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Photo by Tom Crew on Unsplash

When you walk down any street with a touch of history, you’ll see storefronts marked with dates. Est. 1856. Est. 1912.

There’s a sobering clash of the modern way of viewing business success — immediate scale and ultimately acquisition — and the older idea of generational dynastic family businesses, carrying with them the histories and the DNA of their founders, employees and customers, dating back hundreds of years.

Storied companies that hold a long, rich past at their core and remain true to their original values and traditions are remarkable, not only for their ability to remain in business over staggering periods of time, but also for their ability to adapt and change while remaining true to themselves and their purpose. …


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Photo by Product School on Unsplash

Networking is a funny concept. And by “funny”, I mean absolutely fucking poisonous. It’s about trying to work a group of people, and their contacts, in order to get something from them. I hate that whole concept, and I’m big enough to admit that part of the reason I hate it is that I suck at it.

Entering a networking event, you can feel the eyes of every attendee fix on you for a few brief seconds, like a pack of hungry wolves. They come up and shake your hand with a poisonously false enthusiasm, and as soon as they work through a quick calculation and conclude that you’re not “important” their eyes start flickering around the room, looking for their next meal. …


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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

This post first appeared in the book Postcards from Tomorrow, curated and edited by Kim Chandler McDonald, available for purchase now!

Dear Joan,

I’ve spent the last two days asking myself how to start this letter.

I’ve been asking myself what I want to say to you, that you don’t already know, deep down. You’re 21. You already know that you’re trans, and you know that you’re a woman, and you know that you’re living the wrong life. You know that you’re not okay, you know that you’re hurt, and you know who it was that hurt you. …


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Photo by Kristin Wilson on Unsplash

They call themselves digital nomads. And their mission is to wander the planet, working globally, as they sell ebooks and courses about how to wander the planet, working globally. Or how to run eCommerce stores, selling drop shipping products on Amazon. They’re travellers with MacBooks and portable power banks and a carefully designed and manicured social presence.

The digital nomads live off the land, by which I mean — economies where the US dollars they harvest in their PayPal accounts can buy with five times the power of the local currency.

It’s an evolution of the same bloody opportunism that our ancestors used to take advantage of, steal and strip the rights from the countries they “discovered”; it’s a form of neo-colonialism that profits from the exploitation and brutality of invaders who took what they wanted and left shattered, manipulated or abandoned economies in their wake, primed for use and abuse by moneyed up, bright eyed tech travellers. …


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Photo by christopher lemercier on Unsplash

I know a thing or two about hard times. I’m an ex-alcoholic. I’ve failed more than I’ve won. I’m a trans woman with PTSD. Out of that — I’ve built my own company, I’m a widely published writer, started angel investing and just hit 18 months sober.

My advice is for real 🖤

✨ Don’t take anyone’s shit. You might think you’re paying dues. You’re just learning compliance. You’re better than that. You get to decide how people treat you.

You get to set your standards. I think it’s easy to feel as though we have to look to someone’s job title before we answer them, look to their reputation before we reject them, or think about the long term before we speak our minds. …


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When I started out in tech, I was building MySpace processes, workflows and content for brands who were still unsure about what the fuck social media was. I’m talking pre-Facebook, when I was just a teen with a dream who wanted to make my own way. I was a young queer kid, searching for a place to belong, and forging my own path. I didn’t want a traditional job. I wanted independence, I wanted creativity, and I wanted the freedom to follow my passions.

That was over 10 years ago. And It’s been an interesting ride over the past decade and a half. I’ve run comms for some of the fastest growing tech companies in the country, won awards for comms and PR, and founded my own agency and startup studio. Looking back on everything I’ve done, it’s a lot easier now to pick out the threads of what I’ve truly enjoyed doing, and who I’ve loved doing it with. I can see how fraught my own path into tech has been, and how inaccessible so many of my passions were. …


#NoCode means removing the barriers to outsiders in tech

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Photo by Joshua Reddekopp on Unsplash

Growing up, I taught myself how to code in C++by modding and building add-ons for Wolfenstein 3D. It became my entire world, and I would spend hours sifting through code, working out what made it tick, borrowing books from the library and following along to build my grasp of it all.

I didn’t become a developer for one simple reason; I didn’t have one singular passion. I wanted to do and build and make so many things. I was a budding designer as well as a would-be programmer, I was playing drums, guitar and screaming in a series of hardcore punk bands, I was painting skateboards on commission for my friends, and I was spending hours every day writing, blogging and communicating. …


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Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

The consequences of being an alcoholic were tough.

I lost clients. I lost friends. I almost lost my business.

I had to fight my way back from that, battling for every inch of ground, to be where I am today.

But I don’t regret those consequences.

Consequences are a fucking gift. The consequences of failure, the consequences of your mistakes, the consequences of every choice you make. They’re a gift and they are a chance to grow.

They’re ripples that emanate from the actions we take, and the words we say, and the words we hold inside, ripples that reach out across a vast ocean, becoming waves that hold a magnificent power to change, erode and reshape even the hardest stone. …


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Photo by Product School on Unsplash

Ram Dass once said that the quieter we become, the more we can hear.

And lately, we’ve all had to be so much quieter than we ever have before.

What is there left, when we can no longer fill the spaces in between with white noise to drown out the signals we don’t want to hear?

It’s a time of uncomfortable questions, and often more uncomfortable answers. It’s a time when things that have lain dormant are re-awakened, and we start to reach further within ourselves to find the source of those crashing waves that keep us up late at night when the rest of the world is asleep and the silence has become an overwhelming riptide. …


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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

I know the old saying. Forgive and forget. It’s a notion I’ve struggled with for years. The forgiving part is hard enough. Forgiving some of the people I’ve known, for some of the things they’ve done, has always felt like a bridge too far, in the hurt and raw vulnerability. Forgiving myself for who and where and what I’ve been has never been easy, either

But to forget has always felt wrong. It’s always felt like an inappropriate response. And lately, I’ve started to realise just why that is. When we forgive, we accept what has been done, we let go, and we learn to live with it. When we forget, we erase. We erase what has been done, to us or by us, and we remove the opportunity to learn from it and grow. …

About

Joan Westenberg

Chaotic good. Award winning creative director & writer, ft. in Wired, The AFR, SF Chronicle, Junkee. founder tinyspells.xyz / thisisstudioself.com ✨ She/Her.

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