Waking up from my dream job

Let’s paint a picture: Autonomy. Freedom. Calling the shots. Full control over my schedule. No management. Working in the park. Managing a $500,000 budget. Flying internationally. Being ask to speak at events. Getting asked for jobs. Being offered more money. Working in my underwear. Working at 4am. Not working at 4pm. Cooking fresh food for lunch. Eating coffee for lunch. The things I aspired to in my early twenties being my reality in my late twenties. I guess you could say I had it all.

Last week was my last official week at The Next Web. For those of you close to me, you know that this wasn’t just a paycheck, an office, a sense of security, or even just a really sweet, dope career opportunity. It was a blessing that humbled me more with every passing day. TNW has an online presence that is seen by millions all over the globe, and a physical presence large enough to gather 30,000 hyped up fans to one of the most jaw-dropping business festivals you could imagine.

I came along two years ago to see what we could create together in North America and while we made huge strides, there’s still a lot of work to be done. It hurts to let go knowing what could have been, but I have no doubt they’ll find what’s meaningful and successful to them. While the reality of business means I can’t go on shaping vibes for TNW, I’m excited to watch the team continue to invite the world’s best tech leaders, creative innovators, and boundary pushers to their events. Among so many valuable lessons, the one that knocks hardest, the syrup to my Stroopwaffle or the herring to my cracker (TNW is a Dutch company btw) is experiencing first-hand HOW they do it. TNW has created a brand so lively and inviting by simply being themselves. I must admit, I was excited about the work but agreeing to join them was more about who they are than what they do.

It’s a bold move. Creating a brand that really doesn’t give too many fucks. But where this letting go of expectations happens is where they create so much space to give all that heart.

I am sad to let go because I worked hard and courageously to build a sense of community and identity for TNW. It took a lot of time and energy from me — I was the first full-time hire to grow events and community in this market — but by saving grace, I was followed a couple months later by Rey, who became my brother and my work Buddha. I was inspired both by my internal events and sales teams, both of which sat in Amsterdam while I was in our self-proclaimed aquarium of an office in Manhattan. They were always patient with me, even when my sassy, demanding New York attitude came out. Besides my team, I was constantly given support and force from the folks in the NYC tech community that make this, at it’s best, an egoless creative space. If I called on you, you were there. You guided me in showing what New York needs, what New York wants, and that helped me learn so much about opportunities and the impacts of being leaders in presenting new technologies. You gave me an opportunity to give and you gave me buckets in return. If you’ve made a name for yourself and feel confident in your network, you know the power of giving is most electric. Moreover, if you’ve become a leader in this space you are reminded time and time again, you also have to let go.

As Director of Community & Events — North America, I tried to be as transparent and free in living out my struggles or professionally deemed imposter syndrome. This felt cumbersome at times but it kept pushing me for growth. Did you know I am just a small town, Jewish girl from Alaska who could probably school you in salmon fishing but doesn’t feel like she belongs sitting in corporate meetings telling big execs how to spend their money? I heard the doubt scream loud and often, making me want to run away with too much caffeine, over exercising, drinks, sugar, or whatever numbing means were available. But the best moves I made were always inviting that doubt in close so I could understand it and sort it out. Or better yet, putting whatever issues and problems I felt aside, and focusing on finding a connection with those around me. When we let go of problems and make connection priority, the problem suddenly disappears and we soon forget why we ever felt so out of place.

I called an event Momentum thinking I could get people to buy into my idea that WE MUST INSPIRE MORE VULNERABILITY and safe spaces in the workplace. Together we learned a lot about rebranding, and how to tell a story. And with courage, thousands of you showed up. The message was simple, if we want to create happier employees from top down and bottom up we must lead by example. I truly believe that if we make changes for ourselves, we create space for others to change. In the end, we are all the same. We all struggle and we all want to feel loved and supported. Why not help each other manifest those desires?

We got the founders of Foursquare, Reddit, Duolingo, Refinery29, Slack, Cindy Gallop, Kickstarter & so many more tech startup celebrities to brace the stage and tell their story of when things got tough and how they persevered. We saw that we can only stand so much bullshit until we realize that the only way we’ll ever find job satisfaction is if we’re honest with others and, most importantly, with ourselves. Have we defined our own values and figured out what matters to us? If so, we can move on to being helpful and courageous for those who aren’t quite there.

Among many things I loved about working for a Dutch company, like trips to Amsterdam, the cheese, wild hip hop parties, and the CHEESE (I’ll miss that most #cryface), one of the things I came to embrace is that the Dutch tell you like it is. I don’t mean like in NY where people are in your face and willing to give you an opinion in a hot minute. Basically they say, “Hey, I love you but you’re really fucking up right now. We will give you basic survival resources, a lifeline if you need it and the means to create, but you must go out there and create what you think, from your own decisions.” This was my role. Making hard knocks, gut feeling decisions while relying on no one but myself for validation. It was wild, super uncertain and an imminent fall from a high cliff but it was also the kind of freedom and comfort that allowed me to push myself and my colleagues further. We created something impressive from our decisions and then we stood back and watched. That’s the magic of events.

I didn’t know that this was going to be the end of the road and while it happened sooner than I’d imagined, I can’t help but feel a lot of sadness coupled with the feeling of being set free. I’ve been gifted two impressively fine years to become a badass warrior and I’m forever grateful for that. The moment I found out we would have to part ways wasn’t just sad for me, but for a lot of my friends in the organization. Which, humble brag, I’d count about 60+ people in our general Slack out of 80. I can also honestly say that I had an authentic and meaningful moment with all 60+. That’s out of nearly 80 folks all together, some of which are TNW owned companies and not even TNW staff. I got to witness some hyper growth and still remained extra curious about whoever joined. As I depart, I say to myself, how damn lucky can one person be, to exit an opportunity, relationship, and experience not out of desperation but out of feeling and living at one hundred percent capacity.

I was able to do it all because I was in an organization that trusted me to be open and show up as myself. We came together two years ago to see what we could create, and while we are reminded that business is business and it will have its ups and downs, the one constant is our integrity to honor what’s best for ourselves and to respect and appreciate those around us. We did all that, and that’s why we celebrate this deflated balloon, or rather we let it go and watch it float up gracefully onto its next destination.

We celebrate because we do the best we can with what we know. If anyone asks anything more from you, I think all you can really do is smile, shoulder shrug, and move on. The world doesn’t owe us anything, but if we want to show up, give into courage, and let go of some expectation, I guarantee we will reap unfathomable rewards. Find validation for yourself and be determined and relentless to make it happen. I promise, if anything big changes, your resilience will allow you to get high off of gratitude. You did what you could and you gave it your all. That is heart. That is why we must learn to let go.

So, what’s next? I’m flattered you’re so curious. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see where that balloon lands. :)

Peace out TNW. It’s been one magical sunset of a ride. Hope your balloons make it to the moon.