Go Mighty’s 31 Days of Inspiring Women, #20: Connie Hwong
Meet Connie, Community Manager at GigaOM and founder of 2905(miles). Born and raised in New Jersey, she went to college in New York City and moved to California with almost no cash and whatever could fit in the backseat of her friend’s Honda Civic. Ten years later, she’s still in San Francisco, though adventures (for work and for fun) have taken her back to NYC (my other favorite city), and across Europe, Asia, and South America.
She’s currently the Community Manager at GigaOM, a media company here in San Francisco, but over the past decade, she’s bounced around the education, tech, nonprofit, journalism, art and food service industries. Some of her favorite gigs (besides my present one, of course): contributing editor at Flavorpill (SF), florist at Kingston Flower Company, bartender at the Greek Theater, grantwriter at the Bay Area Video Coalition, and Minister of Finance at the SF Embassy at SXSW, one of the hare-brainiest and most fantastic experiences ever.
So, Connie, what’s your story?
I was born and raised in Princeton, New Jersey, but I always to explore more: in high school, I spent a semester living in Seattle and attending school there as part of a domestic exchange program. I moved to New York City for college and spent another semester studying abroad in Rajasthan, India. After college, my best friend got into Berkeley for grad school, so I jumped in the car with him to travel out to the West Coast, and I’ve been here ever since.
I like to tell people that I’ve held just about every job that doesn’t require a professional degree or major technical skills: I’ve been a substitute kindergarten teacher, a barista, a music journalist and editor, a grant writer, and a florist, among many other things. These days, I’m the community manager at GigaOM and I just launched 2905miles.com with Erica Berger. It’s a newsletter/website that connects the design, tech, and social change communities in New York City and San Francisco, the two cities that are nearest and dearest to me. We launched on May 2, and have so many great ideas on events, features, and other goodies as we move forward - I’m really excited to dig in here.
How did you get where you are today?
When I was little, I wanted to be a doctor. Since then, my path has gotten a lot more convoluted, but all for the good. I spent five years in the nonprofit sector, working my way from an admin position to serving as the grants manager/grant writer at a media and tech organization (BAVC.org). I also co-directed an art gallery and social justice advocacy space in the Mission (kearnystreet.org) and sat on a grant-making board at the SF Arts Commission before I made the jump over to tech. In many ways, working at a nonprofit and working at a startup are really similar - there’s an interesting relationship between risk and passion there. I’ve got a blog post brewing about that, and I’ve promised myself to actually write it down one of these days.
I guess I spent the first decade of my professional life engaging in an epic adventure in dabbling, like those electives classes they made you take in middle school - art, nonprofit, music, tech, media, journalism. Now I have to figure out how I can incorporate all those interests into my plans for the next 10 years. I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up, but I’m fortunate to have a fantastic network of friends and mentors who I can bounce ideas off of, and ask all sorts of silly questions from, and generally use as a life-crisis sounding board. Next, I really want to do something that combines my interests in music, media, and tech - I’m still trying to figure out what that something is.
Tell us a bit more about these ten goals from your life list. What’s the inspiration behind the goals you chose?
As you can see, travel plays a pretty major role in my life. Despite the fact that I’ve called San Francisco home for 10 years, I love to flee the country (or even just the city). It’s hard to explain why I like to travel without sounding trite - I prefer destinations that are a bit off the beaten path (I was in Burma this past January, but travel really help me put things in perspective. Travel’s like a mini-sabbatical: I get to wander around a place that is new and weird and different while reflecting on my goals and life back at home.
As for some of the other goals: I guess it’s a mix of physical and mental spring cleaning and self-improvement. A friend of mine recently told me that he loved the way that I live my life, but wished I’d take more time for self-reflection. Admittedly, I’m terrible at that (I am hands-down, the worst meditator you’ll ever meet), but I’m really trying to figure out how to slow down and think more. Relatedly, I realize that I miss my former life as a music journalist - I’ve been a freelance writer since I was 18, and I was an editor at Flavorpill for a couple of years. But recently, I’ve been to busy to really pursue any freelance major projects - moving forward, I’m making it a priority to carve out time for more writing and pitching, and to make sure I don’t lose my connection to discovering new music and bands and getting excited about it.
Any advice for others on how to stay motivated/focused on achieving their goals?
Be friends with people who are smarter than you are (just kidding! Sort of.) Seriously, though, my friends are a great source of inspiration and motivation for me. I know some people who are seriously dedicated and passionate about what they do, and speaking with them about how they got there and why they do what they do has been so incredibly useful to me.
Don’t deny the power of serendipity. At the risk of sounding like a bit of a hippie, some of the best things that have happened to me have been the result of a meeting a random person at a random place and time.
Follow Connie’s journey through completing her Life List here.
Want to make a Life List of your own? Easy—join the Go Mighty community here.
(Photo by Jon Wayne Kishimoto, Glass Coat Photo)