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My 10 favorite photos from living in Europe

Please note this does not necessarily mean favorite moments, but 10 images I've looked back at and loved. I'll show you my 10 favorite images, like in America's Next Top Model, in no particular order:

Eiffel Tower (Paris, France)
April in Paris

Split, Croatia
Scenic view of the harbor city of Split, Croatia

Luxembourg Park (Paris, France)
Reading with Parisians at Luxembourg Park.

Paris, France
The Parisian Promise of one day, returning to retrieve their locks.

Amelie Cafe (Paris, France)
The cafe in Amelie in Montmartre.

Barcelona, Spain
Harbor in Barcelona

Plaza de Catalunya (Barcelona)
In the midst of political unrest, children are playing.

Mallorca
The clearest ocean water I've seen in my life.

Notre Dame Cathedral (Paris, Spain)
The back of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Medjugorje, Bosnia
A sign of hope in Bosnia.


How I changed careers, and what it takes

I often get emails or comments from people, saying "Oh, I'm so jealous you get to travel, work on your own projects, etc." Are they really? The reality is it took a lot of work to get there, and there is still a lot of work to be done. This blog post is not professional advice or consulting, but a mere glimpse into the road I took to get to this point.

Changing industry and building a new resume

In 2008 I quit my job as a marketing manager at a local non-profit. This was when President Bush announced we were in a recession. I didn't get laid off, I quit because I did not want to be in this industry anymore. I wanted to build web applications, learn code and design for interactive. Print was dead to me. Like Master Yoda said, I had to unlearn what I had learned.

My degree was in drawing and painting and I had a few years of experience as an administrative assistant and marketing. How the Hell was I going to convince the tech industry that I'm legit? The solution for me was to create a new persona—a true one. I needed to become someone who could design, code and was knowledgeable in the field. Something art taught me was that you could talk and talk all you want, but in the end, people want to see the portfolio of what you have actually done.

I was unemployed with no savings. I remember saying aloud to myself, "Well, time to figure this shit out."

I got some books about HTML, CSS, PHP and Javascript and relied heavily on some of my really good friends who were developers to pick their brain about their craft. Oh man, if @sxtxixtxcxh and @raid5 had a nickel for every time I asked a question, they'd be worth more than LinkedIn by now.

Now I needed to find a place where I could sit with my computer and really study. My neighbor Megan suggested, "You should check out Zoka Coffeee in Green Lake. You could walk or take the bus there and just work."

Unlearned. Now time to learn.

For three months straight (if not longer after I found a job) I went to the gym each morning and walked to Green Lake to go to Zoka. I remember the first day walking in—felt like a black sheep. Everyone seemed to know each other and it was packed! I quietly sat down at one of the comfy chairs in the middle and started reading. I spent 6-10 hours each day reading, writing code based on what I read and sketching. My test site was my personal website, which at the time was static HTML/CSS—finally was converted to PHP, then Wordpress, then PHP and many other iterations.

The more I learned, the more people I met there. It became a community of inspiration for me—a place where I could go and focus on the work. I definitely owe a lot of what I've learned to that place. If you'd never been, I highly recommend it. No, I wasn't paid to say that.

Somewhere along the way, I no longer became an administrative assistant or marketer on my resume, but a designer and front-end developer. You need to literally transform yourself, in what you know, what you can do, and who inspires you.

In July I received a phone call from ExactTarget. The Indianapolis-based company wanted to interview me for a remote position based in Seattle. After weeks of interviews, they made me an offer. I jumped in without knowing much, but decided to accept the offer. It sounded like a great opportunity. The question I remember, "how do you feel about traveling to Indianapolis once in a while?"

Uh...what?

Being an independent team member

In August I flew out to Indianapolis for New Employee Orientation. I have a job! I never really traveled much on my own before. In fact, the only time I could recall traveling alone was to South Bend to interview for admission in the fine arts program at the University of Notre Dame. I was the 3rd choice out of two available spots! That, is another story!

My mom bought me a suitcase, picked up Wilson and I was off to Indy for a week. I wasn't sure what I would be doing. The only thing I knew was that it was with email (which I had experience with) and some consulting work. When I heard some of the brands I was going to work for, I was stoked! Wow, never in my life did I think I would be able to step in and do this work. I would soon learn it was definitely baptism by fire! During orientation I met so many talented people, including one of my best friends Rob. It was a bit intimidation at first. As we went through the class, everyone was talking about all these great companies they worked for. Me? Oh, I did some freelance work and non-profit work.

The pace was so quick. I think I my job description changed three times before I even started working and changed bosses like that. I absolutely loved the pace. Here was a company that entrusted their employees to get the job done. Their mentality: hire determined people with talent and let them do their thing. My old boss was a huge micro-manager, so this environment was different. They basically did some email intros and sent me back to Seattle to start working with my client.

I worked for ExactTarget for about two years and gained confidence in my ability in working with clients of this magnitude and traveling alone, eating alone, and doing things alone. After a while I resigned from ET, which is still one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make in my life. I became passionate in User Experience Design, building web apps and had a desire to travel and work remotely.

