Catapulting From Coder to CEO with Julia Taylor

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Podcast: Catapulting From Coder to CEO with Julia Taylor
About The Episode Transcript

Listen in as Julia Taylor, Founder and CEO of GeekPack shares her remarkable transition from intelligence work to tech entrepreneurship. Her story is a tapestry of life-altering moments—her first deployment, finding love, and the challenges faced as a military spouse, ultimately leading her to the tech world. She recounts how a simple Google search sparked her coding passion, emphasizing the value of community and mentorship. As Julia's tale unfolds, we also peel back the layers on the evolution of remote work, from the logistical hurdles of global teams to the personal joys of travel and flexibility.

Before our conversation with Julia, we dive into the wild world of DEI backlash. It’s messy out there, people!

(0:00:06) - Backlash and Nuances of Workplace Inclusion

(0:11:49) - Julia's Journey

(0:23:38) - Challenges and Benefits of Remote Work

(0:34:59) - Importance of Supportive, Knowledgeable People

(0:38:37) - Scaling a Business and Shifting Work

(0:49:15) - Tech Economy and Future Outlook

(0:55:42) - Puppies and Core Values

(1:02:36) - Finding Self-Care and Purpose

0:00:06 - Felicia Jadczak Hi and welcome to the She Geeks Out podcast, where we geek out about workplace inclusion and talk with brilliant humans doing great work, making the world a better and brighter place.

0:00:16 - Rachel Murray I'm Felicia and I'm Rachel. Well, hello everyone.

0:00:20 - Felicia Jadczak Hello, let's get into it, let's do it. So it's a topic.

0:00:27 - Rachel Murray You say it so well. So today's topic is going to be building on what we sort of talked about in the last episode around DEI backlash, which I don't know if you've heard listeners, but it's happening.

0:00:43 - Felicia Jadczak It's on. It is indeed happening. I feel like it's been the hot topic in my world for the past. I mean not even past a couple of weeks or past couple of months, but the past couple of years, let's be honest. But it does feel like it's hit a bit of a crescendo. So, yeah, it's been a lot going on in the world, so we definitely started talking about that. Last week. We got more to say so yeah, yeah.

0:01:09 - Rachel Murray So one thing I'd love to bring up is related to this topic is well, first let's just back up a little bit and explain why we think this is happening. Do we think that it started with the affirmative action Supreme Court thing? Probably not right, like that was the symptom of a larger issue.

0:01:32 - Felicia Jadczak I mean, I think. So my take on it and I will say my somewhat informed but somewhat uninformed take is I really think that there were a lot of people and a lot of companies and governments whatever fill in the blank a lot of organizations and structures that were really sort of like forced into this DEI focus or forced addressing DEI in 2020, in the summer of 2020, when George Floyd was murdered and COVID was a thing, we were all sitting at home there. Obviously have been a lot of people and black men murdered before and after George Floyd, but it sort of was this very much of a crescendo moment where really we were like, oh okay, we're all looking at this and we're going to do something about it. So I think there was a lot of people kind of thrust into this space where they weren't ready for it, they didn't want to be there, they didn't come there by their own willingness, and so there's this huge wave of DEI, focused, you know, reforms and policies and work and training and all that good stuff. Then I think it started peter out. So I think what we're seeing now is sort of the result of what happens when you have a huge movement that then starts to sort of go on a decline. And now you have sort of those folks, whoever they are, wherever they're coming from, starting to feel really emboldened and, honestly, rightfully so, because we're getting some wins right, like they got the president of Penn and the president of Harvard, dr Claudine Gay, to step down so there's been some wins, for sure. They're starting to feel really emboldened to push back on this DEI thing right.

I was listening to a podcast the other day that's called no Girls on the Internet really interesting podcast, and they wanted to sort of a bit of a deep dive on, you know, the whole Dr Claudine Gay backlash and kind of more of the details around that, which was super interesting.

So if anyone's interested definitely I'm not an expert, so go listen to that because it's a huge deep dive. But it was really about sort of how DEI has become now the second wave of what was started with critical race theory, where it's like the new critical race theory, essentially like an umbrella term, a lightning rod term that people are using to cover a lot of different bad behavior. So, for example, dr Gay has been put up as this quote unquote DEI, you know person and she's not. She was the president of Harvard University, but it's a cover for the fact that she's a black woman, and so there's a lot of really problematic undertones and underpinnings around calling her a DEI person. And I think that's what we're starting to see now is that DEI is becoming this new wave, you know issue that a lot of right wing people are kind of really coming up behind.

So, yeah, my thoughts.

0:04:22 - Rachel Murray Yeah, I agree with that and I would build upon it to include, I think there are a lot of really well intended, intentioned people who really did want to make change and were in positions of power and probably assumed that it wasn't going to take this much effort three whole years, or they could. It would be easier to like sort of nip this whole thing in the bud. You know, 400 plus years of wildness, right Like no problem.

0:04:55 - Felicia Jadczak It just sticks like hundreds and hundreds of years with a webinar.

0:04:58 - Rachel Murray I know it's so weird, so I think there's that too. There's a bit of there. We've talked about this before is the fatigue of people feeling frustrated, not getting to where they want to get to and feeling like, well, we tried, never mind. So I think that's a big piece of it. I also think that there are well intentioned people that are feeling that some sometimes it goes too far, like there have been articles that we've shared internally of like there's there was this article that talked about you know an all hands meeting and that someone I think it was at Google someone said you know, it's not inclusive, and we've talked about that before too internally of art Like it's not.

It's ableist language to say all hands because people don't have hands. Some people don't have hands, so it feels like when you start to say that it almost was like, people feel like it's overwhelming right. The same way, I think a lot of people felt about transgender like and just and the gender fluidity right when it was in the beginning it didn't feel, nor it wasn't normalized, so it did. It felt so off the realm of like what made sense to focus on. So what you're doing is like losing people on these more nuanced conversations around inclusive language that people feel like are losing the thread. I'm just having conversations about this, so it just makes me think of it losing the thread of the bigger issues of inclusion. But like is it really?

