Author: Allen Osgood

A Day in the Life – TEC Thursday

The first time I talked to Christiaan, the coordinator of the TEC program, he mentioned as one of the features of the fellowship something called TEC Thursdays. I asked him what that meant, and he gave me a decently vague description of a combination of food, speakers and group activity that would excuse us from the office for half a day, every Thursday of the program. Now 8 weeks in, I want to share one of the best days I have had this summer: a TEC Thursday.

5:30am:

My alarm went off. I thought simultaneously “Why did I set this alarm?” and “Ughhh.” Then I remembered that today was the day; 6 weeks in with 0 blog posts completed, today was the day to, in the words of Peter Thiel, go from 0 to 1. Spent the next few hours writing, hit submit, and headed to the True office.

9:30am:

Work. Opened my laptop and started working on my project for about.me. Working in the True office is one of the coolest places I have found to work in the city, second only to our regular about.me office in Mission. Between the coffee machine, snacks and always-welcoming Amy, it is just a great place to be.

10:30am:

Meeting. One of my favorite parts of this program is how willing the True team is to help, and this morning I got the chance to meet with Om Malik (@om). With over 1.5 million Twitter followers, 20+ years as a journalist, and a strong affinity for coffee, Om found time to meet with me, and in the course of our chat across a coffee table in the blazing sun, gave me some very timely advice. He told me: the fastest way to find your path is to look back, identify the 6-8 month cycles in your life, and think hard about why those occur. Once you can figure that out, chase it. It is not easy, it is not fast, but it is essential. At this point in my life, to be able to pinpoint those areas of passion and craft my plan to pursue them is a huge advantage.

12:00pm:

Lunch with the whole crew. Every Thursday all of the fellows come to True for an afternoon full of food, camaraderie and speakers. The good food and ice cream (thanks Will) prepared everyone for the afternoon of speakers ahead. And by prepared, I mean prepared with at least one coffee in hand to avoid the impending food coma.

1:30pm:

“The Making of an IPO.” I study Computer Science and Finance, so getting to hear about the process from venture investment to IPO from someone who has been through the process 5 times is surreal to me. We learned about the entire process: who the players are, what the timeline looks like, why lawyers lick their chops at the chance to be a part, what forms are required, what rules and regulations to abide, and still afterwards it felt like we had just scratched the surface.

2:30pm:

“Bitcoin 101.” Some would think that by studying Computer Science, a student would understand most technical things. Code is code right? Well I quickly came to understand how different Bitcoin truly is. The protocol is remarkable; powerful enough to replace the antiquated ownership system of paper deeds and titles, nimble enough to be spent anywhere around the world with a WiFi signal, and simple enough to secure billions of dollars using only two 64 character strings, one of which is publically available. While a one hour presentation did not make me an expert, it did infuse me with the desire to learn more.

3:30pm:

“Crowdfunding a Story.” Entrepreneurship comes with many hills and valleys, and hearing candidly about someone’s journey through the process can simultaneously inspire awe and fear. I know that I want to be an entrepreneur, and stories like these give me a glimpse of the battles at the front lines. All of those victories and defeats, the daily decisions from which crowdfunding website to use to which manufacturing plant to choose, can make or break your entire company. These stories are some of the many things that excite me, and one of the many reasons I feel that I am in the right place.

5:00pm:

“Going to jail.” Alcatraz, that is. Our group tried to book tickets to visit “The Rock” a month into the program, only to find them booked solid for the next three months. Little did we know, True had beat us to the punch. The ferry ride was beautiful, there and back it provided entirely different views of San Francisco, one of a bustling city in rush hour and the other of a skyline illuminated by those burning the midnight oil. When we were not politely bothering other tourists to take every possible combination of a 14 person group picture, we had a chance to take in the incredible view. The prison itself was no less impressive; hearing the history of inmates, riots, and prison breaks, seeing the grenade blast marks forever etched in the stone floor, and feeling the cold, relentless wind blowing across the small island. It left me with a daunting feeling of what it must have been like out on that rock in the bay and happy to (hopefully) never find out.

