San Francisco, CA
Don’t shy away from the opportunity to reassess your situation and move in a new direction.
In early summer of 2010 I decided to pursue my dream of attending graduate school in New York City. I would be leaving San Francisco, where I worked as an environmental research consultant.
The move worried me. The idea of trying to build a new life in a city notorious for extreme competition and hardship seemed overwhelming. The thought of moving away from my friends and family also scared me, as my life thus far had taken place in Northern California. My biggest fear was giving up my long-term relationship with my boyfriend, who supported my dreams, but could not make the cross-country move. I was emotionally and physically stressed about the decision, but was determined to fulfill my goal of earning a graduate degree and securing my dream job.
When I arrived in New York, I joined a wonderful community, thanks to the help of friends and family back on the West Coast. As I geared up to apply for graduate school, I was active and engaged, aggressively acquainting myself with the program by attending lectures, conducting informational interviews with professors and program directors, and exploring post grad researcher opportunities. I began working in several promising internships while I searched for a permanent job in my field. All the pieces were falling into place, but strangely, I wasn’t satisfied.
Graduate school soon felt obsolete, as I realized I had enough work experience to secure a position without additional credentials. Also, after taking the opportunity to learn what I would do on a day-to-day basis for my “dream” job, I realized I didn’t actually want the position. I discovered that the core nature of the work didn’t align with my passions (to be creative, intellectually engaged, consistently challenged and learning).
After only two months in New York City, I returned to San Francisco. I had limited resources, as everything had initially gone to support my big move. It was difficult to confront people and explain why I returned—many thought I was giving up or moving backwards. But I knew it was the best thing for me professionally and personally.
I anticipated feeling like a failure, but surprisingly, I didn’t. The experience showed me that I was capable of growing even more than I ever imagined. I had learned so much in such a short time, and once back in San Francisco, I found myself with a new source of confidence and energy.
Almost three years later, I’ve transitioned into a new career path within the tech industry. I now know I have the capacity to achieve whatever career or life goals I desire. I feel empowered by the courage it took to lean back and see what I truly wanted. I’ve also learned that when things don’t go as planned, you should never shy away from the opportunity to reassess your situation and move in a new direction.
Despite early disadvantages, a young woman finds her footing in the field of engineering.
Ursula M. Burns
Chairman & CEO