When Sam and I decided to move to Chicago from our small hometown in northern Michigan, I think a lot of people assumed that we accepted jobs with a higher salaries/pay rates. Full disclosure: this couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that we both took pretty significant pay cuts and moved to what most people consider to be a city with higher living expenses. (It turns out, this also isn’t very true. All things considered, the cost of living is pretty equivalent).
Honestly, it was scary for both of us to accept lower salaries when moving to the big city. However, in thinking about what we both wanted out of our future, we knew that we had to make a change to our lives. We had to take some risks and start chasing the other dreams living in our hearts. For Sam, this meant taking a job as a baseball analyst at a sports data company. For me, it meant becoming a part of a community that was totally new and exciting.
But I still had to find work, and it took over six months. My job search was really painful and stressful (more about that some other time). In the end, I found a place at Inventables. I started doing something entirely different than my career path so far, and I had zero experience in the industry.
I’ve been at Inventables for almost two months now, and every day I am challenged in ways I didn’t think were possible. Perhaps best of all is that I’ve fallen completely in love with both my job and my company. The startup world is totally different than I expected. An accelerated pace, constantly changing environment, and open forum for organizational feedback are all part of why I love where I work, and I’ve realized that these things are more important to me than making a ton of money. Plus, the opportunities to learn are endless and astounding.
Last week I volunteered to join my boss, CEO Zach Kaplan, at Technori. Technori gives five young startups five minutes to pitch their idea to an audience filled with entrepreneurs, investors, job-seekers, and the public community. This month’s event was focused on the Maker Movement and Zach was the keynote speaker. As someone so new to our industry, and as someone who loves networking with passionate go-getters, this seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to learn more about what my company represents from the person who founded it.
Zach and I (plus Brian, our new VP of Marketing) took an Uber to the auditorium with our latest machine, Carvey, sitting next to me. I had the honor of holding on to the tiny handle while Carvey—weighing in at nearly 150 pounds in its carrying case—slid around the back.
When we arrived, we set up Carvey in the lobby of the auditorium. Armed with a few pieces of HDPE plastic and our web-based design software, I set up Carvey to carve some demos while everyone mingled before the show. I was shocked at how much I really knew about Carvey, our products, and the capacities of our machines.
For the next hour, I found my happy place. People’s faces lit up as they watched Carvey work its magic, and I got to answer questions and inspire visitors to dream about all the things they can create with our machines. It might sound lame, but it was one of the coolest things I’ve done in a long time. I love being a part of a company bringing out the creative side of everyone, and making this technology accessible to all.
After all the buzz in the lobby, I took my spot in the auditorium and watched Zach talk about Inventables and why he founded it. Learning more about how much the company meant to him and why he’s passionate about the Maker Movement paralleled the experience I had in the lobby. Everything came full-circle for me during Zach’s speech. Yes, I took a pay cut to work at Inventables, but I am a part of something greater than a paycheck. It’s truly something I can’t put a price on.
After Zach’s speech, we heard from a few start-ups doing cool things:
HAAS notifies bikers, drivers, motorcyclists, and others in the vicinity of oncoming emergency vehicles. The best thing is, it doesn’t require an app: it sends out the notification to all cell phones and transmits information via a voice alert and visual pop-up so people can be aware of emergency vehicles nearby and take any necessary action.
Plantlink is a sensor that reminds you when it’s time to water your plant (or plants). After you program your garden’s various plants into the app, the app lets you know when it’s time to water specific plants (for instance, when it’s time to water your tomatoes but your carrots are ok). As a Master Gardener, I was a huge fan on this!
SpiderSense uses sensors to detect nearby objects at different heights and distances from the wearer. It’s an incredible advancement for the blind and visually-impaired, and one that I hope takes off.
At the end of the night, I felt entirely inspired by the awesome things that people are creating and dreaming up every day. What’s more is that I work for a company that allows people to continue creating and dreaming every day. I’ve always talked about changing the world and being part of the bigger picture, but I never thought it would be in this particular way. I’m promoting STEM programs in schools. I’m encouraging people to take their ideas to the next level and start creating things they can hold in their hands. I’m a part of something bigger than myself, and I’ve found a community of dedicated, eccentric, life-long learners.
The truth is, I wouldn’t have this experience if we had stayed in our comfort zone up north. We had to break free and take the chance on seeing what else is out there in the world. I’m very happy with the part of the world I’ve found right now, and I can’t wait to see what new experiences arise as a result of this opportunity with Inventables!
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