Updated: Jan 15, 2020
A lot can happen in 10 years. A lot of ups and downs, wins and losses, and most important lessons learned. In this post, I’m sharing some of my favorite moments from this decade and some of my biggest lessons learned along the way. My hope is that some of my experiences inspire growth in your own journeys through this amazing opportunity called life.
2010: I quit my job at Home Depot, graduated with a bachelor’s degree at age 20, and started working on my master’s degree. This was the beginning of my #grindhard era. My biggest realization here was that it was only the beginning for me. Growth and learning became an addiction, and I wanted more.
2011: One day, I got a call officially offering me an internship with a Fortune 100 company. I’ll never forget that moment. I was with my family at my sisters’ house when I got the call. We all cried our butts off. It was the beginning of a new era – the Corporate America good money era. My biggest lesson there was that someone believed in my value and was willing to pay up for it. I was going to be okay. I was going to make it.
2012: I graduated with a master’s degree at age 22, and accepted a full-time offer at United Airlines where I had interned. My biggest realization here was that hard work pays off. And that, I could party my butt off and still handle my business, which I did that entire year lol. 😉
2013: I jumped out of my comfort zone and moved to Chicago. Up until this point, I had lived in Houston my entire life. I had no family or friends in Chicago. And for some reason, that excited me. My biggest realization here was that I am powerful enough to survive on my own. I had lived on my own in Houston for years before moving, but this was different. This was real independence to me. This was also the year I started my Ph.D. program. After being told I lacked common sense and was ditzy my whole life, this is when I was actually starting to believe that I was smart. Took long enough. 😊
2014: I took my first solo trip outside of the United States. I went to Paris and fell in love with the adventure of solo travel. I wandered around a country where I didn’t speak the local language, didn’t know how to get around (no Uber at the time), didn’t know what to expect, and didn’t have a plan. In the process of figuring it out, I felt so powerful and liberated. I felt brave. I felt larger than life. My realization here was that international solo travel is one of the most empowering feelings ever.
2015: And then everything changed. This was one of the worst eras of my life. I had my first close sting of death and lost my cousin, who is like a little sister to me. Still hard to accept, but I have no choice. She always explained how proud she was of me in ways that made me laugh so hard. I kept my sanity knowing that I was and still am making her proud and that she’s eternally cracking jokes about it. This was right in the middle of my Ph.D. program. I still remember sitting in the back of Starbucks trying to do my research with shades on and a box of tissues. Giving up wasn’t an option, no matter how much pain I was in. Just as I started to be a little okay, I got hit with another blow. Up until this point, I had also been in an eight year relationship with what I thought was the love of my life at the time. And then a pregnant girl surfaced. I found out just a few hours before I was to walk on stage and give the biggest speech of my career to date. I was in shambles. I felt so broken, tired, and defeated. So much had happened in that eight years, I don’t know where to begin. I’ll share those lessons one day when I am ready. Needless to say this was my breaking point. In essence, it felt like another sting of death. Like a huge part of me that I simply had to let die, in order to truly live again. The lesson here, the best thing about hitting rock bottom is that you can only go up from there.
2016: This year, my life exploded. I embarked on a journey of self-love and self-nurturing. I chose my own happiness and sanity over anything else. I focused on facing all of the things that were weighing me down including childhood trauma that I had tried so hard to forget. All of those thoughts I’d avoided my entire life by drowning them out with alcohol and food (intense stuff I will share when I am ready), this year, I faced them head-on. It was hard, but this was the tipping point. 😊 This year, I graduated with my Ph.D. at 27 and became the youngest student and first African American woman to do so. I also became the Vice President of Gen Trend, something I initially failed at during that down downhill 2015 era. The lesson here, out of the fire and ashes, rises a beautiful phoenix.
2017: This year was all the way up. I got the biggest promotion of my career, reporting directly to the Chief Information Security Officer. I made the Chicago Business Crain’s Tech 50 list and started getting feature requests for interviews. I was doing international presentations. I launched my site to continue sharing my journey and inspiring others. I spent more time than I had in a while with my loved ones. It was an amazing year. The biggest realization here was that sometimes it takes falling, to stand taller than ever before.
2018: The fun continued this year. I made the Chicago Business Crain’s under 30 list, got invited to my first Forbes Under 30 Summit, hit my 30 countries under 30 goal, and made monumental shifts in my career as a leader. I started scholarship programs, organized more volunteer events, and focused a lot more on giving back. The realization here is that as I climb, it’s important to reach back and pull up as many others as possible. The same way someone pulled me up as they climbed.
2019: This was another pivotal year. I drove the launch of even more community impact programs, got invited to speak at the Wall Street Journal as a cyber security pro (insane!), did news segments with Cheddar news and MyStart TV, and much more. Great things happened, however, I felt stagnant. The things I was doing, no matter how great, became comfortable. I felt like I could do more, and every fiber of my being told me that it was time to leap and get uncomfortable again. And so I did. I left my very lucrative and fulfilling career at United Airlines, to embark on a new journey as the Founder and CEO of my own cyber security startup. The realization here is that no matter how great things seem, there is no growth in comfort.
2020: Y’all ready?