Tagged: San Francisco

Schoolin’ Life: Duretti Hirpa

In today’s installment of Schoolin’ Life, we catch up with senior software engineer Duretti Hirpa.

Duretti Hirpa

Who are you, what are you into, and how do you spend your days?

My name is Duretti Hirpa, and I’m a senior software engineer at Slack. I’m unabashedly into people, Beyoncé, snacks, and the ever changing role of technology in our lives. I spend my days making Slack better, working on my snack podcast (snackoverflow), as well as trying to make the tech industry a more welcoming and equitable place for lady-identified and/or marginalized people.

When you were in your 20s…

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

Growing up, I was inordinately obsessed with being an “adult”. Now that I’m here, I realize we’re mostly winging it. Additionally, my expectations were really normative – spouse, baby, house, but conversely, I told myself my twenties were for me, that I get every year in my twenties to myself, to figure out what it was I wanted and how to get there.

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

I come from a family of immigrants (shout out to East Africa), and as such, I had a lot of dissonant societal views coming at me: women should have a career, but being married with babies is your most crucial function. It took me a long time to see myself separate and apart from my family, or as something more than a potential wife and mother.

What was your first job like?

I moved to the Bay Area in 2008, at the very beginning of the recession. I had just graduated from university, and had approximately $500 to my name. I found a contract position at an educational startup and I felt so lucky to have found something that I could live on (years later, I’d find out that it wasn’t that much, and I was supposed to be withholding taxes from my paycheck. Tax season 2009 was rough). The job itself was mostly scut work, but I felt so thrilled to be earning money at something I truly liked. I couldn’t help but feel I getting away with something.

What was your first apartment like?

My family is quite a large one, and we have always loved the hustle and bustle of living with others; as such I’ve never lived alone. After graduating, I lived with a friend from university who had done all the leg work – she found the apartment, she got the lease sorted, all of the adult unpleasantries that go with finding a place to live (shout out to Kristen). It was a two-bedroom, one bath apartment. It was carpeted and homey. We hung our handmade crafts on the walls. It was located in a huge complex with lots of children, and a tiny, tiny dive bar in the parking lot.

Did you experience any big life changes?

Not really. Worked, paid student loans; rinse, repeat. (I don’t really have an answer for this one!)

In what ways did your friendships change?

Growing up, I believed that the friends you made in college were your “forever friends”, and as such, I had a hard time leaving university and learning to put down roots elsewhere. Eventually, I learned that the people who really care about you figure out ways to keep in touch, conversely, it’s possible to feel intensely lonely while you make friends in your new city. It gets better, though.

What did you learn through your romantic relationships?

That we all play at intimacy, and embodying true vulnerability and acceptance is the hardest thing we do as people. In the words of Rilke:

“For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.”

How did your relationships with your family change?

I grew closer to my siblings, and learned to humanize instead of idealize my parents. We’re all human people trying to make it as best we can.

How do you feel society viewed you?

I’m not sure! What I do think is that I stopped caring how it viewed me. I think if I concentrate too long on how I’m viewed by others, I wouldn’t done the things I’ve done (talk about your classic extrovert’s dilemma: act first, question later). I think I spend a far greater amount of time struggling with how I view myself.

How do you feel you changed emotionally?

I think I got better at self-regulation. That being said, there’s something to being unregulated. When I was younger, I made decisions with a lighter heart. I’d like to still have the wisdom that comes from making those choices and the bravery to do so.

How did you change intellectually?

I think I wanted to see the receipts more. I still pretty much believe everything I read in books though.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

It’s like the title of the David Lipsky book about David Foster Wallace – “Although of course you end up becoming yourself”. I was always me, things just settled more into place.

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

I think got WOKE. Most of my early and mid twenties were spent trying to answer the question, “How should a person be?” I wrote lists and lists of admirable qualities, and tried to become the kind of person that embodies those qualities. I became more accepting of the humanity in others, but more skeptical of the systems we put in place.

What was the most embarrassing moment?

Urnmf. I’m not sure! They probably have to do with being interested in someone and being shot down? You get over the intensity of that, too.

What was your biggest disappointment and how did that affect you later?