0:06:30 - Felicia Jadczak Well, it's tricky because I agree with you and it's a yes, and, as we love to say yes and because, yes, there's a bigger thread and I do think that there are a lot of people who get stuck on these specifics. And you're right, there is so much nuance to it and when you open the door you can't just say I'm opening the door to inclusion, but just in this tiny space and I don't care about everything else. You have to open it to everything. And because a lot of this stuff hasn't been normalized in language, especially and how we talk. We have so much fill in the blank racist, misogynist, sexist, all the isms and all the ists. We have so much stuff built into our language so it takes a long time to unpack it and it takes a long time to even understand.

Because just this morning I was writing something and I caught myself and I was about to say a rule of thumb and I was like, oh god, I can't say that, I shouldn't say that. It's so horribly tied up with past, as you know, with slavery. And so I caught myself and rewrote it to say best practices. It's an easy fix, but it's something that I could have very easily not even caught that mentally, because it's not to the same extent of like, really overtly wrong, violent, racist language that I have easily taken out of my lexicon, right, so it takes a long time. But it also doesn't mean that we shouldn't say, oh well, this desire for greater inclusion or this request to change language isn't important, and you know.

So the Google thing, I think, is really interesting because on the one hand it's like, oh, come on, people like whatever we all get it, just say all hands, like no one cares, like it's not a big deal, we get that. Not everyone's got two hands. It's not even a two hands meeting, it's an all hands meeting. So just throw your hand in there. Some people have no hands, but on the other hand, like the fact that it's on the other hand, you just get.

0:08:28 - Rachel Murray on the other hand, See perfect example.

0:08:30 - Felicia Jadczak Perfect example. Thank you for calling me in on that. So on the flip side. Hopefully that's okay on the flip side, on the sunny side, on the other side of the street you know, the fact that someone brought this up means that it means something to them, right, and so that's the whole point with inclusion is that we can't just say these people are included and we don't care about these other people.

0:08:53 - Rachel Murray So, but we do have to be understanding of the context. So this is where I think it's important. So, for example, I had a conversation with someone and they were really worried because they said I'm going out on a limb. They gave that they're referring to an arm or a limb of a body, but out on a limb is like a tree limb. That's when you're going out on a limb because you might fall. So that's not ableist language, from my understanding, saying that. So, but we're so conscious of it. It's just something that we need to just be careful when we're using it and understanding, like you said, for them it's important.

0:09:32 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, yeah, and just to kind of circle and close the loop on it, you know we've been talking a lot just the two of us and with our team actually lately, about the fact that inclusion doesn't mean that you include everybody, because my favorite thing to say is like I'm like, well, obviously not going to include Nazis, and like you know what we're talking about, for you know whatever it is, and so that's where context is so important. And you know, I think the Google thing is an opportunity to talk more about this, but it doesn't mean that we should just be whether we're individuals or organizations, just, you know wildly flip-flopping from one extreme to the other. We need to have discussions around it. So I think it's great that Google had someone or a group of people bring this up, and it's an opportunity to dig into it further and learn more too.

0:10:22 - Rachel Murray So, yeah, there's so much more for it. Yes, more for another discussion another time, but let us introduce you to our guest for today. Yes, flisha, do you want to introduce our guest this time?

0:10:32 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, sure. So we are talking to Julia Taylor, who is the CEO and founder of GeekPak, so obviously a company after our own hearts. Geekpak is an organization that's dedicated to empowering women to change their lives for the better through tech, community and confidence. By teaching really valuable tech and business skills, they offer community and they deliver folks the confidence to believe that any dream is possible to achieve. It was really cool chatting with Julia and you'll hear more from us, but there's so much that I know the both of us really vibed with and felt so much similarity between Julia's story and our story, so we're really excited to introduce you to her and all the great work that she's doing. Hey Felicia, hey Rachel and hi Julia, hey, hello.

0:11:23 - Rachel Murray Julia, welcome to our humble little part of the internet, oh thank you so much.

0:11:30 - Julia Taylor I am humbled and honored to be here, so thank you very much for having me.

0:11:36 - Rachel Murray Yay, felicia, do you want to?

0:11:37 - Felicia Jadczak kick things off. Sure, happy to. Well, we're so excited to get into it. There's so much to talk about, but let's just start at the very beginning. A very good place to start, as Sound of Music put it. Why is your origin story, Julia, and how did you start GeekPak? Obviously, we love the name because it's very much in alignment with ours, but just tell us all the things. Yeah, sure, oh gosh.

0:12:00 - Julia Taylor So I'm going to go back quite a ways, because it is kind of how everything got started Back in. So I used to work for the US intelligence community. I've come man my past life and in 2008, I was deployed to Afghanistan and that was my first deployment and while I was there I met and fell in love with my now husband and that kind of started me on this journey that has brought me here, because he was in the military. He's retired now but I ended up leaving my job. I was living in DC. I left my job, moved to the UK, got married, became a military Spouse, which I'm immensely proud of but my career progression just took a nose dive Because we moved around a lot. So that wasn't really something I was prepared for, and while I was and it's something to note with regards to my husband he's British. So I moved to the UK and all of a sudden I'm in this different country and friends and family and everything was different. So I'm in one of my nine to five jobs.

When we were in one of our postings I can't remember where in the UK we were and one of my bosses asked me to do something with the website of the company and I have absolutely no idea to this day why he asked me, why he thought I could do it and I don't have a tech degree, I don't have a tech background and he told me to do this thing. I Googled it. When I got the results on Google, it was a line of code and I remember looking at it thinking I have absolutely no idea what this means, but what the heck, I'm going to go with it and I put that line of code in the back end of the website and hit refresh and show it off. It worked and it was this real light bulb moment for me of oh my gosh, if I've just Googled how to do something techy, and I figured it out in five minutes and I loved it. I loved seeing the change instantly. It was a real life changing moment and that started me down this path of where I am now.

And I learned completely on my own, in a vacuum. I didn't have a curriculum. I Googled on YouTube. I learned everything on Google and YouTube. But the real important thing bringing me around to starting Geekpack is when I was learning. I didn't have a community and I would ask questions in online forums and I would get made fun of and it was really frustrating. People would say, oh, if you don't know the answer to that, you shouldn't be doing X, y and Z, and it just really stunted my growth and my journey and it slowed me down. And when I started Geekpack I decided that it would everything we do. It would have a community element where there is no such thing as a stupid question, where mean people are not allowed and not welcome, and that's exactly why the company is what it's called. We are a pack of Geeks, we look after each other, we empower each other, we support each other and we just love to be geeky together. So that's, that's kind of you know, beginning to where we are now.