9:00pm:

Dinner time. We got off the ferry and walked almost immediately into a nearby restaurant. With a group of 15 people stretched around a huge table, conversations cutting across, a hilarious waiter who happened to be a successful country farmer, and some of the best food I have had in SF, it was a great end to a long day.

11:00pm:

Bed, finally.

 

If not yet made obvious by the consistently enthusiastic tone throughout my summary, I enjoyed this day immensely. Not every day this summer has been this jam-packed – nor started with a 5:30am alarm – but it is indicative of the experience I have had here: a dense amalgamation of unique experiences. So in response to my original question of “What is TEC Thursday?” the answer Christiaan gave me was as accurate as it could have been. It varies. But a blog post, partner meeting, IPO lesson, bitcoin lesson, entrepreneurial lesson, Alcatraz trip and group dinner later, I would describe it simply as one of the best days of the summer.

 

Surviving the [Culture] Shocks of Transition

Transition can be a daunting process to even the most veteran, and two months ago, as a 20 year old preparing for the craziest transition of my life, I was pretty daunted for the week ahead. I finished a life-changing semester abroad in Madrid, Spain on a Sunday, flew back home to the States on Monday, spent 5 days with family and friends at home, flew out to San Francisco and moved into my apartment on Sunday, and started my internship on Monday. That week I took 4 flights, crossed 9 time zones, lived in 3 cities, packed up my life twice and started a brand new job in a brand new city. In short, I transitioned, hard. But along the way I learned some lessons that have helped me land on my feet through the three culture shocks I have gone through recently that I will share, along with some of the stories behind them.

Three culture shocks:

  1. The “Original”: Home to Madrid
  2. The “Reverse”: Madrid to Home
  3. The “Not-In-Kansas-Anymore”: Home to San Francisco

 

 The “Original” Culture Shock

Moving to another country where I had no preconceptions – read understanding – of the culture and only an elementary grasp of the language was simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. When I finally stepped off the plane, euphoria supplanted the apprehension with which I had boarded 9 hours prior. First thoughts: I made it. Is this real life? Let’s do this.

1: Ask for help

With luggage in tail, I made my first mistake abroad: taking the metro system with 5 months’ worth of luggage, without asking directions. 2 hours later, I ended up on the opposite side of the city with a broken roller suitcase and in a sweat. Finally, the image of a lost foreigner carrying a heavy roller suitcase while wheeling another got a kind metro worker to ask in broken English if I needed help. (Yes, she could tell immediately.) Exhausted after the flight and frustrated by the entire situation, I relented. She helped me onto the train, marked a map with the necessary stops, and sent me on my way with a smile. Without her help I would probably still be wandering about the metro system trying to find my hostel. If I had accepted how clueless I was and reached out for help from the beginning, I could have avoided the whole Madrid metro saga.

2: Pick up your hobby again

Settling into Spanish life was hard: new family, new language, new school, new food, new friends, new city. Everything was new. The only consistency seemed to be the house and host family I lived with, who exclusively talked to us in Spanish. I struggled adjusting to the new until I decided to bring back a part of the old. I had played on a pickup soccer team at home and decided to find one there in Madrid to try and revive a small part of my life from before I crossed the Atlantic. I joined a team through the university, started playing twice a week, and felt better almost immediately. Working soccer back into my routine gave me a sliver of familiarity that had a positive rippling effect throughout my experience abroad. Finding and pursuing that hobby brought a sense of calm consistency during the shock of transition.

 

The “Reverse” Culture Shock

One of the strangest parts of my study abroad experience was readjusting to the place I grew up. After 5 months of not tipping in restaurants, speaking Spanish daily, and pronouncing the city in Spain as Barthelona, switching back to paying 20% more than the posted price, getting shocked looks when you start speaking Spanish fluently, and being corrected that the city is actually pronounced Barcelona was another big transition. First thoughts: So many American accents. I’m going to forget all my Spanish. At least I’m home.

