In 2012 I had a great job at a company where I led a team of web developers on one of the biggest content sites on the Internet. Like most people in tech, I had a ton of ideas, but not enough time to work on them. I was ready to leave my job and see if I could make it work, but there were a lot of questions that needed to be answered. Do we have enough money saved up? Could my wife support us solely on her salary? Do I have a backup plan? After several discussions with my wife, Melissa, we decided that all answers pointed to “yes.” She gave me the green light to leave my job and agreed to lean in to her job and support our family.
Did I mention that my wife is amazing?
I gave notice and left my company. After almost six months of trying and failing at various ideas, I decided to do some consulting on the side to extend my runway. I ended up chatting with my sister, who has been a brand voice strategist for several years. She suggested a few of her clients, all of whom needed help with user design and front-end development. So I struck out on my own (for now), but excited to be making money again. Life was great: I was bringing in income, working with my sister, spending more time with my wife and I still had time to tinker with my own projects. At that point, I didn’t want to change a thing: it was the perfect lifestyle for me.
After finishing a few projects and making a few connections, I was asked if I wanted to build the LeanIn.org site (yes, this one). This would be a huge project, with huge potential. If I were to take it on, it would mean putting my personal projects on hold and having to juggle my existing consulting work. I could have easily said no. Based on my happiness level at the time, I probably should have said no. But I couldn’t stop thinking about what Lean In stands for, and how much I believe in the movement.
After all, I’ve seen the need for change firsthand. Melissa works in the aerospace industry, which has long been dominated by men. There are very few women in executive positions in her industry and she is regularly the only woman in the room for meetings. She often finds herself in difficult situations, and has more than once commented about the need for more education surrounding workplace issues. Taking on the Lean In project was one step I could take to help her solve that problem.
So I put my personal projects aside, took fewer clients and leaned in. After months of hard work, juggling all my other commitments and fighting the urge to try new ideas, the site is now live, as you can see. It’s one of my proudest projects to date and not because it’s a technical feat, but because of what it stands for. I hope this site inspires women to take more risks, to do what they were told they couldn’t, and to one day help even the playing field in male-dominated industries. And if I have a daughter one day, I hope she won’t have to think twice about what industry to work in or worry about being the only woman in the room.