Notes from a non-techie: a New York waitress meets California tech

How the hell did I wind up in downtown LA in the middle of a tech world? The main function for my iPhone is to ‘like’ things and meddle in other people’s social media. Technology is all around us — apps, electronics, just look around you — but ask me about how it’s made and what goes into it, I’m clueless. So, no judgements as you take the journey with me, for you will find out exactly how clueless I am. These are my notes from a non-techy:

From New York bartending to California tech:

October marked the end of my thirty one year stint on Long Island, the end of my thirteen years working at the same restaurant, and never living farther than fifteen minutes from where I grew up. Los Angeles was a dream of mine: to be a west coaster and live the California dream. An opportunity arose, I packed out my car, jumped onto I-40 and was en route to a fresh start. I didn’t know a soul, had nothing lined up career-wise, no permanent place to live, but there were constant rays of sunshine. That’s enough, right? Waiting tables and bartending was second nature to me and with my teenage years of experience I thought getting a job would be a piece of cake. Instead, I was terribly mistaken, those jobs were mostly reserved for actors and since I didn’t have a headshot or an ‘in’, I was shit out of luck.

I had minimal experience in an office setting and wanted a more career-based job, so I opened the computer, spruced up my resume and started the job search. I applied to anything and everything with fingers crossed. After weeks of applying and some interviews I got a call from rhubarb studios, without a clue who they were, but I was eager to find out. After it was all said and done, I got the job. Woohoo! I was a member of society again. It was an assistant job also known as ‘the studio superhero’, for a tech company. I have no clue when it comes to tech, nothing, nada, zip — but they said that my hospitality experience was an asset, and my “love of learning” set me apart.

My start at rhubarb

My first day was like any other: nervous and absorbing everything. When asked to bring my own computer, I was immediately embarrassed. Looking around the studio everyone had up-to-date computers and gadgets. There I stood on the edge of technology with my decade-old MacBook (up until now its main function was to store my pictures). Going from slip-proof shoes to riding Onewheels was like night and day, I felt my world changing — but it was exciting. I discovered my computer is a pensive soul, with a colorful pinwheel constantly thinking. Excel sheets, shared documents and new websites flooded my computer, and I had to figure out how to use them again, all while acting like I understood this tech world.

What is tech?

When hearing the word ‘technology’ I used to think of phones and computers, maybe a gadget or two. Just a few weeks at the studio has shown me that it’s a whole other industry, something that is in everything and every business around us. I had no idea of the magnitude of it all. Your everyday life is fueled by technology, this is the world we live in, and it will only grow.

A different language

Getting into tech is like being thrown into a world with its own language, none of which I understood. My vocabulary had been narrowed down to the number 86 (in restaurant speak: “get rid of”). Behind the bar, a whole slew of terms: muddled, neat, dirty, dry, the difference between an IPA and a stout beer, and how to make a shandy. In this new tech world, I hear ‘pipeline’, ‘javascript’, ‘velocity stats’, and something about a ‘unicorn’ — and I wonder if they’re referring to a new emoji. I just smile, nod and take mental notes. Overwhelmed with new information and terms, I went through the only platform I know, to translate what people were saying: Google. I now keep a computer or phone always at-the-ready for easy translations from tech to recognizable English.

Communication

Communication at the studio is key. Every morning at 9:33, we have a community standup where the all the studio members have an opportunity to ask for help, talk about anything interesting they heard, and announce upcoming events. We then break into individual team standups where each person says what they did yesterday and what what they will do today. Learning what is happening in the studio through these standups gives helpful insight into roles and tasks of all these techies.

Community is apparent in this space and I slowly started to become a part of it, meeting many new faces all with the same goal: to create. The studio is full of entrepreneurs with a vision, who are using rhubarb’s help to launch their idea to success. It’s incredible to see the step-by-step progression and the work that goes into a simple thing (for me) like a button on a webpage. Magic is being performed and I have a front row seat. Remember, this is all new to me; the only magic I performed was making a delicious Bahama Mama, pouring a Black and Tan to perfection. Don’t get me wrong, these are great skills to have — but nowhere near the potential of solving world problems.

Environment

The tech studio environment is busy, there’s a lot of hustle but it’s different from anything else I knew. For one, I have a lunch break, where I can actually sit and eat my meal. I admit, at first it was tough for me to believe I could eat and relax, so I would scarf down my food and go back to my desk — I didn’t want people to think I have no work ethic. I quickly noticed that no one paid attention to what I was doing and no one was micro managing me. There’s a sense of trust that you will get done what you need to. Instead, we are encouraged to give our minds a break, get to know who we work with, and even play games (No Thanks! is a studio favorite) or ping pong, to revive the mind and body. The concept is a relaxed environment, a place you want to be a part of and which encourages creativity. Being at a workplace where they encourage a work-life balance relieves a lot of stress.

Community

The studio’s sense of community is really strong. There’s a lot of cross collaboration; everyone wants each other to succeed and values their opinion. I sit at my desk and can see the ideas and strategies explode from each individual as they work as a team to map out ideas. It truly is remarkable to witness. We have product updates where teams can share the progress they made and ask for feedback on what they are working on. Amazing the work that goes into something simple as picking a font, color scheme or where to put a toolbar. Working in tech allows you to tap into the community as a whole, and activate the people around you to help you find solutions.

So I’ve officially put down the jigger and entered into startup life -a New York waitress diving right into California tech.


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