Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Adventures in 2016






Dear Friends and Family,

It has been unusually, unacceptably too long since I've written to you.  But since progress is all about the baby steps, sitting down to this blank page is already a win. 

2016 has been a wild ride.  And while it is not the year in which I've explored the most new cities, it is the year that I've traveled most often.  Google Calendar tells me I was on 34 flights.  No cancellations and no crashes!  That's already something to be thankful for.  I had the opportunity to explore at least 6 new cities / islands:  Munich, Divonne (France), Rome, the island of Sardinia (Italy), Copenhagen, and the island of Fuerteventura (Canary Islands).   



In a dream.  Ajuy, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands



Lobos, Canary Islands

Betancouria, original capital of Fuerteventura, Canary Islands





Helsinki wins again this year for the most frequented destination.

And why Helsinki, you might ask?  In addition to hosting some of the most incredible people and most interesting meteorological patterns, Helsinki remains home to Competence Map Solutions, the financial technology company I co.founded back in 2013.  We are super pumped with our growth this year.  Since almost everything about who we work with and under what conditions is confidential, all I can say is that we are excited to be working with amazing, like-minded clients and partners and we are eagerly looking forward to the future.


Helsinki's first snow of the season caught my wardrobe by surprise

A big personal milestone came and went in October of this year.  I defended the research plan for my dissertation during the Candidacy Exam, which officially earns me the title of Doctoral Candidate.  (I honestly didn't know about that official title stuff during my first year, so I may have been an unlikely impostor with my misleading LinkedIn title for a number of months.)


I promised Maven, my PhD plant, that she would get a new pot when I passed my candidacy exam.  The name Maven means "seeker of knowledge" -- watching her shoots and sprouts grow reminds me that the whole point of the PhD process is growth, not perfection :)







When not at my desk growing alongside Maven, I've been out exploring Switzerland with great friends, visitors, and FAMILY!   My sister Toreah, one of the greatest joys of my life, spent the summer with me in my studio in "sweet Morges", as she calls my little lakeside town.   We traveled a ton together (Barcelona, Rome, Zurich, Munich, Helsinki, the French Jura region) and were so blessed to get to know each other for the first time as adults, since I left home when she was 9.  
From Southern Oregon's tulip gardens to gardens full of Rome's time traveling treasures, we're still just the same little women out seeking adventures...






In Gaudi's backyard park, Barcelona


La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, just before sunset.  We fell in love with Gaudi and his creations!



Waking up to pancakes and fresh blueberries for breakfast with our friend Suvi at her family's mökki (cabin) in Finland


Summer picnic with our cousin Maya on Helsinki's Seurasaari island

 
Many other notable visitors passed through sweet Morges this summer... 

One of my dearest friends, Maria, stayed a week and we had all sorts of adventures.  It had been almost exactly a year since we had splurged on a girl's weekend in Paris:  So much had changed in our lives, but, as with the best of friends, we picked up exactly where we left off.  Maria has hosted me almost every single time I've come to Helsinki -- what precious time and sweet memories from every season!

Hiking in my "neighborhood" with Maria
"Les Terraces de Lavaux" are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


I hadn't seen Joe since our days as interns at the State Department in Russia (2011).  He arrived just in time for the Montreux Jazz Festival and came bearing Tanzanian coffee, which he hand-carried all the way here.  How fun it is to catch up with the adventures of fellow nomads from a past "life", our conversations brought up so many memories of the sights and sounds we experienced and extraordinary people we met...




And for summer's grand finale, my parents surprised themselves (and me!) by grabbing last-minute flights to Geneva to spend a week here in Switzerland celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary.  I got be an "only child" again for one of the rare times in the past 25 years, and we had so much fun exploring all together.  
Dad and Mom at Rochers de Nayes
One of the biggest treats this year was not just one, but TWO trips back to the US to visit family.  I have to credit that largely to the arrival of Aria Joy, the little princess who made me an aunt!  Jared and Katie are delivering round 2 in summer 2017... Can't wait to meet their manchild who is being creatively named after three of his parents' favorite theologians.


Aria Joy Foy . 10 months

Foy Family Thanksgiving in Tahoe.
(I promise we didn't sleep through everything)

Here are some themes around which I've been growing and learning this year...

1.  Intuition.   Not everything can or should be analyzed using logic.  I'm learning to remember how important my intuition is; remembering to acknowledge gut feelings.  There are important ways to train your intuition, which you might feel is the same as your conscience.  The people and information you allow to influence you is key.  

2.  The coolest people.  I've spent a lot of time in a lot of places, discovering all sorts of people, personalities, perspectives.  I don't think I consciously took note of the fact that my parents and siblings are some of the "coolest" people I've ever met.  I'm totally in awe of them all -- their talents, their aspirations, how mentally and socially sound they are in a world where so often things seem a bit off...

3.  New superpower:  I can distinguish the taste of Evian water from all others.  It's true.  Evian, France is just across the lake from Morges, and their springs seem to be as active as ever.  Evian isn't an uppety brand in Switzerland (you pay 4 times more for Voss, the slick Norwegian brand ... because it's always greener on the other side, right?)  However, I know Swiss people who won't drink anything other than Evian.  

Coming in 2017

January
After working for over a year as part of a team creating a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) called Launching New Ventures:  Entrepreneurship and Strategy for Technology-Driven Startups, the course is now in its second season, now available in English, Mandarin, and French.  If you've been playing with some business ideas, it's a great opportunity to equip yourself (for FREE) with an overview of what it takes to get a business off the ground, and some key tools to help you launch your own.   The winners of our business concept proposal competition will be announced at the end of January.

February
Our Launching New Ventures MOOC has been integrated into the curriculum of FAST, a fast-track training program created to address the gap between the millions of African graduates (holding at least a bachelor degree) who are unemployed -- and it's about 35% of them -- while there are 2.5 million engineering and technician positions to be filled across the continent.  When a passionate Nigerian entrepreneur approached EPFL, wanting to pair our accredited online courses with local internships and a job placement programme, EPFL's MOOCs4Africa division partnered with startup Edacy (think "education advocacy") to develop the curriculum and implement the programme.  The first pilot has started, and FAST has asked me to organize a three-day Entrepreneurship & Software Development Prototyping Bootcamp in Dakar, Senegal for participants who get through the first stage.  Photos and stories coming after the event in Feb 2017!  

Summer
It's time to get serious about collecting some data for my dissertation.  I'm headed off to Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China (+ possibly some neighboring countries) to interview technology firm founders.   Talking to people about their entrepreneurial dreams and bringing their ideas to life is exhilarating, but pair that with Singaporean street food (one of the hawker stalls even has a Michelin star) and hanging gardens, and the adventures just waiting to be had in Shenzhen, "China's Silicon Valley" ... and this promises to be an unforgettable summer.


photo via Milouket.tv


Until next time!

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