Cyberella: I Got Plucked out of the Internet to Join a Hi-Tech Enterprise “ATT” 6,000 Miles Away

6 weeks ago I was a hacker, keeping my skills underground while enjoying a high-performance athletic lifestyle challenging my bionic hip here in California. In 2 weeks I join an entreprenuer-industrialist to meet and greet with his auto-aviation ecosystem and scout for my new home in Austria.

By any account, a timeline of that relationship development on this scale is fast, and seems disparately unrelated, even premature to announce. Regardless, I’m here to tell you in my secure confidence that the countdown to live and work at this cutting-edge facility has begun, and explain the most highly unlikely collision of our digital particle paths.

I want to explain, that as a woman going into high-tech engineering and business development, I have no fear, I feel completely at ease with my focus and goals and a new sense of purpose. I know, that at any other time in my life, I would have been at a different cross-section in life. Whatever slice of life you could have previously taken is not the person as I am now, and I would have probably held myself back from the challenge to enter this new phase.

I want to describe how I got out of my own way, to meet with open eyes and vigour the challenge of being an only female in engineering again. And I say ‘again’, because I was once an engineer but I kept that vocation hidden and stopped pursuing it a long time ago, so I thought.

Meet Christian Kussmann, a industrialist-entrepreneur who bumped into my hacker-net one day while researching potential high-tech opportunities. His passion for development is inseparable from his being, with immersive compulsion for advanced technology and science, he has even built his own star gazing observatory. He will gaze into the nebulas from his observatory to gain perspective on the speck of human advancement in the immense landscape of time just to calm his soul.

Meanwhile I am underground, making a living off of the closed-off knowledge-base that is “hacking the internet”, the freedom it gives me has allowed me to invest more in myself as a person. I work and study intensely, and on the outside it seems to others like I play hard, and quite to the extreme given my surgical leg, that lost a fight to disease. My own time to reflect is played out publicly to masses of followers in my underwater ballets, and constant self-reinvention.

No one knows what I really do for a living, but fans write to me daily -reflecting back to me their hopes and dreams- telling me that I inspire them to heal themselves or grow strong too. So it serves to fill a vacuum in my soul, to be an inspiration to others by serving myself, first. And one day I might redesign my hip replacement, to meet my high-performance expectations.

I had a troubled past, but not wanting to hold onto the baggage weighing me down and otherwise trying to unravel the turmoil of the “why’s” and “wherefore’s” of my patchy past, I instead decided to lay a railroad down in the direction of my own choosing. I did not know where it was going, but I had the sense that I needed to keep moving towards the horizon of advanced technology. This for me was a hidden passion because of my prodigy mathematics childhood and aerospace-level engineering degree.

I had let go of the desire to go back to engineering and my passion was asleep. Like most typical women, we feel we have to be “qualified” before we can take something for ourselves. We feel we have to prove ourselves and that the entitlement to take a career of our choosing doesn’t exist. I had long since felt I had reached an expiration date and passed by the peak entry point for this kind of career. Instead I floated in denial and logicized to myself that I was building a new career for myself instead in the closed community of hackers.

This until now was a surrogate for my passion. I could keep on itching at the surface of new technology, reverse engineering pathways of the internet and use my prerogative for connecting people to ghost around the advancements and sciences I secretly studied on my own.

My client list was growing, I was connecting people, I was feeling more confident in myself. A worthiness I had finally realised for myself was true inspite of my bullshit troubled past.

Women grow up accustomed to harassment, it can make us feel vulnerable, invalid, and those that make it to success in life can often have a chip on their shoulder in defence of that invalidity. Always defending ourselves -but in putting up a fight we are striking the first blow- and harming once again, how others perceive us. The path of a woman in this world was clear to me that we keep our heads low to avoid becoming a treacherous target.

