Start a business, up your quality of life

A.k.a. How I left Microsoft and Seattle Children’s Hospital to run a self-doubt factory–er I mean a business.

Look, I’m not gonna mince words here. Being an entrepreneur is fucking hard and terrifying. Finding all of your own work, being the sole decision maker behind a company, and doing something well enough to get paid for it by strangers, none of that’s easy. The list of responsibilities stretches on even though the hours don’t, and often you have less to show for it than you’d like.

But dear god it’s worth it.

Let me go back a few steps, back to the beginning of my professional meandering. I studied both web design and web development in college, so I was doomed to second-guess myself from the very beginning. My first post-school gig was an iOS developer (with not a lot of iOS experience, mind you) at a tiny startup in downtown Orlando. I learned a ton, and gained some experience into what running a startup can be like.

Even then, I was already researching and planning the next step: moving to Seattle. A combination of a vibrant tech industry, young and modern culture, laid-back way of life, and ample coffee serenaded me into moving here, and I’ve never looked back. I happily switched coasts to be farther from the tourists I’d grown up around, and closer to the pine tree filled mountains of my daydreams.

When I got to Seattle, I interviewed around until I got a contract job at Microsoft working on Windows Phone (ha remember that?).

The sense of guilt and lack of life I developed there over the next three years was second to none.

I decided to trade a heavy purse for a full heart; I chose to pursue healthcare as a way of doing social good and contributing towards society. I got into a master’s program in Healthcare Informatics and took a pennies-paying job scanning medical records at Seattle Children’s Hospital. There I realized two things: holy shit healthcare is inefficient at every possible level, and I definitely do not like having to do useless things.

Then the cogs started to turn. If healthcare is in need of modernizing, and clearly that isn’t coming from within the industry, then why not do it from the outside-in?

So I started a business to do just that.

I started Coastal, a design and development agency (hey, the web is what I know, ok?), and here we are! Trying to pivot towards healthcare business-to-business and consulting work, all while keeping the lights on doing design and development.

The ability to choose your own adventure, every single day, is a thrill everyone should try at least once. The small niceties of being able to run an errand at 2:30 in the afternoon, of being able to expand your experiences and try new things, make the strife worth it. Importantly my two criteria, autonomy and genuinely helping people, are both present in spades.

I wrote this partly to remind myself why I set out to do this. Sometimes the going gets tough and even tough people need to remind themselves why exactly am I doing this again? I didn’t used to have so many things to do in a day…

It’s hard. It’s worth it. Keep pushing, every single day.