Yikes. I’m an intensely positive person. I don’t tend to dwell on disappointments (and I’m having trouble recalling one now). I’m of the attitude that if there’s a set back, that’s fine: there’s always gonna be setbacks. You can’t let it derail you. Ever forward, and all that. Ultimately, I’m stubborn, and once I truly make up my mind about a thing I want to accomplish, there’s very little that can stand in my way.

Who was your biggest influence and why?

It’s lonely being The Only One in the Room. I think the younger kids are more woke, they have this catchphrase, “you can’t be what you can’t see” – professionally, I don’t know of anyone that’s been my biggest influence. I guess my answer will be Beyoncé. The answer is always Beyoncé.

Is there any one experience that you feel defined the decade? Or one historical moment that changed you?

Michael Jackson died, and with it, a bit of my childhood. There’s a passage from Nick Hornby’s About a Boy that sums it up perfectly:

He hadn’t been shocked by the death of a pop star since Marvin Gaye died. He had been… how old? He thought back. the first of April 1984… Jesus, ten years ago, nearly to the day. So he had been twenty-six, and still of an age when things like that meant something: he probably sang Marvin Gaye songs with his eyes closed when he was twenty-six. Now he knew pop stars committing suicide were all grist to the mill, and the only consequence of Kurt Cobain’s death as far as he was concerned was that Nevermind would sound a lot cooler. Ellie and Marcus weren’t old enough to understand that, though. They would think it all meant something, and that worried him.

I was 23 the summer Michael died.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

Of course – that’s thing about moving linearly through time: you never know if the decisions you make are the right ones. I cheer myself up by thinking about the multiverse version of Duretti, who has made the choice that I ultimately didn’t go with. It helps me be less indecisive, strangely, to think that some other version of myself is doing the other thing I’m waffling on.

Is there a story that you feel best sums up the decade?

Not really..! Maybe a montage of increasingly vigorous eye-rolls at people telling dad jokes?

Schoolin’ Life: Ms. Candy

Today’s Schoolin’ Life checks in with the magnificent Ms. Candy.

Candy Chu

When you were in your 20s…

What expectations did you have for yourself over the coming decade?

Married with children and somehow in a fancy career in a highrise downtown. Owning a home and basically living the American dream.

In what ways did society shape your expectations of yourself?

Growing up traditionally Chinese made me want more than anything to not be Chinese. In my 20s, I idolized the explorative.

What was your first job like?

My first real job was at a real estate investment company that was like walking into an episode of Seinfeld daily. I was 20, had been placed on suspension from college for a year, and wasn’t going to be able to survive working as a host check-in at Sprint. My dad’s friend had recommended me for an administrative position and, with no experience, my only saving grace in my job interview was saying “I have no experience in an office, but I promise you, I am a quick learner and excellent with computers. I promise to take anything you’re willing to throw at me.”

I was awkward. I had no idea how to speak or how to dress, so I walked on eggshells and kept to myself for the first three months. According to my coworkers, I was known for having very pointy heels. I quietly did all of my work as quickly as possible, laughed at everyone’s jokes and always offered to help. It paid off when I was leaving to return to school and they asked me to stay with a promotion and accommodated my schooling with a modified schedule. It was a great office – with others like me who started young and stayed forever. We were a young group, but we were smart, professional and close-knit. It is because of this job that I know everything I know today and am on my current career path.

What was your first apartment like?

My first apartment was in a college town when I was 19. I lived with my boyfriend in a one bedroom apartment that was five minutes from campus. It was old and tiny with mismatched furniture but it was something I was proud of. I was financing my own car and paying my own rent. For an Asian chick – that’s pretty uncommon.

Did you experience any big life changes?

At 22, I broke up with my boyfriend of eight years. It was very freeing – we were no longer associated with each other and so I set out to create an identity of my own. In college, I ended up moving out and sharing a bedroom in a four bedroom house with my best friend. I made new friends, both in college and outside. My sister told me we had to “fix this” and had me work on my hair, taught me how to wear makeup, suddenly I was out all of the time and began working the nightclub scene. The cherry on top of it all was moving to the City.

In what ways did your friendships change?

I had many friendships through the years, but as I reached further and further into my 20s, people dropped off because I felt like I was growing, but they weren’t. I had less and less in common with people, but the handful of people left are some of the most amazing people you would ever meet: intelligent, funny and ones that I can consider family. Quantity was always great to have, but quality became more important.

