I booked a ticket to the US earlier this year.
I was supposed to leave on July 6th. My return ticket was for six months later. It was meant to be one-way but I heard somewhere they wouldn’t let me into the US if I didn’t have a return ticket.
In my head it was a one-way trip.
Driving Uber wasn’t an option anymore. It was time to put what I had been studying about machine learning and artificial intelligence to the test.
My thought process was ‘I’ll go to the US and find a job at a tech company with the skills I’ve been learning.’
That was it.
The same reason you go to France to learn French, I was going to go to the US to learn more about technology.
At least that’s what I would tell people who asked.
‘What are your plans when you get over there?’
‘I’ll go to Meetups and meet people and then find a job somehow.’
‘Good on you.’
The real reason was because I didn’t think I could a role here. And really, I hadn’t done any research on what was going on in Brisbane nor did I think anywhere would hire me for skills I learned online.
All I thought was, ‘go to the US with the right mindset and everything will work out.’
That’s how I approach most of life.
Worst case scenario, Australia isn’t a bad place to have to come back home to. It’s a good place here.
So I booked the ticket. Then a couple weeks later Ashley reached out to me on LinkedIn. She said I should meet Mike. So I did. And Mike introduced to me Cam. Two weeks later, I was working at Max Kelsen as a Machine Learning Engineer.
Sometimes things happen faster than you expect.
Ashley reached out because I’d been posting some of what I’d been learning on LinkedIn. When I first started sharing my work, I was scared. ‘No one will appreciate this.’ But I kept doing it. And then it happened.
At the time, it seemed unexpected. Looking back, maybe my subconscious knew something would happen if I kept going. I’m glad I did. You can only connect the dots looking backwards.
A few weeks into working at Max Kelsen, Ryan, one of the co-founders, and I were running around a park with stomachs full of pizza.
‘How can I organise a leave request?’ I asked.
‘You can do it through Xero,’ he said.
I explained to him about my flight. It was two weeks away.
‘I’d like to keep the flight but push it back a couple of months.’
‘That’s cool, yeah definitely keep the flight, how about we sit down on Monday and work out some times.’
We decided on September. I’d be leaving Brisbane on September 12 except this time my return flight was 4 weeks later instead of 6 months.
My focus for the trip changed from looking for a job to exploring possibilities. Same same but different.
I went to Japan in 2016 alone for three weeks. Me, my backpack and curiosity as my tour guide. It was one of the best things I ever did.
The US would be no different. Same backpack, same camera bag, same tour guide.
The night before my flight I stayed up late. I wanted to try and combat jet lag. I always pack at the last minute. Mostly because I don’t take many things. Give me a laptop, a toothbrush and a few changes of underwear and I’m good.
My parents took me to airport, my best friend Dave showed up too. We had tea and said our goodbyes. It’s not really a goodbye anymore. Having the internet meant we’d be in contact a few hours later. Anyway.
15-hours later the plane hit the ground in LA. The optimist in me thought 2-hours would be enough to get a connecting flight to San Francisco. Despite running a kilometre in thongs from Terminal 3 to 7 at LAX, it wasn’t.
I knew something was up when the self check-in terminal gave me an error.
‘Excuse me, I can’t check into my flight.’
‘That’s because it’s in 15-minutes, would you like me to rebook one for you?’
15-minutes? ‘That’s enough time,’ I thought, ‘I can still make it.’
‘The next one is in an hour, I’ll update your details.’
I made it to San Francisco, bought a SIM card, plugged back into the matrix and brushed my teeth in a public bathroom. Very sleep deprived but I had clean teeth. I was good.
I got some coffee. They had cold brew on tap. Apparently it’s really high in caffeine. It almost got me back to baseline.
On the plane, I drafted out an email to send out for the month of September. It talked about the talk Athon and I did at UQ on AI a couple of weeks prior.
In between sips of cold brew I cut out all the unnecessary words from the brain dump on the flight.
When I got the email to do the talk, I was scared. ‘How could I do this?’
Who was I to give a talk on AI to a travelling group of Chinese Academics? I’d only been studying the stuff for a year.
My rule of having to do something if it scares me got me again. I said yes to the email. That was the on the Friday night, the talk was scheduled for Monday.
I treated signing up for the talk like buying a plan ticket for it US. I wasn’t 100% ready, but I did it anyway.
We spent the weekend researching the topic we were going to talk about. Most of the knowledge was there, it was about bringing it all together in a narrative we could present.
Then we did the talk. And the attendees rated it as ‘excellent’.
The same thing happened with travelling to the US. I’d been spending my whole life preparing to travel alone. Following my curiousity as much as possible and meeting cool people along the way. The only hard part was taking the leap to get there. The rest would take care of itself.
And when I got home and people asked how my trip was, I replied with, ‘excellent.’
1. Sign up when you’re not 100% ready
I held off posting on LinkedIn because I didn’t think my thoughts were worthy.
I was waiting for them to be perfect. A clean 100%.
But they never will be.
70% is a better number. A little over halfway but still in the realm of ‘I’m not sure if this will work.’ That’s the sweet spot.
Don’t let being 100% ready stop you from getting after something you’re interested in. Because there’s no such thing as being 100% ready.
2. Do your research
Instead of letting myself give in to the limiting belief of thinking I wasn’t good enough for a job in Australia, I should’ve done my research.
And then maybe I would’ve found the wealth of opportunities not only here but everywhere.
Sometimes to find what you’re after, all you have to do is look.
3. Trust your knowledge
Turns out I already kind of knew there were opportunities a plenty.
But I didn’t trust my knowledge enough to believe I could take them on.
You probably don’t know as much as you think you do. But you also probably know more than you think you do. It’s funny how it works.
If you’ve been putting in the work to build up your skills. Trust them. Admit when you don’t know something but for the rest of the time, let them do their thing.
Arriving in the US
Travelling alone is fun. Want to walk down that street?
Want to spend all day at an art museum and take a nap on the grass afterwards?
So I did.