Working Mom, That’s Me

2018 was a tumultuous year for my career. Reflecting on it gives me more anxiety than living it did. In each moment, I had an overwhelming sense of peace and calm that everything would work out fine. If you had told me exactly 1 year ago where I’d be now, I would be thoroughly confused. How in the world would I go from a junior industrial designer of a big tech company to director of manufacturing over a brand new soft-goods and apparel manufacturing facility?

Oh, by the way, I’ve accepted a new position for a new company.

My skill set is weirdly specific but also broad and expansive. I know how to do many creative things and I’m really good at making stuff with my hands. I’m trained in traditional industrial design, but I don’t want to do traditional industrial design. I don’t want to make tech gadgets or medical equipment, like many of my former classmates, nor do I want to do UX design for apps and websites like most of my other classmates. I love design research, teaching, problem-solving, and making things by hand. I want to do weird stuff. Unusual, interesting stuff that is hard to explain.

So now I am.

For the last 8 months, I’ve been designing fabric craft kits for Riley Blake Designs, a big quilting fabric company. I sit at my big work table in my home office and make fun crafts, and then develop each into its own kit that you can buy off a shelf in stores like JoAnn, Michael’s, and Hobby Lobby. It’s such a fun and satisfying job for me.

For the last 6 months, I’ve also had a job teaching graphic design to teens as part of a young adult career readiness program. It’s through a non-profit organization called FutureINDesign (FIND) and we’ve partnered with a high school to pilot the program. It has been incredibly rewarding to see teens and young adults develop skills that will help even before they graduate high school. Last year, there was one kid whose family was struggling in poverty, and when he graduated high school he landed a job that paid him enough to support his entire family while he went to college. I’ve literally been changing lives, and even though the pay has been good, nothing compares to how significant that is.

When both companies offered me full-time positions, I was probably the most conflicted about making a decision that I’ve ever felt. I love both companies and both jobs, even though they are quite different. In the end, I picked the one that will challenge me the most and open the most doors for me in the future. I’m staying with the non-profit but also keeping my part-time position with the fabric company until we move in a few months.

We’re starting a cut-and-sew manufacturing facility to bring jobs to a poverty-stricken small town in rural Utah. My job is to make that happen. It’s simultaneously exciting and absolutely terrifying. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I do know that I can figure it out. We have a manufacturing partner, the CEO of FIND has the right connections, and I’ve got the sewing and design skills to bring this whole thing to life. I’m going to make so many mistakes and learn so much along the way. But I’m excited to see this thing happen, and to problem solve as we go. I have so many ideas for how to make this successful.

So here I go, on this crazy career path I’ve chosen for myself. I just need to remember to strive for balance in everything.