Then there’s me, sexually abused from childhood, sequestered from real life, I had run away and defied my upbringing to figure out a better way of surviving. I already felt like damaged goods, so no chance of ever really relying on someone to do that for me, I had to do that myself. Ill-prepared I made a few mistakes early on, but I know what they are and am neither ashamed or in a hurry to defend them. I accept them, it’s what happens when you’ve never lived in the real world.

So, in the hacker world with access to the big-data of human behaviour, I could identify the outliers and look to specific personas -their history and interests- to study, this became something of a life-blueprint I could learn from.

I made it my objective to look for outlying role-models and study their evolution to success, such that I might learn how to draw out the poison from within sedating me. I don’t feel a need to copy other people, rather to find the source of their passion and find my own. Without parenting in my life, I had to find my own role models who I identified at the center of building a community. They were industrialists, factory owners, and work agency owners. They became the surrogate blueprint I wanted to learn from.

My railroad was already moving in this direction when Christian got on my stop. I had previously built a network targeting advanced technology, but my botnet had long been switched off. He had forgotten how first contact was made but was drawn into the loops I had left with my varied, artistic self-expression in the array of masks I portray. I had consumed myself in other areas of the internet and forgotten I was on the train. The conversation started, and for the first time I revealed to anyone I was a hacker. I was already established and confident in myself that I was just at ease being completely honest. And so it turned out that I could help him too, and as he explained his business development trajectory to me; something inside me ignited.

Whatever he was building became more and more intriguing to me and tugged at my excitement. When he showed me a prototype, I asked if I could comment, to which I surprised myself at the passion that came out for solving the problem I could see infront of me. The engineer inside me had not expired. If anything it woke up with a new vigour and confidence. This was something I did not need to prove, this was a new feeling of assuredness, or maybe I had simply reached a point of maturity for stamping out denial and being open to myself by forgoing any excuse to hold back suggestions. Had I had been two years younger, I would still have had remnants of unsureness, enough to veil and censor my exploration of approach. Now I suddenly and rightly so became entitled to my own thoughts and opinion. I didn’t hold back.

I wasn’t desperate. That’s a feeling I used to get a lot before, as a “girl” there were more often than not times of desperation and neediness out of simply living in survival mode. I realised I wasn’t trying to impress, I wasn’t trying anything, I was a woman just being an engineer. The conversations were so freeing, I opened up on other levels and started to project ideas onto him, but they were my ideas, he made me realise I owned them.

And so came the time he asked me for a CV, to which I replied “I don’t have one but I’ll just mock one up for you, it won’t be conventional mind…” and the realisation set in on both sides this was my new collective and where I belonged. My CV sure isn’t standard, and the exercise alone of pulling together all the chords of experience we had talked about and revisiting everything I had done literally smacked me on the head. “Why doesn’t everyone do a resumé like this” I thought? It should be the new way. At least, this is the way I see people on the internet, I study their intricately woven interrelationships that make them who they are, and when I turned it onto myself, I saw myself in the mirror for the first time. It was like being woken up out of a hundred year long sleep.

For many reasons men and women lose track of their purpose or careers. In particular women commonly face the burden of lagging behind while we take care of the kids in the man’s world. Women give-in to feeling behind the eight-ball with a wage gap imposed for “years taken out of industry” for whatever reason. The years taken out of my “career vertical”, were just as industrious and valid, if not more innovative, more self-disciplined and more entrepreneurial than anyone staying at a constant within the same industry. Perhaps maturity has caught up with me, but I thoroughly own how much I did for myself. I am so grateful that Christian climbed on my train, and told me to look out the window at how far I’d come.

Not anyone would come upon the chance to meet a like-mind of such calibre, and I will not diminish this chance meeting to mere luck. For I believe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will come to reckon with you if you keep building in the right direction, continue to lay a solid foundation, and mind-map aspects of the blueprint for who you want to become.

Juliana Reed Payson BEng (Hons) Artist-Engineer, and hacker…

Autistic Film Editor