‘Do you have a Queensland driver's licence?'
'Yes,' I replied.
'Well, you should know you're not supposed to stop at bus stops,' he continued, 'you'll be getting a fine in a couple of days.'
'Okay, thank you,' I wound up the window and drove off.
'That sucks man, that guy was a dick,' my passengers felt sorry for me.
'It's alright, these things happen, how was your night?'
We chatted for the next 30-minutes or so.
'Do you think I should see go on another date with her?' He showed me a photo of his latest Tinder match.
'She's not my type,' I said, 'not enough hair for me.'
The girl in the photo had a shaved head.
'Yeah you're right, it's different, but I think I like it,' he got out of the car, 'thanks, mate!'
I ended the trip. We had a good conversation so I rated them 5-stars.
There was no one on the highway. Pure open road. Driving at 3 am has its perks. Plenty of time to think.
'I'm not driving Uber anymore,' I thought to myself.
I parked the car, went inside and into bed.
'I won't have an income for a while, how will I pay for things?'
'I'll figure it out.'
The fine came a couple days later. It was $250. 6-hours driving and I made -$37.
The next day I peeled myself out of bed. Waking up was always an effort after going to sleep at 4 am.
My schedule for the past year had been, study Monday-Friday and drive Uber Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday.
It was Saturday. I was supposed to be driving Uber later that night.
I remembered what I said to myself before going to bed. All of a sudden it seemed a lot harder.
Driving Uber was the easy option. I loved meeting new people every trip. But it wasn't for me anymore.
'Well Daniel, better do something about it,' is probably what someone would've said if I told them my dilemma.
'You're right,' is what I would've replied.
I went to the cafe and posted on LinkedIn.
'Hey data science community, I'm looking to get involved in the field and would love your recommendations on who I should follow.'
The past year, I'd been studying my own Artificial Intelligence Masters Degree. It wasn't an official Masters Degree but I gave it that name for the placebo effect.
The post got lots of replies. People were commenting and tagging other people.
I spent the next couple of hours messaging every single one of them.
Ben told me to become an expert in my field.
'How could I be an expert, I've only been studying for a year?'
I figured instead claiming to be an expert, I could share what I've been up to.
So I did.
A couple of days later, Ashlee sent me a message.
'Hey, Daniel, bit of a random thought but would you be interested in an internship opportunity?'
We talked some more.
'Mike will catch up with you to find out more about what you've done and what you are interested in so they can position you,' she said.
'Okay, where should I meet him?' I asked.
The next week Mike and I met at Brew cafe.
'How did you find the float tank?'
I read an article on his LinkedIn where he told a story about going into a sensory deprivation tank. I'd been in one too.
'It was spectacular, you fade away into nothing,' Mike said.
If you haven't yet, go in one.
'What are you looking for?' Mike asked.
I didn't really know. I'd been studying online but hadn't had any experience putting what I had been learning into practice.
'Experience,' I replied, 'online courses are great but I'd like to contribute to something tangible.'
'The crossover of technology and health is what interests me most,' I continued.
'If you get in front of someone, you'll get a job,' Mike went on, 'I think you should meet my friend Cam.'
I'd been thinking of moving to the US to get a role in tech.
'What do you think about the US?' I asked Mike.
'It's the holy grail for this stuff, but Brisbane is good too, I think it would be good if you got some experience before heading over.'
Mike paid for the coffees.
'I'm off to an interview at Code Camp, thank you for this morning.'
'No problems, talk soon.'
Mike and I shook hands.
I walked down the street and up to the Code Camp offices. Charlie offered me a job as a teaching assistant for school kids learning to code on their holidays. I said yes. But it wasn't anything long term.
Two days later, I booked a one-way ticket to the US.
I had no plans but to get on the ground and meet people. Then maybe someone would like me enough to offer me a job.
My thought pattern was, 'If you want to learn French, go to France.'
I wanted to learn the latest in technology innovations so I was going to Silicon Valley.
That was the good reason. The reason I told everyone why I booked it.
But the real reason was I didn't think I had it in me to get a job in my hometown. So I decided to run away. To the other side of the world.
It was 99-days until I'd fly out.
