In May 2019, I quit what I thought was once my dream job.
During my four years at Google, I grew concerned about the downward spiral of social and political systems in the U.S. and ultimately, across the globe. It became clear that the breakdown of societal systems in one place impedes the potential for humans to flourish everywhere.
Furthermore, I saw that Generation Z—the generation with the greatest potential to reimagine and rebuild systems vital to human flourishing—was not getting the support it needed to unleash it.
I knew that needed to change.
While I had long contemplated breaking what are infamously called Google's "golden handcuffs," it was meeting my eventual Civics Unplugged co-founders that finally gave me the courage to quit my job. They reminded me of something very important.
This is a make or break decade for humanity.
If we don't quickly do what is need to train a new generation of leaders committed to universal human flourishing, humanity will sink under the weight of its greatest challenges—including the climate crisis, skyrocketing inequality, and rising geopolitical tensions.
So how does Civics Unplugged fit into the human flourishing equation? CU helps channel Gen Z's passion, creativity, and idealism toward building a brighter future for humanity. Over the course of the decade, CU will empower tens of thousands of Gen Z leaders to devote themselves to the cause and inspire millions more supporters.
While we are only on year two of our decade-long journey, we are off to a strong start, with partners and supporters like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Andrew Yang, Ethereum Foundation, and the Smithsonian—who have committed to doing whatever it takes to help our Gen Zers create lasting change and build a brighter future for us all.
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I was recently named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 2021 List for my work on Civics Unplugged. You can see my profile here.
Landing a job at Google was a dream come true. I more or less worked all of college to get to that point.
While I still suffer from imposter syndrome to this day, I quickly convinced others I deserved to be there and was given a lot of responsibility at a young age.
The team I had the privilege of helping lead was tasked with improving the user experience for Google Cloud users. We helped carry out the top-to-bottom redesign and implementation of Cloud Datastore's UI, and then led the front-end team of Google's Cloud SQL product. March 2017, we launched our PostgreSQL offering – which increased Cloud SQL's total addressable market by ~40%. April 2019, we launched our initial SQL Server offering - which is poised to increase Cloud SQL's total addressable market by ~$6B.
I wouldn’t trade my tenure at Google for anything. I was able to ship products that bettered the lives of millions of people around the world. But ultimately, I knew I couldn’t stay there long-term. Civics Unplugged was calling.
Obsessed with finding music that brings people joy, my friend Nik and I scoured the internet every day, collecting tracks from bedroom electronic music producers who we considered to be pioneers of a rare form of "musical medicine."
This "medicine" metaphor was very real to us, especially for me. Feel-good electronic music got me through depressive episodes in college. But as much as the music improved our moods, Nik and I quickly saw that we weren't the only beneficiaries of the emerging genre. As we shared the songs with our friends, we saw the music provided a similarly therapeutic effect for them.
Seeing the potential of this genre to make people's lives better, we set off on a mission to help as many people in the world as possible get a taste of what we had enjoyed for years. Out of this mission came Dancing Pineapple, which was the music blog and events company that Nik and I used to fill the huge "feel-good electronic music"-shaped hole in the world.
Over the four years that we worked together on Dancing Pineapple, we were able to promote, coach, and launch dozens of incredible artists from four continents. In one two-year stretch, we produced 24 concerts across NYC and LA. Some of these artists have since played at Coachella, EDC Vegas, and other music festivals. It blows me away just thinking about it.
Building Dancing Pineapple was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. While I parted ways with the company in 2019 to pursue Civics Unplugged full-time, I continue to have the privilege of channeling my passion for finding and developing up-and-comers who personify the power of the human spirit. The only difference is, instead of working with future electronic music stars, I support the young civic superheroes who have the optimism, creativity, and courage to build a brighter future for American democracy.
Duke presented unprecedented scale and diversity of opportunity. My four years of phenomenal professors across the disciplines pushed me to expand, challenge, and adjust my worldview.
My experience dancing with DefMo showed me the power of empathetic leadership and expanded my artistic comfort zone. My tenure throwing major, campus-wide events validated that quality stems from attention to detail. My junior fall semester abroad at London's UCL humbled me to explore my place in the world. My engagement in Duke's tech & innovation initiatives exercised my creative muscle, sparked my obsession with design, and strengthened my tolerance to adversity. My internships at Google, Flipboard, and Pocket helped me discover my love for building products that make people's lives better.
Duke showed me what I love to do, gifted me with a love for learning, and surrounded me with a wealth of inspiring peers.
I'm grateful for these three years away from home. IMSA was where I learned how to articulate my ideas (as head of the school newspaper), competed thrice in state championships (as tennis captain), fell in love with learning, facilitated service events for the local community, designed a leadership development program for underclassmen, and discovered a passion for the arts. And importantly, it was at IMSA where I felt like I could finally be my weird self.
I share ideas and observations about the future of work, education, and democracy onLinkedIn (feel free to add me as aconnection).