0:15:14 - Rachel Murray Oh, can I just chime in Felicia, is that okay? I've, I've, of course.

0:15:18 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, I'll allow it. Thanks, thank you, Julia.

0:15:25 - Rachel Murray I have a comment and I have some follow up questions and all that, but first I just wanted to say it's so interesting hearing your journey because it's similar. I feel like there's a lot that I can relate to. I think having that like instant gratification of being able to make a change is like very satisfying, and to show that it's not doesn't you don't require a degree in rocket science in order to achieve it is a beautiful thing. So thank you so much for sharing that knowledge. Also, thank you for your service, Like the fact that you've done all of this work and the pride in being a military spouse beautiful, I love, I love, all of I love your journey.

I do, I do, and and and I have questions, but I want to just maybe a silly one, but we were just chatting right before this. Your accent is particularly unique, I find. So, before we get any further, in case our listeners are like I want to Google her and like understand, can you share a little bit about? Because I was like are you Irish? That was my first inclination.

0:16:28 - Julia Taylor Yeah, that most people think Irish, primarily because the dark hair and blue eyes and fair skin. I do have Irish heritage but no, I'm not Irish. I'm originally from Georgia, the state, and, but, like I said, my husband's British and I lived in the UK for five years, so it's a. It's an amalgamation of Southern and English and it comes out sounding a little funny. And when I hear myself which I don't know anyone who loves to hear themselves when I hear myself like wow, I do sound weird.

0:17:02 - Rachel Murray You sound Irish. You just sound Irish to me, which makes sense.

0:17:05 - Felicia Jadczak Yes, Well and I could be wrong on this, but I don't think I am Isn't it, isn't there like a theory where, before you know, the continent's broke apart, ireland was kind of connected to what is now Appalachia. There's a lot of overlap there. So you know, I'm just saying like, there you go, you're tapping into your ancestors right there Love it.

0:17:29 - Rachel Murray And and and. Okay, so thank you for humoring me with that question. That is neither here nor there, really, but to you, focus specifically on WordPress. Is that right, or is it?

0:17:43 - Julia Taylor expanded. Yeah, that's how. That's really how I kind of got started. Well, really, I got started because I wanted to be a full stack developer and I started with front end and then I had to go back in and not not having anyone else to ask questions to pretty much made that impossible. And I was I was terrified to invest in myself and and pay for something. So I I was just trying to figure out all on my own and I stumbled upon WordPress and I just thought this is awesome. But I I thought to myself I want to do it. I was trying to prove something to myself.

Like when I look back now, I felt like such an imposter and I really struggled with imposter syndrome and to be honest, that I don't think that ever goes away. And at the time I remember thinking to myself I'm going to like learn WordPress from a development perspective. I'm going to learn how to code, I'm going to learn PHP and I'm going to, you know, build a WordPress site entirely from scratch. I want it.

I was trying to challenge myself because I felt like such an imposter and I thought that that would be a way to, you know, make myself feel better. And I'm glad I did because I learned the hard you know part of WordPress and that's what I teach my students now is. You know work, it can break and and you know things mess up all the time. So if you really understand the back end and how WordPress is all put together, you can solve so many more problems rather than just kind of on the surface stuff that most people know. So, yes, that that that's my bread and butter from what I got started and what I started teaching. But we have expanded into pretty much all things kind of digital and tech skills massively outside of just WordPress.

0:19:27 - Rachel Murray Amazing. And one more follow-up, and I promise, phyllis, I will give you the mic for the rest of the hour.

0:19:34 - Felicia Jadczak Ask the follow-ups. I'm excited this is your jam, just so everyone know. I mean we're listeners who don't know, like this is totally Rachel's jam. So I'm just like an appreciative listener. But you're asking the great questions here.

0:19:47 - Rachel Murray Well, I'm going to take us into the non-technical area, but I'm really glad that you shared that. But I'm so impressed with your ability to create this huge community. Can you talk about, like, the size of it? I'm just curious too. Like the Democrats, and mostly women, so you're women, obviously you're women. On entrepreneur, like, we've certainly found that too is like, do find that your group is just, you know, as you say, geek. So I would just like love to learn a little bit more about who makes that up.

0:20:21 - Julia Taylor Yeah, the majority of our community is women and it was never really on purpose, it was just the you know who was attracted to what we were, what we were doing and how I kind of set it up and I am, I'm very honest, I'm very transparent, I'm emotional, I'm sensitive, I'm I'm. I am a reflection of what the brand has kind of turned into. And a lot of my team, all of my team members, were students first and I think because I don't know another way to be except how I am that when I kind of show up online or, you know, social media and do live events and things like that, the type of people that are just attracted to what we're doing just happen to be women, primarily adult women, learners. I would say 35 to 65 is kind of our sweet spot.

We do have younger, we do have older, but it's women who who want freedom and flexibility from from something or for something that's typically, you know, I want to be able to work from home, I want to get a raise, I want to be with my kids, I want to look after my aging parents, whatever that is. There is something that kind of brings us all together and that seems to be the case. We do have a lot of amazing guys in our program and they are more than welcome. Just you know, all we ask is you're you're a nice person and and you're you're kind to other people like that. That's really the only requirement.

0:21:57 - Rachel Murray I forgot. That's the other part, where we're like. This is like our code of conduct. The first sign is we have a strict, no asshole policy. So right alignment.

0:22:06 - Julia Taylor I say no mean people allowed, but I prefer yours, but I'm always like oh, should I swear.

0:22:12 - Felicia Jadczak So I mean you're more than welcome to take

it and you can say you know, no butt heads allowed or whatever you want to do, feel free, but definitely very in alignment with you know sort of our origin to a certain extent, and kind of the approach as well. I actually had a question going back to something you shared in that example, or your story of your boss asking you to do this. You know techie thing and we're like why? Me? My question was like were you the youngest person or a younger person on the team at that point?

0:22:42 - Julia Taylor I was, and that's never occurred to me.

