Following the Headlights

Reflections on my sabbatical and some news on what’s next

Kuan Luo
Kuan Luo
Feb 4 · 4 min read
Street in Kochi, India

Seven months ago, I quit my job and started a six-month-long sabbatical with a loose plan. I wanted to volunteer with animals, learn to dance and sing, travel to remote places, deepen my meditation practice, and write more often.

I had no idea what would be the next, but one thing was clear: stay as far away from tech as possible. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled in my career as a design lead at startups, and I suspected the tech industry was the problem. So I dreamed of applying my skill set to a completely industry such as hospitality and tourism for a change.

My sabbatical took me around the world — from Ecuador to France to India. I volunteered in an equine-assisted therapy program for autistic children, and went on a meditation retreat for two weeks. I didn’t follow through on learning to dance and sing, but I published a blog post every week for four months and moved my homebase from New York City to Salt Lake City.

I also launched For the Women Retreat, an offline experience where women leaders in tech could connect, share experiences, and pool resources to help each other grow.

It was something I desired when I was working in tech and never found, so I decided to build it. Plus, I got to taste what working in the hospitality industry was like. Last October, a group of us ladies met in Québec for the first retreat and the experience proved the importance of seeking and building such a community of connected minds.

One of the things I love the most about building For the Women Retreat has been that I got to discover many other like-minded communities aiming for this very mission, such as Leap by Cadran and Hustle Crew by Abadesi.

The more the three of us talked, the more obvious it was that we should work together, using our complimentary skills to make our shared vision real — building the most powerful network for women in tech. Software is more scalable, at least at the beginning, than in-person experiences, so we decided to lean into our strengths and focus on software first with the hope of introducing offline experiences such as a retreat later.

Introducing Elpha

In the past few months, we’ve been tinkering at what this network for women in tech could look like, using Leap as the foundation. And I’m very excited to announce that Elpha, the springboard for women to excel in tech, launched today!

If you identify as a woman or non-binary individual, and work in tech (or hope to in the future), you can join Elpha today. We want Elpha to be the go-to resource for women in tech to access industry experts, learn from peers, and find answers to their most pressing personal and professional questions and, of course, make lasting friendships.

Bloomberg wrote a nice piece on our launch, and you can read about it here.

We chose the name Elpha by riffing on the word alpha and the idea that we wanted to create a place where women come first. We combined alpha with the French word for she (“Elle”) to create ellepha. We shortened it to elpha from there. Plus, the .com URL was available. :)

Connecting the dots

Looking backward, the journey from taking a break from tech only to dive back in and co-found Elpha seven months later made perfect sense. I left the tech industry knowing there is a missing piece to the puzzle of my career fulfillment, and I blamed the industry for it.

But the truth was, I needed purpose, something that I can reach and fulfill using technology as a tool rather than seeing it as a blocker. I itched for responsibility beyond just leading design in a company. And as much as I loved hospitality and its intricacy, I appreciate the simplicity and the forgiveness of technology more.

During my sabbatical, I found my purpose with For the Women Retreat and I’m so excited to be a co-founder of Elpha, building software to propel women in tech forward.

If my experience in the past few months is any indication, finding your purpose is like driving at night. You might not see the destination when you start the journey, but somehow you will get there by following the headlights.

Join Elpha, or share it with the women in tech you know: We’re on Twitter and Instagram @joinelpha.

Back and Forth

Every week, Kuan writes about life, travel, meditation, design and stories you inspire her to tell. She is building @ftwretreat, and has previously led design at CockroachDB, Etsy, Grand St, Washington Post, and Objective Subject.

Kuan Luo

Written by

Kuan Luo

Designer-turned-entrepreneur. @joinelpha, @ftwretreat, etc. Always traveling.

Back and Forth

Every week, Kuan writes about life, travel, meditation, design and stories you inspire her to tell. She is building @ftwretreat, and has previously led design at CockroachDB, Etsy, Grand St, Washington Post, and Objective Subject.