What did you learn through your romantic relationships?

Crazy feeds crazy. It’s a really bad dynamic and most of the time, we aren’t ready for a committed relationship anyway. It’s when one or both feel obligated that it always turns for the worst. Also, trust is very important. I know it’s cliché, but it’s true. We need to have that confidence in each other that we are both aiming for the same goal and trust that neither has any other intentions. I used to always be suspicious of the people I dated and, to an extent, I feel like I fueled it into a manifestation of actual cheating. Who knows…maybe I was just psychic. In any case, it would have always been better to walk away on the first genuine fight than to try to work it out. None of them were worth fighting for anyway.

How did your relationships with your family change?

In my 20s, I stayed fairly distant from my family. It was my chance to get out on my own and I needed my space to discover myself. It is actually pretty heartbreaking now to think of all the time that I had lost, but now that I’m older, I understand my family more and have learned to appreciate them much more than I did when I thought of them as nothing but baggage or authority.

How do you feel society viewed you?

I think society viewed me as a rambunctious youth, a typical girl that was overemotional and self conscious. I think my innocence made for more honest opinions which people found quirky. In terms of lifestyle, I had most everything else dialed in with a career, a car and living outside my parents’ home. I think society saw that I was ahead of most women my age.

How do you feel you changed emotionally?

In my 20s, I was more sensitive to the people around me. I sympathized for everyone; I would feel sorry for myself and most of the time, I overreacted because I didn’t know how to react. I took everything very personally. Now that I’m older, I don’t have much time in my schedule to worry about the little things. People and things, they come, they go. Just keep swimming!

How did you change intellectually?

In my 20s I had no opinion on most things. I knew a little bit of everything but a lot about nothing. By the time I reached 28, I finally began to understand people and society more. I think I simplify everything as much as possible by seeing it as black and white now versus sitting in grey all through my 20s.

In what ways do you feel your identity changed?

I am definitely more settled in the sense that I found things that I could invest in, whether it be people, jobs or even something as simple as furniture. There’s a level of comfort in stability, whereas in my 20s I was happy going anywhere, doing anything, living anywhere. I found happiness in anything. I had no real standards; I just wanted exposure to the world.

How did your worldview change over the course of the decade?

Oblivious for the most part. I didn’t follow the news; I had no opinions on anything, really. I read garbage magazines and watched garbage TV. At the end of my 20s, I began to see the world as a much sadder place and resented my superficiality.

What was the most embarrassing moment?

Just about every moment I was ever drunk. I never knew my limits and so there have been many o’ times of screaming and crying and drunk dialing…

What was your biggest disappointment and how did that affect you later?

Not spending more quality time with my mom and constantly trying to push her out of my life. My mother is mentally ill and in a boarding care home and I was really the only family she had since my sisters didn’t have much to do with her. I can’t imagine how lonely that must have felt. I have since worked on being much closer and much more involved. It made me realize the importance of someone in my life who could embrace her as well – mission accomplished. (Editor’s note: shout out to her man, James, for being a BAMF.)

 Who was your biggest influence and why?

My dad – he grew up in poverty and worked hard in a country where he is a second class citizen. He taught me anything I wanted, I needed to learn to do myself. That set the tone from childhood on the be good at everything I did, and to always have what I want.

Do you have any regrets? Are there things you wish you’d done, hadn’t done, or done differently?

I do regret being distant from my mother; I was downright a bitch to her. I would have definitely not wanted to put her through that now. As for everything else, I wouldn’t change a minute of it. It’s what has made me the person I am today and given me the amazing people who are left in my life. It was a good time to weed out the people who did not need to be in my life.

Dame of the Day: Margaret Kilgallen

Margaret Kilgallen

Today’s Dame of the Day is Margaret Kilgallen (October 28, 1967 – June 26, 2001). As a founding member of the Bay Area’s Mission School movement, Kilgallen’s work contains traces of the folk art and freight train tags that inspired her. When presented with the choice of losing her pregnancy or receiving treatment for breast cancer, Kilgallen opted to give birth to her daughter, Asha. The documentary Beautiful Losers contains some of the last footage of Kilgallen prior to her death.