Aside from my every waking moment being a disastrous anti-portfolio in itself, I wanted to take some time to be mildly introspective on my setbacks since I’m already overly self-deprecating on the regular anyway. Putting this together (and maintaining it) — I’m most ashamed about not having more failures to list down. (I am also ashamed with how bad this title is.)
I was inspired by seeing Kat Huang’s failure resume on my Twitter feed. Sometimes it’s nice to be open about our challenges as they happen; especially in that rush of being young and feeling our achievements lose their glamour as you leave your teens and enter ‘normalcy’. I feel like I often only hear about failure once someone’s writing rigid LinkedIn posts and selling their coaching services, or on the keynotes of conferences where we’re sitting in the back and so far removed from the speaker’s journey. Not that their stories are any less inspiring – but when looking at academics, celebrities, or C-levels reflecting on things a decade ago – it’s not particularly moving.
With our current landscape, I want to surround myself with people who are unapologetically open about process as they are with resume bullet points and humblebrags. I feel like I tend to walk between groups that are afraid of taking any amount of pride in what they do, undervaluing themselves – but also with people who ingest failure so regularly that it becomes procedure without insight. I’m no stranger to extremes: falling into this mentality where I’m undeserving of anything but also – if I didn’t get something I really wanted and even in the slightest, perceive my resume to be a point better than someone else’s – believe everything is all rigged. It’s ridiculously toxic, and I know I’m not alone with it. Hopefully this list helps in developing a more intentional consciousness about yeah – the randomness and unfairness of trying (especially with things like college applications maybe) – but also how we’re just not meant for most things, and that’s okay.
This isn’t a new or special concept. There’s a New York Times article about it. I do hope to see more of these from people my age. We need to celebrate losses as much as we do our wins. I hope you learn something from me.
- Rejected as a Dorm Room Fund Design Partner on the Final Round after my second time applying
- Lost two internship offers because of COVID
- Nearly got kicked out of my dorm room, and the country of America!
- I got rejected from 80+ internship, ghosted from 300+ more and failed so many design screens. My internship application list hit 400+ companies, and when I was panicking around March–April I continued applying and applying to dozens more companies that I never heard back from. I heard back from fewer than 3% of companies (like ? 12? LOL), especially for product design postings.
- Selected rejections: rejected from Facebook University for Product Design, Pinterest Engage, my 100+ cold outreaches to design recruiters, etc.
- Made it as a Kleiner Perkins Fellowship Design Finalist––but didn’t end up matching with any company
- Not a ‘failure’, but: I work 20 hours a week during the school year to make ends meet and to earn enough for the tech work I do personally and for Developh. Because of COVID, my three on-campus jobs cut down on hours and I had to beg alumni and other students for work to make up for the money lost.
- Resume round reject: GoDaddy, Google APM, Honey Product Design, etc.
- Rejected from Microsoft Diversity Conference Scholarship
- Rejected from Pinterest Scholars, MongoDB Summit, and a lot of other event scholarships that I apply to on a whim
- Rejected (i.e. ghosted) from over fifty software engineering internships (Explore Microsoft, Dropbox Launch [though I think this is only for second-years])
In retrospect, I should have applied to *way* more.
- Denied from Fast Forward’s tech nonprofit accelerator
- Didn’t get Forbes 30 under 30 Asia (first year trying, many more attempts will soon be made…)
- End of sophomore fall: seriously considered dropping out of Yale and going to college back in the Philippines to end the financial strain being put on my parents and siblings so that they can get better opportunities. (Piling on internship rejections really fueled this!) I did not fly home during the winter, and spent my time in a shared hotel room with other international students eating leftovers and watching Little Women as a Christmas gift to myself.
- Rejected from Lesbians Who Tech Scholarship Ticket from a handful of sources (from in-school/external sponsors)
- Zero press attention (after a near-hundred emails and a dozen warm introductions) in the Philippines for my achievement at the Grace Hopper Celebration
I thought I could easily get at least a release or something to elevate the work being done with my organization Developh, but I didn’t – and subsequently feel like I failed my team since I’ve always been terrible with the media
- Interviewed -> Rejected as a Dorm Room Fund partner
Wasn’t too engaged with startups in the North American sphere yet since I just got on-campus!
- Rejected from Google Computer Science Summer Institute & Generation Google Scholarship
Wasn’t directed to any other programs/future career opportunities, unlike many other applicants
- In my first week of college, I was spiraling and heavily depressed (and blogging about it) and someone called the university to check in on me. At 2am, cops came into my dorm room and I had to talk to them for half an hour, trying to convince them that I wasn’t a danger to myself or others and that I would not need to be admitted. My freshman year’s first semester was disgustingly painful: I was sick all the time physically and mentally, frequently skipped meals, got out of an abusive relationship, had little contact with anyone–not even my suitemates.
- The day of my high school graduation (where I gave a valedictory address and shit) was one of the worst days and fights of my life!
- No acknowledgement for Developh in my high school’s club awarding
It was as if we hadn’t done anything — mostly felt bad for my team and friends who had built this group up with me
- Applied to over 23 colleges and got rejected/waitlisted from all but eight
I have multiple blog posts that essentially document me breaking down crying every single night for months in fear of my college results. It didn’t help that I went through the application process so late and carelessly. The one that hurt the most was my waitlist from Wellesley since I was so in love with it; Stanford, Harvard, Brown, etc. were pretty much expected (I’m a poor international.)
- No Ateneo Dean’s List/Freshman Merit Scholarship or DLSU Star Scholars
Probably because my test scores were terrible (lmaooo)
There aren’t as many experiences down here since these were all pre-senior year — but hopefully someone (from my high school, probably) can still get value from these half-rambles:
- Dropped out of a talk for the Philippine Robotics Team at the last minute because I was having a breakdown over an educator who I was sickened by (and was verbally abusive to students over, and physically if you count making 13-year-olds work 16+ hours a day with) and with the general state of everything around me. Fought with my parents over it, who said that I would never amount to any success if I don’t commit even if it was heavy to me–to this day they don’t believe that he’s problematic despite over a dozen complaints sent about him to try and relieve him of the authority and power to teach students.
- Made the shittiest video ever for the Cards Against Humanity Science Ambassador Scholarship (no response/next round)
- Rejected from every Student Judiciary Board position I had applied to in De La Salle Santiago Zobel’s student council (which is an inherently broken and useless position)
In the interview, they requested me to “do a cheer dance coming into the room”, made me lead a prayer (I’m atheist), and asked me who they were and who my crush was. They flashed the position’s responsibilities on the screen that would literally not be known to anyone but them — also highlighting the excellent lack of transparency in this position. Hopefully this will be helpful to any Zobel people who read this?
- Finalist (amongst all La Salle schools in the Philippines) –> rejected for a full-ride scholarship to an international high school with IB programs
I was convinced that this rejection was my biggest missed opportunity at changing my ‘life’s trajectory’. The final round interview was a huge wake-up call: they asked me about my hobbies, skills, extracurriculars, generic bullshit that would look good on a college application. All I did this time was play League of Legends 🙂
This list also leaves out how I’m not putting myself out there (read: afraid of connecting with people, being a bad communicator in general) or maximizing the opportunities I can get (read: being way too lazy to apply to things I would love to try for).