on hotel beds and living out of our suitcases. And it wasn't that bad. We had a roof over our head, ways to stay clean, and free continental breakfasts. Most homeless people aren't as fortunate.
We stopped for a bit in Spokane, and my Dad was kind enough to spend a whole day with me checking on the condition of my car, a 15 year old Suburu with 160,000 miles on it, to see if it could go another 3000. We worked on a lot of things and I was really grateful for his help.
The next 4 days was a driving marathon like no other. Each morning I would get up early and drive.
Drive. Get gas. Drive. Get gas. Drive. Get gas.
You get the picture.
I didn't stop to rest and didn't stop for food (I had some food to nibble on in the car). Regardless, it was always night time when I arrived at a place to stay the night. I was pushing 12 to 13 hour days in the car, and going against the time zones, which meant I often arrived at 11pm or later. It was a special type of endurance test and I was extremely relieved to have arrived without incident.
You see, I had absolutely no room for error. Even with 12 hours of driving a day, I arrived in Virginia on August 7th at 5pm, and reported to my first day of work the very next morning.
While many could have considered it miserable, a part of me really enjoyed it. I got to see nearly the whole country. I did 17 states in 14 days... and these weren't those puny New England states. I drove the entirety of California, from the bottom to the top, and then the full length of Montana, from West to East. I saw the redwoods, the Oregon coast, the Rocky Mountains, Sturgis motorcycle riders, downtown Chicago, field after field of growing corn, and the dense forests of the northeast. I saw gas station restrooms with granite counter tops and endless trails of white windmills spinning in the breeze. After years of living in a 500 sq. ft apartment within walking distance of everywhere I needed to go, driving as long and as far as I could was really quite refreshing.
And what's even better is the adventures haven't stopped. We've started a new life in the Washington DC Metro area, a happening place by it's own merits. We are minutes away from the foundations of our country's history. The Washington monument is visible from my office window. And I love being in a big city, walking the streets, going new places, having new experiences, making new friends. Heck, I saw a giant squid at the Smithsonian the other day. A GIANT SQUID!
I named him Leroy.
I am a recent graduate and I just accepted an offer for my dream job. I'm sharing this story because the process I went through to get to this point was incredible and definitely not typical!
It started earlier this year. In the course of my hobbies, studies, and personal research, I found myself engrossed in web development work and loving every minute of it! Through this work, I learned a lot about the industry and I was particularly interested in the open source web CMS called Drupal. In short, as I developed a competency with Drupal, I started to look around for opportunities to learn more. In this process, I became very interested in a certain company, Acquia, which led the industry technically and attracted some the smartest people in the Drupal ecosystem.
Now I don't know much, but I realized that if I wanted to ever be that smart, I needed to get in the same room as those people.
The company had a certain immersive training program for recent graduates called "Acquia U." I wanted in but I knew I needed to stand out somehow. And I had an idea.
This is the Drupal logo.
Using this logo as an model, I proceeded to shave my head...
...paint it blue...
...build some glasses...
...and do a photoshoot.
Looking good, huh?!
On the day I painted my head blue, we ran out of daylight for a photo shoot. Throughout the night it began to pour rain and I was certain our photo shoot was ruined. However, as morning came the rain turned into heavy snowfall which provided a pretty winter backdrop for our outdoor photos.
So what was the point of all this? I had put in the standard application for the position but I wanted to do a little more to get their attention. I decided to make a Facebook ad. You see, I knew that Facebook allows you to target which people will see the ad. I set up my ad to only display to Acquia employees. This is what the ad looked like:
Pretty bold, but I like bold.
If that wasn't enough, clicking the ad takes you to a special landing page I built at bryanbraun.com/acquia. If you have a look, you'll see that I used this landing page to show them all the reasons they should hire me. It also directs people to parts of this site that teaches them more about who I am.
It worked like a charm. On the day the ad went up, the company's VP of product marketing happened to be on Facebook and noticed my ad. Talk about good luck! He passed the message on and before I knew it, Dries Buytaert, the inventor of Drupal (and CTO of Acquia) sent me a message on Twitter (below). To say I was excited would be a gross understatement!