0:22:45 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, so I mean, who's to say? But that was my initial thought, my immediate thought, rather, because when I was very young, back in the day 20 some years ago and one of my first jobs out of college, my at that point 60, maybe early seventies boss would always treat me like the IT staff because I was the youngest person on the team and that's how I learned a lot of my computer skills, because you know the infamous turn it off and turn it on again, Right, I'm like I don't know what I'm doing, but it was definitely an age thing. So I was curious if that was true for you as well.

0:23:16 - Julia Taylor Yeah, interesting, I was. There were a number of us that were my age, but we were. We were the, the youngest ones in the in the office. Yes, so I guess I was. I was in my probably late twenties, so I definitely wasn't because I was younger than I am now, it's a great way of putting it.

0:23:37 - Felicia Jadczak I love it All right. Well, that's, that was just a quick aside, but coming back to more of what you were just talking about, so you mentioned you know the community is great for people from all sort of different walks of life, and you mentioned working from home. So let's talk a little bit more about remote work, especially because that's become such a thing in the last couple of years and so you were doing this way before a lot of other people were getting into, especially as a military spouse and having to move around a lot, so you were really kind of getting into remote work out of necessity but it's become, I think, part of your lifestyle at this point that you really enjoy. So could you talk a little bit more about some of the ways that maybe your thoughts around remote work have shifted, or you know how that's kind of evolved for you, especially as it's become more and more common place for folks to be engaged in?

0:24:24 - Julia Taylor Yeah, it's. I mean I love it. Now, does it have its challenges? Absolutely. I mean, we just this morning we had our team Christmas party, virtually, and it was 7 am for me and it was, I want to say, 10 or 11 pm for one of my team members in Australia. So, trying to get every we have, we have folks in Europe, australia and the US, literally around the world, so trying to get us all together is a challenge, but we make it work and that's just all we've known and that's all we've done.

It is just one of the things about the way that we work, that that we have figured out how to do it. Is it perfect? No, but because of the, the community that we've built and because the community is completely virtual and online, the fact that I have team members in time zones pretty much around the clock is super helpful, for we have Australian students and they might, you know, have some questions in the middle of the night for us, but then I have a team member who will be, you know, checking then and it's it works for us because of the type of business and the community that we've built and I think there are a lot of positives to it, but there's also a lot of challenges and things that you got to figure out and it's we continue to evolve and try to make it better it's. It's definitely not a all right. You know this is one and done.

We're constantly looking at policies and procedures and meeting times and all the things, but it's worth it because my team is incredible and I love the fact that we're around the world and a lot of my team members we travel. I mean I'm I'm about to head out for a handful of weeks and I will still be working, but I'll be doing it from from, you know, from this place or that place, and it means that we can. We can continue to work and travel like most of us love doing anyway. So we absolutely love it and I'm. It helps that we got started that way and you're right, it was out of necessity to start with and now it's just a perk of the job.

0:26:51 - Felicia Jadczak And I think that's a that's a really good point.

Could you share, maybe, if, if something comes to mind like an example of a really challenge? And the reason I'm asking is because we are also remote first at this point, although we weren't always and I don't know if Rachel shared with you the story of sort of how we, how we entered into this, this dynamic, but we use Rachel and I used to work together in person and the office and I was like I don't know this can work, cause I was definitely that person who always thought that being in the office was really, really important and you know, and so we certainly had to go through a lot of hurdles and you know, part of it was sort of like the cycle of grief, like I'm doing acceptance with it and then figure out platforms and time zones and you know norms and meeting times and all that good stuff. But you know, rachel, feel free to chime in if there's anything else you want to add on that front, but I'm curious about the challenges that that geek back may have encountered.

0:27:46 - Julia Taylor Yeah, I think it helps that we got started this way and my first team member is is in the UK, so we always had either five hour difference when I was living on the East Coast or now it's seven hour time difference. So that's always been something that we've had. And I think there's there's two things that we continue to come up against logistically and then just interpersonally with with remote work. And logistically it's time zones. I actually have a pinned tab in my browser that has all the time zones for everyone on the team, because we have Brazil, switzerland, uk, three time zones here in the US, australia and I feel like there's another so I can see at any given time what time it is somewhere, because it's not always the same, because our time changes, you know, daylight savings and then because we're all traveling, so I can see at any given time where someone is. But time zones consistently is the thing that is okay. We need to get on a call, okay, so that, what time is that for me and when can we make it work? And that's always a challenge and it's just one of those things about how we, how we do what we do and we make it work Interpersonally or just relationships with within the team and things like that.

I honestly I'm not sure we have figured it out, because as the team grows we're all in the same team weekly but now there's too many of us and now we meet monthly. But is that enough? And how often should I be there? And is it divisions of the business or is it the whole business? You know, and we're honestly we're just figuring it out as we go and fortunately we're all flexible and we get that and we're able to communicate in this way or that way to to make sure that we're all on the same page. So we just get it right? Absolutely not, but we have good team communication to kind of figure it out as we go.

So I'm definitely not a poster child of remote work, but we we have a solid communication foundation with working, virtually that we're able to kind of get through those hurdles. But that's a hard part. We I flew them all into Durango, where I am now Durango, colorado, this past summer for our first ever in person retreat. I've been working with some of these women full time for years, never met them in person, and we did it this summer and it was amazing and we're going to continue to do it annually. It was absolutely valuable just to be together and have that kind of like oh, you're a real woman. Wow, you're shorter than I expected and you're taught you know all those things. But I wouldn't say it's perfect, that's just part of it.

0:30:46 - Rachel Murray Go ahead. Felicia, I'm sure you were going to say the same thing that I was going to say.

0:30:49 - Felicia Jadczak No, I mean, I'm sure we were going to say like literally the same exact thing, but we can definitely really been there and are still very much in that same, you know, sort of journey, even down to you know us having our first couple in person retreats in the last year or two and same thing. Oh my gosh, you're this way in person versus a little box on the screen. So appreciate all that. But yeah, rachel, back over to you.

0:31:13 - Rachel Murray Yeah, and just to echo to the challenges of, you know, figuring out how often to meet and what, being really conscious of people's time and protective of people's time, but making sure that there's still that synchronous communication as much as possible too, because it is, it is really valuable. We definitely relate to all of that. So thank you for sharing. Wanted to touch back on the imposter syndrome piece. I mean, going from you know, hey, I'm doing this thing, I'm coding. This is amazing. I'm going to start doing freelance, to being like, actually, I see, a problem that I want to solve is a huge leap, one that, of course, we can appreciate. We just love to know if you felt much in the way of pushback or resistance when you were first doing it, whether that's an internal, like what you mentioned with imposter syndrome, or if there was any external pressures. How did that process go for you?

