You Are the Average of Your Five Closest Friends

i won’t name names, so we’ll call her jane.

jane’s five closest friends are two engineers at google, an engineer at eventbrite, an architect, and her father (which is so cute), who is the president of a national soccer team in jane’s home country.

jane graduated with a degree in business administration.  that was a mistake.  bizadmin in san francisco basically means she takes other people’s work and tries to find a use for it.

when jane moved to california, it was 2008.  the economy wasn’t on her side.  what little she chance she had at getting a job as a recent grad was thwarted by the flood of mid to higher range vets coming into the job market.  so jane did what she had to in order to make ends meet; she got a job at cvs working as a pharmacy technician.  

jane spent the next year applying for jobs in her field.  in 2009, she got a customer support role at genentech, and hated every moment of it.  job satisfaction was not in her vocabulary.  and she talked about vacations.  and she talked about what new movies were coming out. worse, she talked about celebrities.  jane was simply existing.

in late 2010, jane noticed the happiness and satisfaction her friend had with google. he talked about google, a lot.  she asked how he was so happy. the answer was simple: the tools he built helped change an industry, even the world.  the stuff he did mattered.

some light inside jane turned on around that time; she had a new mission.  she would work in technology, and she would do it as a qa engineer.  she sat down with her friends and they all helped determine the right path to get her where she wanted, if she was up to the challenge.

keep in mind, this was late 2010.  she had never written a single line of code in her life.  she didn’t know what a command line was.  she had trouble understanding her smart phone.

one of her friends at google was studying for his master’s after work.

jane followed suit and enrolled herself in the o’reilly school of technology for some crash courses on html/css/javascript.  struggling every step of the way, she poured her after work hours into learning the way of front end development and basic web page manipulation.  a few months into it, she was applying for a new job as a qa engineer.

maybe it was bold determination or simple insanity that made her apply for roles she was incredibly under-qualified for, but she was thriving on the pain of failure.  with every failed interview, she went home and studied every question that was asked to her, thoroughly ripped apart computer science topics that she never fathomed she would need to know.  as she studied, she felt that all this hard work was making her lucky.

that luck came as a black box tester for the quipster app, an iphone app that would soon come out.  she got the $50 gig, and - much like her architect friend does - immediately slapped that project on her resume.  but she was hungry for more.

her confidence was bursting as she dove into python as an after work snack, just to hold her over while she applied for more jobs.  

in early 2011, she landed a position as a full-time qa tester for a 20 person startup in san francisco.  it was official; she was living in the tech field now.  but she wasn’t coding.  she wasn’t necessarily changing an industry.  

at least jane had a foot in the door.  now she could take a break.  now she could float along and see where the company would take her.  right?

wrong.  her eventbrite friend is what one might call a brogrammer.  besides being a douche, he attends events and tries to marry engineering and his social life together in harmony.  jane decided that was a good idea.  ruby was the language of choice for qa automation in her company, so she took on the endeavor to learn ruby and apply it to watir (tool of choice).  she started going to automation meetups for selenium and watir.  soon those meetups multiplied into women’s rubyist meetups, weekly study groups, and hackathons.  

six months later, she was confident that she was ready to execute her master plan.  she applied for a company called pocketgems, and simply knocked them dead on the interview, but she didn’t necessarily want to leave her startup for pocketgems.  she just wanted to make a real difference.

with just a little guidance from her friends (she still needs to work on her negotiation skills), she leveraged the offer at pg to promote her to full qa automation engineer at her current company.  she finally got what she wanted.

today, jane doesn’t know what the celebrity gossip is.  the neural pathways that closed down during her tenure as customer support were bulldozed and paved as super highways.

in 9 months, she went from never writing code in her life, to writing code every day.  she tripled her salary.  she has job satisfaction.  the tools she solidifies helps change an industry for the better.  jane does things that matter.

ps - jane also learned how to speak chinese during these 9 months.

bottom line: if the main topic of conversation you have with your friends is not how you can better yourself, you need to get new friends.

(this post is submitted to hacker news.  if you would like to discuss, please find the comments section here.)


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