What a year. I started 2018 with a one word theme: "Moonshot." My goal for the year was to aim big and be audacious regardless of any obstacles that would be in my way. When I started the year, I thought I knew what this would look like but now that the year is coming to a close things turned out to be completely different.
I started the year as director of IT at a school in Pittsburgh and focused all of my energy into improving the ways that IT is used in our schools. I cultivated critical partnerships and refined my vision for the department in preparation for an anticipated expansion in the coming years. I always thought this would be the place that I would retire. I thought that I had a roadmap for my career that was solid and unshakable. My assumptions were completely wrong.
Sometime in October 2018, I was told that my role was being phased out. I was told that the department that I had been leading for the past 7+ years would be dismantled and absorbed into a new and revised org-chart in support of a new direction being defined by executive leadership and the board. My initial response was one of shock and sadness. It was quite an unexpected blow and something that I just didn't see coming and it left me wondering how to navigate my way forward.
As I went through the next several days and weeks, coming to work as if everything was normal, feeling as though my girlfriend just broke up with me but we still live together (awkward), I was struggling to define how to get my career back on track. I'm a father of two young children, and living in the United States don't have access to state sponsored health insurance so my initial reaction was just that, reactionary. I look for jobs everywhere hoping that I could find a secure place to settle in and support my family on a modest salary with health benefits and nothing that I came across seemed like a good fit.
This brought me to a phase of reflection. I reflected on my goals, my passion, and what I want for the future of my life, my family, and my fellow world citizens. When I started my career I was a middle school teacher. I was very optimistic and hopeful and believed that I could make a difference. In the years that followed I was married, lost all of our savings (and more) on a bad real estate purchase/sale, had two kids, and settled into a practical life providing for my family. As I reflected on what got me into education, I recalled on of my major influences, Jonathan Kozol. If you work in education (in any capacity), please read Jonathan Kozol. My introduction to Jonathan was his book, "Savage Inequalities," a story of the ways that public education provides completely unbalanced opportunities to students of color and poor families as opposed to their white and more affluent neighbors. The book inspired me to teach and gave me a sense of commitment to change the very structure that creates this inequitable opportunity gap for millions of children across the US.
This led me to the biggest Moonshot that I have ever taken, starting my own business. I am proud to officially announce the formation of Mend the Gap. Our mission is to close the racial achievement gap. We do this through predictive analytics and bias reduction. For more information on the company please visit our company LinkedIn profile or visit our website at mendthegap.ai
As I defined my 2018 goal of a Moonshot, I didn't anticipate that I would end the year with a company but here I am. There are many lessons to learn from this and one of the biggest that I'm taking away is that there is nothing certain in this life. No matter how well defined a life plan is it can always change on you despite your best efforts. The other lesson that I've learned is that self-reflection is very powerful. I decided to start my company because I was able to reflect on my core values and define a new path forward based on those values.
I'm excited to begin this journey and I'm thankful to have already found people who believe in the mission of Mend the Gap. I've been fortunate to connect with some fantastic people and I look forward to entering the new year with a new commitment and look forward to working with many people as we work toward achieving our mission.