I decided to go self-employed.

Going self-employed: diving in head first

Let me say this first-off: there is NEVER a good time to become self-employed. It's like waiting for the tides to be perfect. Sometimes you have to just take the chance and ride that wave that you choose. That's what happened with me. This resignation was not like the first. I planned and really thought out what sort of work I wanted to do, had some prospects lined up and it was just a matter of execution.

It took two months of work before it was time to form a company, Xhatch Interactive. Who did I form it with? My friend @raid5! It is so nice to come full circle in some ways. The person who taught me so much about the industry is now a collaborator.

I am writing this post as I am taking a break from doing client work in Barcelona, Spain. I'm not quite where I want to be, but feel like I have a career and direction I'm working towards.

Moral of the story

Finding a job is NOT EASY!!! I think there is a perception, with the rise of new media, that you can connect with contacts you know, network and find work. Sure, it helps, but once you boil the Klout and brand down, you have the foundation of your skills and experiences. Always rely on that. I probably applied to 250 jobs, including ones out of my industry as I got desperate before I was called upon to work for ExactTarget.

My encouragement to you, if you're looking for a job or something different: pull out all the stops. If you don't know the skills, learn them. If you need help, find a mentor. If I can help you somehow, contact me.

Keep learning. Keep being inspired. Keep being curious.


Ichi-go Ichi-e. One Encounter. One Opportunity

Ichi-go ichi-e (一期一会, literally "one time, one meeting") is a Japanese term that describes a cultural concept often linked with famed tea master Sen no Rikyu. The term is often translated as "for this time only," "never again," or "one chance in a lifetime."

This Zen Buddhist saying was adapted by Samurai culture: you cannot get any moments back. The lesson being that you should make them all count. It’s a good lesson. One encounter with their enemy, one opportunity to make a strike. The outcome of that one action can determine the fate of his life. It's quite a beautiful saying. Similar is Japanese style painting, who take one swift brush stroke. The mark they make is forever embedded on the paper.

This is by far one of my favorite sayings ever, and I try my best to live my life this way.

I'm not a "regrets" kind of person. Of course I regret things. I think anyone who says they don't regret anything is lying to everything, especially themselves. That said, I have accepted my mistakes and missed opportunities in the past. Those marks have been made.

Now we have to make the most of it. We cannot change what has already passed through time, but we can make more marks on the paper to take a mistake and turn it into something beautiful.

I live my life very fast. I cannot wait, and I cannot hesitate. One hesitation can be the difference between a life changing experience and a missed opportunity.

One encounter. One opportunity.


Reading in the midst of inspiration

Inspiration is vital to a creative person—or any person for that matter. Barcelona, Spain is one of the most inspiring places I've been to. Perhaps it is the layers of history that has created such a vast resource of creativity. The United States has only been a few hundred years old, so we have a lot of catching up to do. We'll get there, I'm sure of it.

This photo is of one of my favorite places. It's a small park behind Sagrada Familia. It's no bigger than 1000 sq ft but has a pond that is surrounded by park benches. I sat here to get inspired, whether it was reading a book on my kindle, looking at the massive Modernist church in the background or people watching.

I ended up reading here for about three hours before it started raining and I walked back to my apartment.

I have a feeling this place will be a moment of realization and inspiration as I reflect upon my life when it is all said and done.

Sagrada Familia


I want to build cathedrals

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A day where I woke up at 3pm turned out to become one of the most inspiring days ever. I’ve had a really hard time sleeping in Barcelona and usually turn in around 5am each morning…yes, morning. My flexible work schedule and friends back home (timezone difference) are the reasons I think I’m staying up late.

I decided to spend the day in Gracia (which is my favorite neighborhood) to grab some food and walk around. Little did I realize I was so close to Sagrada Familia, arguably Antoni Gaudi’s most famous work. I quickly finished my tapas and worked my way over there.

I didn’t even need my GPS to know where I was…just followed the giant spires over the horizon. When I got there I was blown away. I’ve seen my share of Gothic and Baroque buildings, but never seen a Spanish Modernist church before. It looked like if minimalism and Baroque had a baby!

It took two hours for me to completely experience the structure and I even went up to the top. Here’s the thing I realized…

I want to build cathedrals.

Yes, I realize that Sagrada Familia is actually a basilica, but “I want to build basilicas” is a bit more ambiguous! Just roll with it, k?

This is the analogy I’m telling my colleagues at Xhatch. We need to build web apps as cathedrals. I am now convinced that Gaudi is one of the greatest User Experience Designers ever. Every element has been considered in how it’s made and what the user is supposed to feel in that instance. This is how applications should work too.

The other aspect is the quality and craftsmanship a cathedral takes. Now when I work on code for an app, I’m going to refine and refine, similar to those marble stairs I saw.

Every little detail has been considered.

I have never been so inspired in such a long time, and I will dedicate my life to build cathedrals, whether it is in the form of a web app or some other aspect of my life.

Thank you, Antoni Gaudi.


So, when are you actually going to do it?

This isn't a rant.

Maybe. I'm not sure.

