Credit: Robin Clediere

A state of constant amazement

I spent my week at Epicurrence in awe. Each morning started off a delicious breakfast with incredible views, followed by shredding on pristine slopes with new friends. The nights ended with us, bellies full of food, gathered around the fireplace listening to each other talk. More than a few times I caught myself thinking, “This is unbelievable. How did I get here?”

Vicki Tan
6 min readFeb 25, 2016

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This is the story of how I, a newly-minted, non-famous designer ended up at Epicurrence #3.

Sell yo’self

It was some morning in November and my team was all a buzz about the new Epicurrence site and announcement. (For those who don’t know, Epicurrence is a week-long, invite-only conference for designers and developers.) We had just finished watching the video from Epicurrence #2 on Oahu’s North Shore and were daydreaming about how incredible it would be to go. Being new to the design industry, I‘d never heard of the event before but was drawn to the excitement and feel captured in the photos. Dann Petty, the creator and host of Epicurrence, had just opened up the form to request an invite, which included a question that asked why he should pick you.

Out of curiosity, I opened up the application and was immediately intimidated by the big blank box in front of me. Who was I to ask for an invite? What could I contribute?

Luckily/unluckily that weekend I was stuck in bed sick, which gave me a chance to mull it over. I found it difficult to write candidly about myself so threw in a few corny jokes for good measure:

Heya Dann! I would love to go to Epicurrence (despite being horrible at snowboarding). Blame it on a childhood full of skiing and bad balance. Nonetheless, here are three reasons why you should consider inviting me:

1. Learning potential. I went to university for behavioral psychology and worked over six years in research before I figured out that design was the thing for me. I had to bother a lot of people, take risks, and learn things on my own. I’m grateful for every day I get to work on design and am like a sponge waiting to absorb knowledge. My potential for growing at Epicurrence is extra high.

2. Diversity of thought. It’s no secret that we’re lacking in diversity of background, age, points of view, race, and gender. What’s nice about me is that I have fresh eyes and perspective. I just started thinking about design a couple years ago — prior to that it was all about decision making, sleep cycles and predictive validity. My point of view can add interesting color into whatever the topic of conversation is.

3. Economics. I’m a little over 5 feet tall and I don’t eat that much food, nor do I take up that much space. My usefulness per cubic inch is totally worth its own weight.

I’m sure you’ve gotten a ton of these so if you made it to the end, thanks for reading. Keep up the amazing work and hope to see you next year shredding the pow!

I hit submit on the application right before hopping on a 12-hour flight to Taiwan for the holidays, telling no one but keeping my fingers crossed. A few short weeks later, I was astonished to find a email from Dann in my inbox informing me that I was 1 of 60 people invited to join him in Park City.

Find a way

Fast forward to the end of the year. I’m feeling incredibly honored to have an invite, but crestfallen because I don’t have the funds to purchase the ticket. To top it off, the timing is particularly bad because the conference takes place in the middle of a CodePath course to which I’ve already committed 30+ hours. I email Dann back to explain my situation and he immediately responded:

“Def not wanting to add stress. Give me a bit to figure something out. Sit tight.”

Over the next month, I explored all the possibilities for how to make this work: I met with Frank Yoo (my design director) several times to brainstorm solutions around budget and sponsorship opportunities. I talked to teammates who had taken CodePath before to try to understand how I could make up the work and learning if I missed that week. I reached out to friends who suggested crowdfunding and diversity scholarship funds. The end of the year was fast approaching and I had internally decided that there was no money to go, and that ultimately the course would be more valuable to me in the long run.

A week before Christmas, the message causally floating in from Dann:

“Hey GOOD NEWS!! I’ve got your ticket covered. You owe nothing but to bring your face and will to snowboard! (or ski) — Can you make it? Told you I was trying to figure out a way to comp it and just did about 2 secs ago.”

One of the past attendees at Epicurrence had donated a ticket back and I was the lucky recipient! To my further excitement, a week later I got this message from Frank:

Can you ping me when you get a chance? I’m able to cover the full cost of your ticket. We want to support your growth. Lyft has your back :)

Ecstatic, I gave Frank a big hug, messaged Dann to tell him that he could donate the ticket someone else who needed it, and did a little happy dance.

Be courageous

Sometime in January the reality of the situation set in. All sorts of insecurities started to pop up:

  • Lots of influential designers would be attending (Julie Zhuo, katie dill, Geoff Teehan, Mackey Saturday, and Tobias van Schneider to name a few). This was exciting …but terrifying because I had no idea what I would say to anyone.
  • I didn’t know anyone going but everyone seemed to know each other. A week full of getting to know strangers sounded exhausting to the introvert in me.
  • Should I learn to snowboard? Did I remember how to ski? I hadn’t been on the slopes since I was 12 years old and was worried about making a fool of myself.
  • Weather forecasts were predicting temperatures in the 2o’s, and I’m already always cold in California. (I turn on the heater when it drops below 68 degrees.)

In the midst of frantically trying to find weather and activity appropriate clothes, I had a conversation with one of my favorite humans that helped me realize all this stuff didn’t really matter. I should just enjoy myself and soak it all in.

“You’ll do fine, if anything it’s going to make you realize how much you belong there.”

Credit: Rico Castillero

I was worried for nothing. The rest of the week was magical.

One of my favorite moments happened on our last day on the slopes, riding in a gondola with a group of snowboarders. We were talking about the goggle giveaways that Underbelly Creative had been doing and it came up that I didn’t have any of my own. By the end of the ride, we had formulated a master plan to win those goggles. When we arrived at the park, Mackey got everyone set up for the shot under the jump. Minutes later, Gene Ross came soaring above us and achieved massive air, while Rico Castillero captured the entire thing.

Gene Ross, Anthony Harmon, Ben Johnson, Daina Lightfoot, Jiovan Melendez, Jeff Smith, Josh Austin, Vicki Tan, Mackey Saturday. (Credit: Rico Castillero)

Later that evening, as we were settling in to listen to a live session of Design Details, the winner was announced. Thanks to the collective effort of many new friends that day, I am very proud to say that I am the owner of a shiny new pair of Spy goggles.

This picture perfectly exemplifies what I learned from my experience at Epicurrence and what I hope you’ll remember the next time you want to do something that seems out of reach, or makes you uncomfortable, or that just plain scares you.

Truly, all you need is some courage, a little bit of luck, and good people on your side to make it happen.

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Vicki Tan

Light sleeper, heavy dreamer. Design @Pinterest. Prev @Spotify @Headspace, @Lyft, @Google