Then Mike messaged me introducing me to Cam.
'How about we meet up on Monday?' Cam asked.
I had no commitments set in stone since I was creating my own study schedule.
'Sure,' I replied.
Our chat went much the same as with Mike.
Health, technology. Health and technology. A little writing and creative work. These are the only things I talk about.
'What do you think of the US?' I asked.
'It's great,' Cam said.
'I've been thinking of going.'
'You can always go, it will always be there.'
I didn't tell him I already had a flight booked.
I was secretly hoping he'd tell me to go. I was scared of going on my own decision, I wanted someone else to back me up.
We kept talking.
'What are you after?' Cam asked.
Mike told me to be specific. He was right. Everyone's time is valuable, always be specific.
'Experience in the real world,' I said, 'I've been learning these skills online and I believe I can help your team.'
'What's your week like?', Cam asked, 'can you come in on Thursday?'
'I'll be there.'
Thursday came around.
I was scared again.
Then I remembered someone telling me being scared uses the same hormones as being excited. I flipped the switch in my mind.
I was excited. And I should've been. I'd be given a chance at an internship.
So I made a video about it.
When I first walked in it was so quiet. 'I can't work here,' I said to myself.
'This isn't me.'
I like talking to people. A lot. The quietness wasn't my jam.
Then the day went on, and I realised it was quiet because people were working. Working hard on difficult things. That's what I wanted to be doing.
'Oh, so this is how it works,' I thought.
When I was at Apple, there was never a quiet moment. Lots of busy work rather than deep work.
I went home.
It went better than expected. As always. Everything turns out better than expected.
The next two Thursday's went the same. I was working with Athon and Conor manipulating some data.
'Dan, Athon, how about we go for a walk,' Nick, the CEO, said.
We went to the coffee shop down the road.
'I'm all for them, I'm not a fan of driving,' I said.
We talked about self-driving cars for 30-minutes. Then it died off.
'So, how have you been liking it?' Nick asked.
'It's been incredible, I've been learning so much.'
'You've been doing some great work,' Athon added.
Athon was the machine learning team lead. Hearing that made me feel good.
'How would you like to come on board,' Nick asked, 'into a paid position?'
I wasn't being paid for the internship. Which was fine. The experience was payment enough.
'Let's do it,' I said.
'Okay, sweet, well we'll get an offer together and get it to you by Monday.'
We shook hands and went back to the office.
Around the same time, I was talking with Sal. He was the founder of another company.
Mike introduced me to him as well.
Sal and I were having coffee.
'We'd like someone like you on board to help build a community around what we're working on,' Sal said.
Sal had checked out the work I had been doing online.
I was making YouTube videos about what I was learning as well as plenty of posts elsewhere, LinkedIn, Medium, GitHub.
I'd turned into a human frozen yoghurt machine. All output.
'How about you come in on Friday and meet the team?'
'I'll be there.'
I went in on Friday evening and met the team. They were great.
'Thanks for tonight,' I said.
'No worries,' Sal said, 'I'll be in touch on Monday.'
Monday was the day Nick was going to call me with an offer.
I missed Nick's first call. My phone was on Do Not Disturb. It's set automatically every morning until 12 pm so I can study without being distracted. Probably not the best move when you're expecting a job offer call.
I called back.
'Morning mate, how was the weekend?' Nick asked.
I told him and asked about his.
'We'd like to bring you on as a junior developer at $X per hour,' he said.
'Wow, that's awesome,' I was stoked. Then I remembered someone told me you can always negotiate the first offer.
'I'm definitely interested, but how much wiggle room is there on the rate?'
'What were you thinking?'
'I know I can help your team, with what I've been learning in media as well as artificial intelligence, so I was thinking somewhere around $X.'
The key with counter-offering is to make it about the other person. Instead of what they can do for you, what can you do for them?
My counter offer was 30% higher than the original.
'Okay, I'll discuss it with the others and see what we can do, then get back to you this afternoon.'
'Sounds great! Talk soon,' I said.
We hung up.
My heart was racing. I'd never negotiated pay before. Especially before even having a role.
I knew I would've regretted if I didn't. So I had too. If it scares me, I have to do it.
