Alice Zhao

The Adventure that Defines Me

What is one word you would use to describe yourself?

My word is Adventurous.

In my early 20s, adventurous meant traveling solo across 50 countries, sleeping on stranger’s couches and conquering Everest. My friends would often ask me if I was scared of going places by myself.

I’ve hitchhiked to Amsterdam. I’ve dangled my legs off a train moving through the tea plantations of Sri Lanka. I’ve walked beside silverback gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of Uganda. I’ve biked to the most southern tip and trekked up the highest tip of Africa.

From Iceland to Istanbul, I experienced the full humanity of strangers and places. Fear never crossed my mind as I sought to quench my curiosity for the unknown.

More recently, adventurous has evolved from exploring the world in new ways to exploring the limits of my comfort zone. For the first time in my life, I started to experience fear of the unknown.

One thing I never expected I’d experience after quitting my sales job and diving into the world of binary is how vulnerable I feel every single day.

The mountains I’ve climbed feel like mole hills compared to the doubt, anxiety, and shame that I face as I learn how to code. I’m constantly assaulted with thoughts of how slow I am when grokking a new technical concept, how stupid I am for needing to ask more questions, how I don’t fit the image of a programmer.

To me, no one in the world is less qualified than me. The more I learn, the more I find I don’t know. And this unknowing spirals into self doubt. The problem suddenly lies not in the algorithm in front of me, but within me.

Over the last two months, I’ve settled into my first technical role at a company called Rivian. Rivian is striving to keep the world adventurous by inventing technology that enables more sustainable ways of exploring. While here, I’ve been inspired to step up to tough challenges (what’s harder than solving climate change?) and embrace the uncertainty that comes with new adventures. As the CEO RJ put it,

“The scale of the challenge is enormous, but we're lucky to be a part of this — to be able to help solve how we shift our planet’s energy and transportation systems entirely away from fossil fuel."

Although Rivian’s mission is no easy feat, every Rivian employee I’ve met so far has greeted the unknown with open arms. They put their fears aside to stop at nothing to leave the planet better than they found it. They’ve inspired me to harness the adventurous spirit again. To free myself of self-doubt and get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

My word is Adventurous.

It looks different than it used to, but it’s still me.

What’s your word?