Julie Ann Horvath
Julie Ann Horvath is a designer and frontend developer at &yet. She likes to think of herself as an open source advocate with a big heart for making mockups in markup. She spends a lot of her time speaking at conferences and volunteering to teach (more) women to code.
She's also the creator and organizer of Passion Projects, a monthly talk series designed to help surface and celebrate the work of incredible women in the tech industry.
Whenever the direction of my life changes, there is a specific moment in my past that I remember, and that I feel.
In my last Pastry Box thought, I want to share that moment with all of you.
5 years ago, I was admitted to the University of San Francisco as a 3rd year student. While I had a good chunk of scholarship money to put toward my tuition, I needed to take out some pretty heavy hitting student loans to attend the university and finish my degree.
Truth be told, I was lucky to even be able to apply for student loans because I didn’t qualify on my own and neither of my parents qualified as co-signers. One of my mom’s good friends with a good salary and shiny credit history took pity on my dwindling future and threw me a bone in the form of a high-risk, high-interest co-sign.
I applied for just enough to cover tuition and student housing and was granted the loans.
By the time school started, I had lucked out (again) and was assigned to live in a shared student housing apartment, on campus, with 3 other upperclassmen. And I mean, I was feeling extra blessed to have even been admitted to student housing as an upperclassman. Those spots are usually only reserved for international and graduate students. But without student housing, I would have been stranded somewhere deeeeep in the East Bay, living with slightly estranged family members, and doing the 2-hour commute (both ways) had I not won the draw.
Once the semester began, I started looking for a part-time job in San Francisco (which if you know anything about SF is incredibly hard to do without any connections whatsoever). But, I had to pay back any loan interest I accrued while in school, so there were monthly payments to cover. And well, I had to eat.
A small note: I have often been discouraged from talking about the hardship I’ve experienced before starting my career, mostly by people who can’t relate to it. I find this weird, because for better or worse, it’s shaped me completely.
There was a month there, before finding a job, that I had five dollars left to my name, to live off of. A literal five dollar bill. I held onto that thing like it was glued to my fingertips. I mean, I was stealing tampons out of school bathrooms. If there were none, I was making my own. Oh, to be a woman.
I didn’t know anyone in San Francisco (yet) and I had trouble asking for help at a school whose students were, for the most part, incredibly affluent and certainly not hiding it. I watched a student drive a Ferrari two blocks from his home to class every Monday while I waited for my bus.
I felt alone for being different, for even experiencing hardship.
I wasn’t afraid. But I was ashamed. And my mother had taught me never to grovel. So instead, in the middle of the night I would very quietly sneak into our apartment kitchen and sneak small pieces of food from my roommates’s leftovers in the fridge. I was living on things they wouldn’t miss, like a single cheeto or a piece of cheese. Now that I think about it, mostly cheese and cheese byproducts.
Knowing the people I was living with now, I realize I could have asked. But I also understood then, as much as I do now, that how other people perceive you is a big part of whether or not you succeed in life. And that fitting in is a huge part of that success. Startup life would lead you to believe that things haven’t changed much since college.
I eventually found a job that a computer program could have easily managed and somehow turned that into a fortuitous opportunity at a (then) small tech company. An opportunity that would eventually become a full time job that I’d leave school for. Peter Thiel would be so f-ing proud.
My life is very different now. I’m incredibly lucky. But that doesn’t stop me from reliving that experience. A full fridge still feels like the best form of success to me.
But I promise you, every single time that I’m pushed away from stable ground, my mind immediately goes to that place and into survival mode. And I think about the time I used to quietly pick peppers off of leftover pizza in the dark.
Having this last year to really think about what environment I want to be in and redefine what success really means to me outside of the scope of startuplandia has pushed me to start a new chapter in my life.
Above anything else, I want to be responsible for my own success, as well as my failure. So today, on my 26th birthday (woo!), I start my solo journey as a full-time freelance designer. I am so looking forward to the hustle, to working with teams who see value in the things I have to offer, and to doing work I’m proud of for people I believe in.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this thought, this is my last post on the Pastry Box. And I want to say thank you to the Pastry Box team for giving me a platform to voice my thoughts and share them with the world. Love y'all.
Life By Design
“Do you use Design Thinking in your day to day life? And if so, how?”
This immediately reminded me of a sketch I had drawn in my notebook a few months prior to speaking on this panel.
Pictured above is a poorly drawn illustration of my “heart”. The pieces carved out and aptly labeled are the things and people that are most important to me. They give me a reason to fight for the things I believe in, for The Way Things Should Be™. They're my drive, my passion, and the things and people I want to be closer to and surround myself with.
It's cliche, but life does move really quickly. We get caught up in the motion of our day to day routines and forget to take a step back and reflect on who we are and how we've grown.
Sometimes we just need a reminder of what we're living for.
So, I challenge you to take a moment (right now) and jot down what these things are for you. When you're struggling to keep your head above water or you just need a reminder of who you are, you'll have a neat little list or drawing in that fancy notebook of yours to remind you.
Pro-tip: If you're forgetful (like me), set a few calendar reminders in both the near and distant future to remind you to check-in with yourself, with the things that make you you.
No one is immune to criticism. But every person is entitled to his or her truth.
Because the Internet
I’m about to tell you things you already know but should acknowledge more often.
The Internet is a beautiful thing.
In a series of tweets and other small (but big) online interactions that can only be categorized as slightly embarrassing missteps in the right direction, I’ve met humans I look up to and/or have admired from afar, I’ve found new and exciting career opportunities, made new friends and exchanged plenty-o-gifs with people all over the world, and on my darkest days, I’ve even managed to make a few enemies.
That said, somehow, I’ve always managed to be myself. I’ve always done me. And I can never quite find the humility to be ashamed of that.
Because of the Internet, the world is so much smaller. Through it we’re all observers, journalists, reporting on what’s going on around us, on the world as we see it. And because it exists, so do we. On the Internet, we all have voices. Sometimes we just have to find them. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like your voice, on the Internet or otherwise, isn’t valuable.
The Internet is and always will be what you make it.
Go out into the Internet and find people like you, or not like like you, but either way find your people. Find people who will point you toward the answers you’re looking for, instead of tearing you down for not having found them yet.
“Life is about making friends” popped into my stream of consciousness (and also twitter) the other day. And I thought “Why should the Internet be any different?”
Make some friends. And then build things that the world needs with people you love. People you will certainly meet while being yourself, while “doing you,” while being unpolished, unapologetic.