When I started working for Disruptt I had no idea what I was doing. It was March, and since I’m still in the process of finishing my degree at my university in New York, that meant I was working out of my dorm room using a laptop and cracked iPhone for 15 hours a week. I was doing outreach calls. I was really bad at it. Every time my phone would ring I’d get nervous. My heart beat faster and my voice was too high pitched and too fast paced. I didn’t have much confidence and when I looked at the speakers I was representing, the incredible people I worked with, I felt like I didn’t belong and that it was only a matter of time before I was fired. I lacked gumption. I wasn’t a badass.
The thing that saved me was that I really cared about the company. In every way. The mission of Disruptt is as complicated or uncomplicated as you want it to be. We want to talk about the things that matter. The hard conversations that people seem to run away from: sexual assault, suicide, mental illness, women’s empowerment, the dark side of technology. That’s our bread and butter. Why? Because we want to see a change in the world. I want to see a change in the world, and the first step to initiating change is talking about it.
And talk we did. Even though Jordan was on tour with What’s Your Big Lie? at the time, I had Skype meetings with him and our team several times a week, and listening to Jordan’s incredible stories as he traveled across the continent, touching students’ lives with his program, motivated me. I worked hard, but most importantly, I became more open to criticism than I have ever been in my whole life. I would constantly ask both my team and myself, what do I suck at? What can I do better? How can I do it?
I sucked at talking on the phone, so I would sit in on my team’s calls and watch and listen to what they did. I mimicked their voices, learned what kind of language worked best, and soon my calls were improving. People stopped hanging up on me, they called me back, they followed up! Speaking on the phone is an art form, I don’t care what anybody says, and as I watched myself improve in this one small area, my confidence began to grow. As I improved I was given more responsibilities and even began pitching my own ideas and strategies in meetings. Some of them we used, some of them we didn’t, but the thrill of brainstorming with a group of people that I had never thought I’d have the opportunity to meet, never mind work with, was incredible.
As spring passed and we moved into summer I finally felt like I had some traction, I was getting better, I was actually being helpful. You know what, Cali? You might not even get fired. And then COCA With Cali was born. If you’re a newcomer to the Disruptt blog then you missed the week that Disruptt attended the Canadian Organization of Campus Activities (COCA) National Conference. It was a place for us to meet student leaders across Canada and introduce them to our speakers and programs through networking mixers, showcases, trade shows and education sessions. That week was not only a ton of fun, but was a great week for Disruptt and we owe that to our incredible roster. They came out and performed, mingled, taught and met with campus professionals and took full advantage of the opportunity to show those bright people what Disruptt is all about. I had never been prouder to represent them.
My role that week was to make as much noise on the internet as I possibly could so that people would know we were coming. If you want to see what that looks like, check it out here, but in the interest of telling this story, I’ll just tell you that COCA 2017 was the first time that I really truly began to believe that I could belong at Disruptt. Not as a student employee who was faking it until she made it, but as someone with a valuable voice whose hard work made an impact. For the first time in my quazi-adult life, I started to realized that if I want to be, I can be a rainmaker.
Over the next month that realization unleashed an unapologetic confidence in me that I had only ever thought people in Nike commercials could have. I woke up every morning excited to work and excited for the possibilities that each day held. I loved every chance I got to tell someone about the magic of PostSecret, or the kickass awesomeness of You Got This, Girl!. I enjoyed writing blog posts and exploring new partnerships with Shift. I became determined and hungry for every opportunity I was given to contribute to the success of Disruptt and in that, I realized something. Passion is important, but it’s nothing without confidence. If you’re passionate about something and want to make a difference, first you need to learn to be passionate about yourself.
I’m still brand new to the industry, I still don’t know what I’m doing a lot of the time. I continue to grow and learn new things every single day, and I have years to go before I’ll ever come close to being half as notable as the brilliant people I work with. But for the first time ever, I can see in my mind’s eye what I’m capable of, and come hell or high water I’m going after it. This summer I realized the potential I have, and for the first time in my life I have the confidence I need to start reaching for it.