0:32:13 - Julia Taylor Internal, almost entirely, I don't. I've had, you know, some people along the way oh, you know you shouldn't do this or what about this, but not anyone close to me and not anyone that I listen to, and I've figured out ways to kind of like I'm not going to. You know, I don't care what you say, because you're not important and you don't have any, you know, say in my decisions. So the people that I've surrounded myself with, whether it's mentors, advisors, coaches, family friends, it's always just been supportive. Now, that being said, I don't give myself that same level of grace, and you know but that I am better at than I used to be, and it's absolutely been internal and oh, I can't do that. Oh, I can't do that. And what if someone says, and what if I don't do it right?

So most of my entrepreneurial career has been me second guessing myself but then surrounding myself with people who believe in what we're doing and have supported me along the way, and a lot of that has, you know, is mindset and imposter syndrome. I mean, if I'd let imposter syndrome kind of take hold, there's no way I would be where I am today with the business and the team that I have and the impact that we're having, because I am terrified of what I'm doing, because what if someone finds me out? That is a common thing that I think to myself. But the more successes that we have, the more external validation. We've been awarded some grants and things recently. That's, those things help absolutely, but I still do have a mindset coach who I've worked with for years and she she's. It's just an ongoing thing of building up my own confidence.

0:34:15 - Felicia Jadczak We definitely can relate. One of my favorite things to say to our team is like, listen, we don't have a manual. We do have a manual to give us a playbook when we started this company with, here's how to do it, so we're also figuring it out ourselves. So can certainly certain relate to that. But on that note, do you have any advice that you would give to anyone else who might be thinking about starting running their own business for the first time, especially they don't have a business degree? Because I think a lot of times, oh okay, you gotta do this, this, this to get to this point and of course you know, we all know that's not always the case. Yeah, what advice do you have?

0:34:53 - Julia Taylor Oh gosh, I could probably write a book on this. Um, all the things I didn't know. Um, surrounding yourself with people who know more than you do, who have been where you want to be, who challenge you, who, um, support you, who answer your questions, and I would not be where I am now without the support of other people that are smarter than me, that that that were either a step ahead of me or 10 steps ahead of me. But knowing that there's other people who are doing what I wanted to do, it was a okay. Well, they, how have they done it? What can I do that's similar to them? How can I kind of ask them questions and get advice? Um, that has been huge. I mean, it was a financial investment to to kind of have that support, but it is absolutely been worth it. And then the and it gets so much of it comes back to that kind of level of confidence and imposter syndrome. And and how to know that? That is just your brain? Um, trying to keep you safe. That's, that's all. That is the voices in your head. You know you telling yourself stories that that aren't true and are not factual in any way. That is just your brain trying to keep you safe and and knowing that you can. You can, you can stretch a little bit outside your, your comfort zone and try that. And you know, 1% better every day, like little things.

When I look back on everything we've done since 2018, when I I started geek pack none of it was like this huge, massive step that I took. It was all just little, a little thing here and a little thing there. And did that work? No, oh, this did work. Okay, let's do a little bit more and a little bit more. So I've. I feel like I've taken slow steps in the right direction, with a very specific kind of vision and clear goal of where I wanted to go, but I've done it slowly. But I look back now and kind of think, wow, like, look at what we've done in a short period of time, but at the time it felt slow. So it's. It's just that giving yourself grace to know that going slow and doing 1% improvements each day will make a huge difference over time. Those, those are probably the things that I would say.

0:37:27 - Rachel Murray That is excellent advice. Thank you for that. Um, we can certainly relate. Slow and steady, yes, I love me. I love me a good tortoise versus hare scenario myself. Um, for those of you who are listening, fletch is laughing at me, which I really appreciate. Um, laughing with me. Um, it's about to say with, with, with, with, with Um. So it's so cool that you, um, the people that you taught, are now the people that are on your team. Again, sort of the same theme of of, you know, being a business owner having that transition. I'm curious to know how was that transition, transition for you, going from a freelancer working for yourself to the very challenging job of being a people manager?

0:38:14 - Julia Taylor Terrifying and um and and I don't want to say hard, but uh the learning curve, Um and again I've I've gotten plenty of things wrong and I've learned from things that I've done. Oh, you know, I shouldn't have done that. I should have done it this way and like at at my core. I just want to. I just want to get in and do like. I love figuring things out. I love, you know, building things and and being in the nitty gritty and kind of the, the operational stuff, I love. I love that. However, I love our vision and our mission way more. So I have to really put into perspective for myself why would I be doing that nitty gritty thing when someone else can do that? But what I need to be doing is exactly what I'm doing right here, right now. It is how often can I tell as many people as possible about our mission and vision and who we want to impact and where we want to go and where we want to take things? And and I love that more.

So, for me, it's just been a lot of kind of putting those things into perspective and putting the right people in the right seats on the bus, so to speak, and and I've been incredibly fortunate to have.

We have thousands of students, and the ones that have been with me the longest they were all students first and it was just one of those right, right place at the right time where we needed someone to do X, and I knew that they were already doing that thing without being paid because they love it and they want to support and they want to help, and it was okay. I want you to be on the team and do this this full time, so, but it's not easy, both because I was never a manager before, so I didn't really know how to manage people. And why aren't, why isn't everyone like me? You know figuring that out, and and and why do they act that way? And you know I don't like confrontation why, why do they so? Why do they so? Just, all those things are are different and new. But again, I have, I have coaches, I have mentors, I have advisors who are guiding me through those things, and that that helps immensely.

0:40:38 - Rachel Murray So, yeah, it's, it's been a challenge, but a challenge I have loved and literally feel like we're having just a conversation with ourselves right now.

0:40:47 - Felicia Jadczak I know I feel like after everything you say, julia, I'm like us too, and I know Rachel's been chatting like we can relate to this and absolutely plus wanting pretty much everything you're saying. I also was not a manager before, you know, becoming a people manager at our company. Rachel's had some experience in that area before, but no, but no, but no actual training and we talk about no training? Yes, when you're a manager.