That's when things started happening. I got a rush of emails coming in from different Acquia employees who had positive things to say after seeing my ad on Facebook. A few of those emails came from Human Resources. Next thing I knew, I was setting up phone interviews.
Everything seemed to be going well until some timing issues caused the position I was vying for to be canceled indefinitely. All of a sudden, the momentum I had built up came to a screeching halt. Without any comparable openings, it seemed that I would be sent to that file of applicants to be considered for future positions. For any of you who have applied to jobs and just missed getting selected, you know that this file is not a good place to be in. Few people ever emerge.
I kept hope. I decided to keep running my Facebook ad to remind people that I'm still around. I graduated. Weeks without hearing anything turned into months. I checked in from time to time but nothing ever came from it. Eventually I stopped displaying the ad.
Then one day, out of the blue, I was asked if I would be interested in a position opening up in Washington DC. I was unaware that there was an office in DC. I decided to check it out. After a few phone interviews, I was flown out for a visit (two days before our baby's due date... fortunately, I returned without incident)!
I learned that the position would get me involved with really talented people working on some challenging problems for prestigious projects. It was absolutely perfect! It wasn't much longer before I was made an offer for the job. I am both humbled and grateful for the opportunity to work with these amazing people.
This whole process has been the experience of a lifetime and I couldn't think of a better way to transition out of school and into meaningful work. I know that the greatest challenges lie ahead but I feel ready to take them on with enthusiasm.
Looking back, if I were to distil some lessons out of this process, this is what they would be:
- Be bold. Throw out the rule book if you have to. If you have something to offer then let them know... don't wait for them to come to you.
- Be lucky. I've been incredibly fortunate and I've had a lot of assistance. I don't exactly know how to reproduce luck. Thomas Jefferson had some ideas though.
- Be ready. I was only qualified for the position because of the nights, weekends, and vacations I spent during school getting my skills up to par. I still have a long way to go but I was good enough when the time came. Toil upward in the night if you have to, but don't be found ill-prepared when your unique opportunity taps you on the shoulder.
A guest post, by Alex Balinski.
Challenges you can't control can become some of your greatest assets. It all depends on how you deal with them.
For example growing up I had acne. Despite everything I did, my complexion wouldn’t clear up. I tried exercising, washing my face, applying medicine, etc. In my desperation I even put honey, egg, aloe vera and lemon juice on my face. Sometimes my face began to heal, only to flare up again.
Looking back, I’m grateful for the trial, because it helped me grow.
Through my struggles with acne I gained more patience with myself and I learned to not worry so much about what others think of me. I learned to be more sensitive to others and accept things beyond my control.
Just as I couldn’t control the fact I had acne, I believe we all have physical, mental or social challenges we can’t control. However, if we deal with our challenges in a positive way, we can control how those challenges affect us.
Here are two examples of how challenges can become assets:
Historically many people believed children of divorced parents were doomed to have a worse marriage than children of married parents. My marriage preparation teacher Jason Carroll, however said divorce has an extremifying effect. It can influence a child to have a better or worse marriage depending on how the child deals with the situation.
If a child deals negatively with the divorce, harboring grudges and doubting in relationships, the child may be at a disadvantage when pursuing marriage later on. However, if a child deals positively with the divorce, learning from others’ mistakes and approaching marriage more prudently, the child may be at an advantage when pursuing marriage later on.
In school, sometimes highly sensitive children are pointed out as trouble students because of their emotional reactions. However, a child’s emotional sensitivity can become a great asset if it’s channeled in the right way.
For example, a child who is emotional may tend to have tantrums when young. However, as the child matures and learns to control his or her behavior, the child can learn to focus their emotional sensitivities on helping others. Because they are emotionally sensitive, they may have a special ability to show kindness and sincerity to others.
In conclusion, though you are not in control of all your challenges, you are in control of how you deal with them. You can turn any challenge into an asset. All you have to do is believe you can.