I am certain that I'm not calling out anyone in particular, but everyone in general—if it applies.

The new media of social sharing allows us to read some amazing things. Take the death of Osama bin Laden for example. So many people found the story on Twitter, except my friend Steve, who found out from Geraldo Rivera. It also allows us to see things in "preview" and before they develop...almost too much.

How often do you or someone you know seem to say "I have big things in the works" only to realize that you haven't done sh*t? I'm certainly guilty of it. In a "tweet first and think later" this is definitely possible. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad thing. In fact, this can be great. It's like calling a shot or the "we're going to make the playoffs" statement in social media. It holds you accountable to do what you say you're going to do.

Here are some things I think about before I talk about doing it:

  • Why the Hell are you talking about it vs. actually doing it?
  • Do you need to talk about it?
  • What's the benefit of talking about it before you do?

Don't get me wrong, there are sometimes reasons you talk about something—to gauge an audience or discover things. Sometimes...it's just noise. I love Nike's brand because they promote a lifestyle of action. I absolutely love this billboard:

There is a dream I want to pursue but I have put it on ice for the last few years because of my current ambitions and my lack of knowledge in the industry. What am I going to do? I downloaded some books on my Kindle and am going to study until I can do it.

So I ask you my friends...what is it that you want to do, and when are you actually going to do it?

"I know it's easy to imagine but it's easier to just do. See, if you can't do what you imagine, then what is imagination to you?" —Kid Cudi, Enter Galactic (Man on the Moon)


My social media workout plan

This kind of started as a joke, but I think I'm going to do it.

I used to be a very fit person when I played football, basketball and ran track in high school. Now it seems like I'm too busy with work and watching Star Wars to get exercise in. However, I have lost a significant amount of weight while in Europe from all the walking and other basic exercises. The news about Arnold Schwarzennegger's divorce made me sad, but it also reminded me of how he was (or is) such a great advocator for health. What did AH-NOLD teach me as a kid? Simply do pushups, situps, squats and jumping jacks.

It's better than doing nothing.

Since I use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram so much, I thought I'd put together a little regiment:

  • 10 pushups per organic tweet. (@replies and aggregated content does not count)
  • 10 calf raises per Twitter @ reply.
  • 10 lunges per Twitter retweet.
  • 10 jumping jacks per Foursquare checkin.
  • 20 situps per Facebook status update.
  • 15 squats per Instagram photo.

If I exceed my API limit for the hour, then I have to go run until I'm out of Twitter Jail!

If I'm not at my house, I'm going to tally the amount of posts and do the exercises later. I just don't know if it's a good idea to start busting out pushups on the bus, or at someone's wedding. Yes, I tweet during weddings.

What do you think?


I love you Paris, but it's time for Barcelona

DSCN1213

As I'm packing a box of items to ship back to the United States, I can't help but sit in disbelief that I've been in Paris for weeks and that it is time to move on. The City of Lights is a city I can always call home, and someday might call it home—permanently. Here are a few things I did:

  • Retraced my steps from my last visit (2005) on the first night.
  • Stayed with one of my best friends and collaborated on projects together. This is what I want—to be able to travel and work.
  • Randomly meet up with my friends Lorraine, Rachel and Vivian to have coffee or hang out.
  • Revisit stores and get to know the people living in the Marais.
  • Converse with Parisians in French.
  • Visited the Apple Store four times. This was actually not cool because it was about replacing my MacBook Air, which died.
  • Had a MacBook Pro shipped from the United States.
  • Went to the top of the Eiffel Tower...and took a picture of Darth Vader.
  • Tried to roller blade from Bastille to the Eiffel Tower...failing miserably, but tried nonetheless.
  • Sat outside at cafes to people watch and read my new Chuck Klosterman book.
  • Be able to stay in and not say "Oh man, I'm in Paris. I need to go out every night." The fact was that I lived there and there was no rush.
  • Take naps daily.
  • Went to Easter Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral.
  • Eat a bunch of cheese.
  • Read all the notes in Shakespeare & Company.

That's some of the things I did...probably a bunch I'm missing. The reality is I have to go back to Paris in about a month to pick up the repaired MacBook Air, but it definitely won't be the same. I am so thankful to have made so many friends during this trip, revisit friendships and have solid conversations.

I got what I want, which was just to be a Parisian for a while. It was so pleasant to sit at a cafe, ask for the WIFI (pronounced "wee fee") an forget where I was. I've really discovered my home. No, it's not Seattle, Washington. Home is where I am at with my friends, whether they were people I was Skyping with in San Francisco or physically with me. Location is overrated and people use it as an excuse.

Tomorrow I'm getting on the plane and going to Barcelona, Spain. In my continual quest to simplify, I am sending back a box of gifts and other items I don't need to try to lighten up my backpack. Yes, I only packed one backpack and still am wearing ONE pair of shoes. Count them ladies, one pair of shoes for an indefinite trip.

How long am I going for? As always, the answer is...

I don't know.

My traveling theme song is "Voyager" by Daft Punk, who are from Paris. Here's another remix of this amazing song/lifestyle.