0:41:11 - Rachel Murray they also don't hand you a manual for that. Nope, there is a lot of education out there, but usually, whether you're in a company or you're starting your own, there's not like oh, you should really get some manager training.

0:41:23 - Felicia Jadczak So kudos to you. Oh, thank you. You mentioned something that, again, on this note, really related to which was, you know, sort of oh, but this is not how I do things. Or, you know, I think for a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners, there's that shift from working, you know, as we call it, in the business, to on the business Certainly a big challenge that Rachel and I are still figuring out ourselves, as we are in.

Whatever year we are in a business at this point, you know how to balance out getting out of being the you know one or two people working on everything and doing it all ourselves to having a team doing things. And then there's always these, you know, challenges of, oh well, I would have done it differently, or I don't like the way you did it, or you know, I'll do it faster. All that good stuff. I know you're, you're in alignment with that. So how's that? How's that worked for you? And, like you mentioned, having support teams of advisors and mentors. But what? What sort of has been your experience of making that shift from getting out of being in the weeds to working more on building the business itself?

0:42:29 - Julia Taylor I, I've been trying. I mean, this is a journey of of it's not, you don't like flip a switch, and all of a sudden it's like okay, cool, I'm going to delegate everything and they're going to be awesome and I'm going to walk away from it. It's definitely taken years and I think it was earlier this spring. I read a book and there was a quote in there that really resonated and it said 80% done by someone else is 100% awesome. And I remember thinking like that is genius and that is is absolutely the case.

And again, so much comes back to like our mission and vision and where we are taking the company and I cannot continue to be in the weeds and serve that mission and vision. I just, I just can't. I know that. And between those two things, like if I see something that is done and it's not quite the way that I would have done it, I think I could maybe come up with one or two instances where there was a negative ramification because of that, and none of it was huge, it was super minor.

But most of the time, 99% of the time, it may not be done the way that I would have done it, but no one else cares, it's been fine and I didn't do it. It's just taken experience and seeing that and me trying to be as clear as possible about how, the parameters of how I want it to be done, but giving some wiggle room so that it can also be owned and that team member can be, can kind of feel empowered to do it with their own twist and eventually their own way. But it's, it's taken time and I just have to keep my eye on the, the strategic direction of the business, because that's my role and and I have other people doing roles that I used to do but I shouldn't be doing anymore. So it's just taken time.

0:44:38 - Rachel Murray Wow, it's really bizarre. Yes, I mean, we just relate to that so much, and it sounds like you could become a coach yourself pretty soon, if you're not.

I know, see, this imposter syndrome. That's your biggest weakness, it's your Achilles heel. It's just the imposter syndrome because you're fabulous, but switching a little bit. So thank you so much for talking through all of that with us. I would love to just know your thoughts. So you essentially, you've run boot camps, online learning, you've managed to solve virtual learning. There's a lot that's shifting right now. I would love to just learn about what you know of the trends in the space. What sort of shifting? What do you see coming at us in the future? Oh gosh.

0:45:23 - Julia Taylor So the space that I'm more familiar with is adult learning and is digital upskilling. Not so much because there are so many companies out there that do coding boot camps and that's not us. Like you know, we've just kind of said, okay, that's not us. There's a lot of books to do that. So what do we already know how to do? What do we do well, who do we resonate with and how can we scale that and have the biggest impact? And so much of what we're seeing. And we're applying for a lot of grants and working with the state of Colorado and other non-profit and other organizations and we're finding that so many companies and organizations they talk about wanting to get more people upskilled in digital tech skills and they talk about wanting more DEI in their organizations, but there's very little actual doing. And I didn't realize, because we never kind of went into this without intention, but that's just what we're doing, because that's who we attract.

And that's how we do things. We roll up our sleeves and we teach the thing that they need to learn in order to start their own business, get a job, get a promotion, like whatever that is. So we've come to realize that we're kind of like these boots on the ground for these bigger national state level organizations that are talking about wanting to do something, but we're actually out there doing that. So why do I say all that? I think this year was a little bit funny on the. You know, we can't say DEI, I guess, depending on what state you're in and some lawsuits and things. I don't know. I didn't pay enough of attention.

But there are plenty of organizations that see the value in genuinely not only doing it because they think they need to say it, but because we are running out of a talent pool of people who look like the people you see in tech. So we're just running out of people to do tech jobs. So we need to broaden the talent pool of people that have these skills and that means that everyone's going to look different, which is awesome. So, you know, that's where I see things changing is the face of tech is going to look different. We are going to have varying ages, races, genders, like all of it. It's just we're all going to look different and it's going to be awesome and it's only going to make things better. That's really where I see the future of tech going, because at the end of the day, we're running out of people so it has to, and that's just economics. I guess that's really where I kind of see things going. I hope that answers the question.

0:48:40 - Felicia Jadczak Well, I have a follow up question to that, julia. So I agree in large part to what you just shared, and my question following up is with tech specifically. Of course, the tech industry has undergone a lot of upheaval in the last year. So, with you know, I think there is this big shift away from the great resignation where there was so much power in the hands of employees and that's really, you know how she geeks out got its start in a lot of ways where we had all these women who wanted tech jobs and these companies wanted to bring them in.

But now in the last year or so, we've seen a shift away back into having sort of power concentrated in the hands of the companies, and we're seeing folks like Spotify saying we had one of our best years ever and guess what? We're doing all these layoffs right? So it feels very unsettled and very uncertain, and I think that you know tech's not alone in this, but a lot of times when cuts and layoffs happen, the people who tend to be first on the chopping block are people in your community and ours right, women, people who are not, you know, sort of the norm, people who are working on issues of DEI, who are the remote workers who don't want to come to the office, all of that stuff. So I'm curious if that's made its way into your community at all or if you have any thoughts on sort of current dynamics in regards to what you just shared about sort of like longer term forecasting and trends.

0:50:04 - Julia Taylor Yeah, absolutely. You know those are the folks who might be on the chopping block. Don't have the tech degree and you know, haven't, weren't able to go to a coding boot camp and you know that costs 50 grand or whatever. Yeah it, that is what we're seeing now because we had that huge spike with COVID and now you know, companies are struggling. I think that pendulum is constantly going to be going back and forth. You know, again, I'm not, you know, I don't know much about economics, but I think we're always going to see that going back and forth.

