This is a slightly modified version of my Etsy last lecture, given September 9, 2019 during my last week at Etsy. Last lectures are an (optional) Etsy tradition in which departing employees share parting wisdom with their coworkers. There aren’t really any rules, prescribed topics, or required levels of polish for a last lecture; it’s up to the lecturer to decide what they think is important to share during their hour. I decided to share some raw thoughts about dealing with challenges, and thought I’d share it here with you.
At my very first job, every employee had to take the Strengthsfinder quiz. The quiz is a series of statements that you agree or disagree with, and at the end of the quiz you get a list of your top 5 strengths. The idea is that by identifying your strengths, it sets you up to maximize them at work. At the top of my list was Achiever.
I cry pretty easily. Crying is emotional relief for me and is usually a sign of stress or feeling overwhelmed. It’s not always a bad thing, either; I cry at commercials, at weddings, while watching Grey’s. But usually if I’m crying, it’s because of some kind of intense emotion.
This week the project that I had been working on for the past nine months launched to an open prototype. It was a huge undertaking. It may be the hardest project I’ve worked on. It’ll easily be the most trafficked. I’m incredibly proud of the work my fantastic team and I did. And I’m proud of myself, but for slightly different reasons.
Pricing your work is hard. Whether you’re a freelancer or you sell handmade goods, putting a value on something you’ve created is tough. It requires balancing a competitive rate with paying yourself what your time is worth, and for many people (myself included), it’s easy to undervalue your time.
Part of Etsy culture is blameless post-mortems. It’s a term I’ve heard used a lot and up until last week I thought I thoroughly understood. Etsy supports an environment of learning, people make mistakes, don’t point fingers, etc. All good things and things I believe in.
My first job in high school was at a small store in the Washington DC-area called Appalachian Spring where I sold jewelry, pottery, glass, and other crafts made by American artists. It’s at Appalachian Spring where I developed a passion for all things handmade. I credit my time there (among other sources) with my desire to support artists, which brought me to New York to work at Kickstarter over two years ago.
I can be really bad at stopping to reflect on my accomplishments, but so much has happened this year that I feel really great about. Here are some things from the past year of which I’m most proud (in no particular order):
On Thursday night, my emoji embroidery was part of the first-ever emoji pop-up market at Eyebeam Art+Technology Center in Chelsea. I had no idea what I was doing when I started. Here’s what I learned.
The last time I redid my website was almost exactly two years ago. I was ready to leave my job and needed a refreshed portfolio. (Side note: why are so many of us terrible about updating our websites unless we’re looking for a job?) It had been a bit of time since I built a website from start to finish (designers at that company weren’t allowed to touch code), and I spent a three-day weekend proudly handcoding my brand new site. It was a completely static site with no templating and probably some terribly-written CSS, but it worked.
Six months ago today I moved from a small town in southwest Virginia to New York City. I came up here with just a duffel bag, a suitcase, and a backpack. I slept on an air mattress in my friend’s living room in Bushwick for three weeks until I was able to move into an apartment in Brooklyn Heights. I sold my car, got rid of a third of my wardrobe, and moved to a city that’s basically the opposite of the place I had been living for the past six years. After working at a digital advertising agency for almost three years, I decided that I wanted to switch industries and quit my first job as an adult. To say my life has been full of changes in the past six months would be quite the understatement.