Nick called back.
'Hey Daniel, we've thought about your offer and would like to meet you halfway at $X.'
The new offer was 15% higher than the original.
'Done. I'm in.'
'Can you come in on Wednesday?'
'Yep, see you then.'
I went in on Wednesday. I was nervous (excited) again.
It was happening. I was starting the role I had been studying for. All much faster than I thought.
My first day was April 25. 6-weeks before I was supposed to be jet-setting.
My flight to the US was booked for July 6.
I told Sal I took a role at Max Kelsen.
'All the best Daniel!'
I didn't cancel the flight because I wasn't sure whether I'd stay.
I was in two minds.
One part of me wanted to see where the new role would take me.
The other part of me didn't want to be 43 and saying, 'I really should've gone to the US when I had the chance.'
Now I'm writing this from a cafe in San Francisco.
I didn't cancel the flight. I rescheduled it to September 12. And booked a return flight.
And then yesterday, I visited LinkedIn's San Francisco Headquarters. What an epic place.
I'll be touring around the US for a couple weeks before heading back to Brisbane to work on a new project we've got at Max Kelsen.
We're going to be using artificial intelligence and genome data to try and predict the outcome of immunotherapy treatment in cancer patients. The project is called Immunotherapy Outcome Prediction or IOP for short.
The crossover of health and technology. Exactly where I want to be.
I had three job offers and a new job within four days of deciding I was going to stop driving Uber. Then a new job within three weeks.
How did this happen?
I have no idea.
Well no, I have a bit of an idea. But I'll never be able to explain it for sure.
When I made the decision to stop driving Uber, I devoted everything towards finding a different role.
I was posting on LinkedIn every day. Reaching out to people multiple times per day.
But it wasn't this alone which helped.
The past year I had been studying hard and sharing my work online. I hadn't been paid a cent for the articles I wrote, the videos I made.
I knew the way I was studying wasn't conventional. I wasn't going to end up with an official Masters Degree. So I needed a way to differentiate myself.
That's when the human frozen yoghurt machine began.
Instead of consuming, I began creating. Every day, I had to create something otherwise I would feel sick.
Someone smarter than me told me, 'It's not what you know, it's who you know.'
Then someone else said 'It's not who you know, it's who knows you.'
So I needed a way for people to know me. And the internet provided it.
The light bulb moment was when I realised I could use platforms I was already browsing every day to create the life I was after.
But the thing is, no one calls you up and tells you this.
YouTube is there but the CEO isn't going to call you and ask you to make videos.
LinkedIn is there but the hiring manager of your favourite company isn't going to say, 'Hey you should be posting more often, it could end up in you getting a job here.'
Everyone can blog but no one is going to tell you to write about what interests you.
You have to choose yourself.
I chose myself.
People had a way of finding out who I was.
Then instead of being a resume in a pile, I was a person.
People relate better to people. It's hard to make a connection to a piece of paper with a name and a list of credentials.
A year ago, the web startup we built failed. So I decided to start learning machine learning.
I had no job and university was too expensive so I wrote my own curriculum.
I worked through it Monday-Friday and drove Uber on weekends to pay for courses. And repeated this week in, week out.
Until one day I grabbed my balls and decided it was time to stop driving Uber and chase after what I really wanted.
And then the other day, I received these.
I began reaching out to people on LinkedIn because I didn't know what to do. So I asked for advice.
I asked Cam and Mike what they thought about the US because I was unsure of how it would turn out.
Now I'm in the US and more excited for the future than ever. But I still don't know how it will work out.
Well, what's next?
I don't know. I don't think too far ahead.
Instead, I try make every day a good day.
A good day involves learning something, creating something, moving my body and talking to the people I love.
String enough good days together and you've got a good week. A few good weeks makes a good month. A dozen good months equals a good year. Enough good years and you'll end up living a good life.
Doing the things you set out to do always feels good. And even if you fail, you'll have a good story.
Choose yourself for a year. The whole universe will get behind you. And you'll be surprised where you end up.And if it's in San Francisco, I recommend Blue Bottle Coffee.
Getting that parking fine is the best thing that's happened to me all year.