But we have seen so many people say I want to start my own business and be the master of my own destiny, and that's something that I really like. That we're able to provide is both of those things. Is, if you, if you want to start your own business and be an entrepreneur and freelance and make money on the side or leave your job and do, that's something we can do. But if you are in an entry level position for a company and you might feel like you could be on the chopping block, what could you learn in addition to upskill, to not be someone who is on the chopping block and being able to provide those. Those two things kind of in any economy is is helpful, but I think, unfortunately, that's just the the way things will will swing.

And what I tell my students because a lot of our students start their own business and they'll kind of say, oh, you know, I gotta find clients and what, what's? How do I set myself apart? And we're always telling our students, like, think about, what is it about you that makes you different and sets you apart from all the other people who might be going for this, this job or that job and I think it's the same for employees is what is it about you and the role that you do and the job that you do that sets you apart from someone else who could be on the chopping block? And when it comes time for these, these regular resignations, and what can they do extra? To learn something new, to stay up to date, to to be super valuable, to add to the organization, so that when it is between this person and that person they are, they set themselves apart based on their, their skills or their experience and just constantly learning. And I think you know y'all, I'm sure y'all agree this this is we, we are lifelong learners and and if you are willing to learn something new, you will always have an opportunity to work, and that's, I think, regardless of what economy we're in. If you could learn something, especially tech, because that's where the world is going, you will be a lot more likely to to land a job, to keep a job, to start your own business and be successful.

0:53:04 - Rachel Murray I love that. I'm also thinking, you know, being an electrician or a plumber, because those are also skills that are very much needed, especially in my community.

0:53:15 - Felicia Jadczak And they use tech a lot of the time, like people think it's just tool it's. I mean tech is also a tool.

0:53:21 - Rachel Murray Yeah, there's a whole how to this make, get made episode of big kind of maximum overdrive, big controversy around what's a tool and what isn't a tool, but that is neither here nor there.

0:53:31 - Felicia Jadczak That's a different conversation for another episode really is.

0:53:34 - Rachel Murray It really, really is, rachel. Come on, get it together. Well, we have one final question before we head over to the the sort of silly ones. So what's next for you? What is? What does future Julia look like?

0:53:50 - Julia Taylor Well, just continuing to lead as best I can.

I see I'm always so uncomfortable with questions like this because, you know, I want to continue to be a better version of myself, learn more, get more advice and build my own confidence that I can run this business and this team and lead us to the vision that we have set, which is which is big and big, hairy, audacious, but that's okay, because you know, I have to believe in myself, that I can do this with the support of the people around me, and a lot of that is just, you know, working on myself and and as I, as I kind of hit new levels and new kind of plateaus the, the imposter syndrome, the confidence, like all those things just morph and change, but they're still there and, and it is just, I want to continue to, to be who I am honest and transparent and know all the things that are important to me as a human being, while leading the team and empowering them to help us, you know, get to where we want to go, and it's just.

You know what I'm doing now, but on a bigger scale, and I know I'm going to need more support to to do that, which is exciting and terrifying, but yeah, just a better version of myself is all I hope to be in the future.

0:55:41 - Rachel Murray I love that. And, Flisha, before I kick it over to you, I do have one other silly question that I forgot that I wanted to ask you about what is up with that picture in your LinkedIn profile.

0:55:52 - Julia Taylor Oh, the one with the with the best, yeah, so it's funny, I actually have the goggles right here and if you can see, yeah, here are the goggles, yes, oh, yeah, you can see it there the dynamite. So I did a Facebook ad. So this is the one with the goggles on my forehead right, that picture, yeah, yeah, I did a Facebook ad and it was a video where I blew up a computer and oh, you know, does, does tech or WordPress ever make you want to blow up your computer? And it was this you know comedic kind of thing from my laptop blowing up. But that picture is a screen grab from the video and that has. I've had that for years now because it gets so much attention and people recognize it. But that's what it is. So I still have my goggles, I still have my dynamite from that because it's such an epic picture Literally the best.

0:56:51 - Rachel Murray Thank you for indulging me.

0:56:52 - Felicia Jadczak Love it, love it. Well, I also. I love that you had the goggles right there, easily at hand. Maybe this, maybe this is in line with the question that I'm going to ask you, which is what do you geek out about? And it can't be anything that you've talked about already, so like no geek pack. Maybe it's the goggles, I don't know, but what are you geeking out about these days?

0:57:15 - Julia Taylor These days I am geeking out about puppies, or a puppy.

Stay more he's just done. Here I have a 12 year old chocolate lab. Oh yeah, not a puppy, not yet. But I have a 12 year old chocolate lab. His name is blue and he's awesome. He I taught him to fetch beer from a fridge, like he's. He loves tricks and they'll do anything for food. He's staring at me now because he wants to eat. And we just recently decided to get a new puppy and we've kind of put in for a black lab that we'll get in the spring. So I've been kind of researching. I got to remember how to train them and all that. So right now I'm geeking out about about a new new lab puppy that we'll be getting a few. Oh, how fun.

0:58:11 - Rachel Murray I'm excited for you. I'm a little sad for blue, I'm a little concerned, oh, no, those of me like what happened. I thought I was the one yeah he'll love the company.

0:58:24 - Julia Taylor But yeah, he's, he's 12. So he's he's a little bit grumpier than he used to be, so I think he's also going to be a little bored with it after a while.

0:58:33 - Rachel Murray Yeah, I mean who? Who isn't grumpier these days, you know?

0:58:36 - Julia Taylor so I get it.

0:58:37 - Rachel Murray I'm with you, blue. So who or what inspires you?

0:58:41 - Julia Taylor Oh wow.

I think the occasionally I will. I will see comments in our community where a student has has done something outside their comfort zone that they didn't think they could do, whether it was they figured something out, they learned something new, they approached someone, they they got a new client, they got a job. Like any time a student or someone in our community like has a win, and I love the small wins. I mean don't get me wrong like when a student has huge revenues, like fantastic, that's awesome. But when I see the small wins because so much of my journey was small wins and those kind of ahas and those were such big confidence boosters over time they really add up.