3: Accept that things are no longer the same

Between leaving home January 4th and returning June 1st, I underwent incredible personal growth that changed who I am and what I want to be. Stepping back into home life, even for only 5 days, was initially alienating. A host of subtle differences like those described above made me feel foreign in my hometown. However, other more noticeable contrasts came to light in the exchanges that made others close to me feel more distant. My family has long given me grief for being a picky eater, but at some point during the time abroad, that changed wholesale. My mom’s shocked reaction that I would ever eat sushi, or seafood at all, was just one example.

As I readjusted I began to notice a distinct separation between the expected “header” changes – returning from Spain speaking Spanish – and the unexpected “footnote” ones – my palette. While we could anticipate the header changes, it was the surprise surfacing of the footnote changes that made the transition much more difficult. The fastest way I have found to get around this is to recognize, point out, and accept as reality that things are no longer the same.

4: Stay in touch with your cercanos

The Spanish word cercanos translates to the people you hold most dear (near to you, literally,) and I would consider my family and friends my cercanos. Being abroad was an amazing, formative experience in my life, but without my cercanos I would have undoubtedly lost far more than I gained. I tried to share as much of the experience as possible with my family and friends and succeeded to varying degrees, using common interests and pictures to strengthen those relational cords. There is certainly a balance between staying in touch and diving into your new environment, and there is a different answer for each individual, but if I had launched deep into the unknown without any form of tether to my past, I would have floated off into space like Sandra Bullock in Gravity. Staying in touch can be as simple as a Facebook Message, a postcard, a small souvenir, or in my case, a surprise Amazon delivery for my mom’s birthday. Your cercanos will appreciate it regardless of what it is, as long as they know they are on your mind.

 

The “Not-In-Kansas-Anymore” Culture Shock

After moving to San Francisco from Cincinnati, I can see what Dorothy meant. There is a magically welcoming hometown feeling that strikes me every time I go back to the Midwest, but coming to San Francisco and being able to walk a few blocks from Little Italy into Chinatown then head to work in the Mission is level of diversity foreign to me growing up. Moving here to live for 3 months has taught me a lot about myself and what I like about cities and the communities within them, and while this place certainly is not Madrid, nor Cincinnati nor Kansas, those differences are part of what make it so special. First thoughts: These geo-tags are amazing. Why did I bring all this luggage? What is BART?

5: Find your café

Starting in a new city with a population in the millions without a prior network can be intimidating and overwhelming; alas even finding housing in SF can be overwhelming. But the fastest way I have found to begin is to begin. I start by finding a place that I can use as a workspace, typically a café, and go there repeatedly to feel more comfortable, maybe being a ‘regular’ to the barista. Reaching out further into the city becomes so much easier for me once I have that foundation, that place where I feel like I belong. A café is not every one’s thing, but having a physical space to meet other people and start building connections will help immensely during the beginning. Whatever it may be, finding your café is a great first step to feeling at ease after a big transition.

6: Dive in

The most exciting part of any big move for me is getting to explore the various parts of the city, and especially here in SF, they can tell you a lot about the culture, history and people who live there. One of the first weekends here, I went on a 4 hour walk with a good friend following a SF in one day tour itinerary. The 6 miles and 19 highlights made me feel infinitely more in touch with the city and the people. We started at Union Square and happened to arrive at the beginning of Sunday Jazz on the Square, so we sat and listened to live music while chatting with some of the locals around. Feeling like an insider for having found this event (even though I could have easily found it online) made me feel like I belonged here. Simply by diving in I learned more about the city than I could have ever by just sitting in my café researching online.

 

 

I hope some of my trials and tribulations can help you, be it a move as I have had recently and gave in the examples, or another type of big shift.