The Starter League


The last couple of months I have been learning to design by way of The Starter League. I went into this as a journey, to build job skills on top of my degree. I got so much more than that.

I got a community of people who, like myself started out with no understanding of design and no definition of coding – but were able to put that aside and build something based on only an idea. There is no place that I have felt such an array of emotions; within the first couple of weeks at Starter League I began to question my own judgement. Did I leave my job, my kids, the home I have had for 16 years behind for nothing? Did I up and move to a city where not only had I never been but knew no one, for nothing? I felt very alone, that I did not fit in and that this was a mistake.

BUT, I had a very strong conversation with myself. I realized that I was not giving this a real chance. I was not engaging in opportunities. I was not offering myself to this challenge. I was not lending my heart to the possibilities that stood in front of me – I was letting the fear of failure steer my course.

God did not move mountains for me to get to Chicago for me to fail. He did not turn my world upside down for nothing. I was the only one standing in my way. I had to change – it was my turn to be present and make a step in the direction I want my life to go.

So I volunteered for events. I got to meet Steve Ballmer – whom before his talk at 1871 I had no idea who he was (Im a Mac girl). I joined a Meetup.  I got to tour some pretty awesome spaces too, like Groupon. I began taking my designs more seriously,because I wanted them to be great – not because I wanted to fill my portfolio or stack my job skills. I wanted to be apart of this community, and for the first time I was.

Things changed.

I met people. I spoke to others. I introduced myself. I spoke more with my instructor Mig Reyes (Google him – he’s kinda a big deal) and other staff members.

I spent more time preparing and working smarter for my meetings with my mentor Joy Burke – who challenged my designs in ways that was so unprepared for. She told me my work was ugly, she questioned everything – to which my answers began with “I liked the color?!” to which she quickly replied “no one gives a shit if you ‘liked’ the color – what is the purpose for using that color!?” Now in all fairness I must say, that she did this to teach and not mean or harsh in anyway, she was correcting my thinking. She was getting me to ask myself what the purpose is. She was teaching me to think like a designer, solve a problem with purpose.

In preparation for #StarterNight, I participated in a Builders Weekend to jump start the build of pitch projects – the final exam if you will. Something I truly was so fearful of participating in. BUT I DID IT. I joined a group with 2 web developers and 3 html/css writers and we planned, designed and built a webpage, which is functional and you can buy Samantha’s upcycled goods. I am proud of my team.

I don’t know what the future holds for my designing – but I hope I can be given a chance to design a lot more. I love taking an idea and making it a reality. I never before have been apart of something so inspiring. I think of Craig Groesechl‘s model – Bring in, build up, train, and send out. That is what Starter League has done for me. Given me the tools to be a great designer. Now the real work begins, I must use those tools.

I am so grateful to so many people.

First my brother Adam – for whom none of this would be possible. For doing more than believing in me – for investing in me.

Mig – I am forever changed by your pro tips, your understanding of my ugliness and knowing, even when I didn’t that I would get there.

Joy – Thank you for being honest with me. Thank you for sharing a small piece of your confidence, and caring about what I have to say. I hope that we can continue to meet -for I have so much more to learn.

LOVEsqrd team – Samantha, Colin, Ty, Case, Lowell: you guys are so rad! WE DID IT!