So when I see my students and folks in my community having those small wins, it kind of reminds me that like we are actually doing something that is massively impacting lots of people, like we're genuinely having a positive impact on on real people's lives and that is so inspiring to to think that I had a. I had a small part in that and then my team had a small part in that, and when I see those small wins, it is okay, so that that that we're doing something right. Let's keep doing it, let's do more of it and let's have more small wins for our community members. So small wins from our, our, our folks. That that's absolutely what keeps me going and keeps me inspired and pushes me, because when they're putting theirself out there and doing something outside their comfort zone, like, all right, I'm going to go do that, do something as well. That that doesn't feel good, but I know it was going to have a positive impact.

1:00:53 - Felicia Jadczak That just reminds me so much of what we used to say back when our community was like in full steam ahead pre COVID, and we would say very similar things, because it is. You know, the big wins are obviously very important, but sometimes it's those micro moments that are just as important. So I'm glad to hear that's true for you too. If you need some time to think about this next question, feel free to say so and we'll skip to another one. But curious, if you can share what your core values are.

1:01:23 - Julia Taylor Oh, yes, I absolutely can, and I'll show you one. So, right at our team retreat this past summer, one of the activities that we did. Now, we're all kind of techie and we like to, you know, just just do stuff and figure it out. We're not super, super creative, but I came up with these kind of craft ideas and this is oh wow.

So these are our core values curiosity, compassion, connection, courage and creativity. They're all listed on our website and I had these, these kind of blocks made, and then I ordered these things and I had a Polaroid and we had stickers and these are pictures of my team and you know just memorable moment moments. I celebrated my 40th birthday when they were all here. So these, yeah, these are our, those are our core values and a lot of that are, you know, my me personally is very much a reflection of, of the company and the people that I kind of surround myself with, but I absolutely like also stretch in places and and and change and morph and grow and learn and you know all those things. But those are the, those are our core values there.

1:02:39 - Rachel Murray Love it. Those are really good. I'm like can we take all of our core values? Those are fantastic, and I love the old being with C. I love a good alliteration. I think we have time for like two more. So what is your favorite way to practice self care?

1:02:56 - Julia Taylor Camping in the middle of nowhere with no internet. So my husband and our big, big fans and we've got a truck and a camper that kind of sits in the bed of the truck and we take the dog and my my happy place is being somewhere with no internet, because that's how I am not, you know, constantly connected and I can do other I can, I can think and I can have those. Oh, I hadn't thought about that because there's just so many distractions. So camping in the middle of nowhere with no internet is how I practice self care.

1:03:35 - Felicia Jadczak I love that because you just shared one of your core values as connection and you're like, but also not connection, which, listen, I'm totally on board for, because it is very distraction to live in this modern world.

1:03:48 - Rachel Murray Well, and also connection could be connection to the earth. That's true, that is very true.

1:03:53 - Felicia Jadczak Connection with myself To yourself.

1:03:55 - Rachel Murray Your mind, your soul, your spirit.

1:03:57 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, all right. Last question what is the best advice you've ever received and who gave it to you? That's so much good advice over the years, or it could also be what's one piece of good advice. It's going to be like the best if you can't prioritize in a ranking system.

1:04:26 - Julia Taylor And I'm sure someone else told me this because I wouldn't have figured it out on my own, that's for sure. But the thing that I tell my students and I actively try to practice myself is is having a really clear understanding of what your why is. Because so many of our students will come to us and they want something to be different. But they're choosing to do something that's outside the norm. So it's going to be harder, it's going to be, there's going to be highs and lows and all the stuff that comes along with it. So they're in a situation that is not ideal. They want something different and I challenge them, as soon as they are part of our community, our program, to figure out what that is. I actually we send out these postcards when students join and on one side it kind of says welcome, so glad you're here, and on the other side we give them this bit to kind of write down and pin this somewhere, you know, wherever they can put it to remind themselves because the you're going to have bad days, you're going to have bad weeks, bad months, bad years, like all of those things are going to happen. You're going to have good days as well, but when times get tough.

I want my students to remember why they're doing this hard thing, this thing that's outside the norm. What is that? That? That bigger reason and it might be bigger than themselves it might be. You know, I want to travel, I want to spend more time with my kids, so, like, whatever that thing is, I just I want them to figure that out, because it will help them get through the difficult times that are surely going to come, and that has been huge for me, and that's why I tell so many people the value and the importance of figuring out what your why is.

Because really, at the end of the day, that's your mission and that's you know what drives you to to continue to try to be a better person, a better version of yourself. You're learning something, you're, you're, you're finding clients, you're getting the job you're, you're putting yourself out there, the what's, that underlying reason why you're doing something that is outside your comfort zone? Because it doesn't feel good. So why are you doing that? And that's I was challenged to figure out why. Why, and my why changes all the time and that's okay, but having something that, when it's hard to to go back to, has been immensely valuable for me.

1:07:07 - Rachel Murray So that's great advice and I really love that. You also said it's okay to change your why. You can change it all the time, Cause I do think that people are I'm definitely feel this way sometimes, where I'm like no, this is my why and it's going to have to be this way until I die Like this, is it so? And there's a lot of pressure. So really appreciate that. Julia, this was absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much.

1:07:29 - Julia Taylor Where can people find you, oh easiest is geekpackcom. Head on over to your website. We've got tons of stuff there We've got. We're on YouTube, on LinkedIn, on Facebook, instagram. You know name, name the platform. We're there. So just just search for geekpack, you'll find us. Amazing.

1:07:47 - Rachel Murray Well, thank you so much, julia.

1:07:49 - Julia Taylor Thank you, it was an absolute honor. I've, you know, loved it. Thank you so much for having me.

1:07:56 - Rachel Murray What a vibe. You were totally right, felicia. We just absolutely vibed with Julia, so happy that we had this conversation, and we hope that you enjoy listening to this interview as much as we enjoyed it ourselves.

1:08:08 - Felicia Jadczak Yeah, absolutely, and thanks, as always, for listening. Please don't forget to rate, share and subscribe. I know we're a tiny podcast, but it really does make a huge difference in our reach and, by extension, our work. Also, make sure to visit us on YouTube, instagram and LinkedIn to stay up to date on all things SGO. Bye-bye everyone, bye.