Erika Gabow
By Erika Gebow When things aren’t going right, take a left. I saw this on a t-shirt once. My left hand turn was Bend. There wasn’t a single moment when I realized that I needed out of Seattle; it was more a series of moments, accrued over 15 years of living and working in the Emerald City. It’s the same thing you hear from every Seattle expat to Bend: bad weather, horrific traffic, and the general need to get more out of life than mailing-it-in in a cubicle for some obscenely rich guy.

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This is a guest post from Erika Gebow, owner of Peak Bend, a consulting firm based here, with the sole purpose of providing product and project leadership to help startups and rapidly-growing small companies create big ideas and realize them, delivering exceptional customer experiences that grow their business, and in turn grow the Bend startup community. She’s also noodling on her own big idea from the reception desk at TechSpace, where she highlights as the “token” female.

When things aren’t going right, take a left.

I saw this on a t-shirt once. My left hand turn was Bend. There wasn’t a single moment when I realized that I needed out of Seattle; it was more a series of moments, accrued over 15 years of living and working in the Emerald City. It’s the same thing you hear from every Seattle expat to Bend:  bad weather, horrific traffic, and the general need to get more out of life than mailing-it-in in a cubicle for some obscenely rich guy.

In my case, the obscenely rich guy was Jeff Bezos, and the mailing-it-in job was as a senior product manager for self-service at Amazon.com.  Don’t get me wrong, my job at Amazon was awesome, fulfilling, and constantly challenging me to take more ownership in what I did everyday – delivering a kick-ass customer experience. It also showed me that if I could be successful at Amazon, maybe I could be successful on my own.

So last June, the husband and I packed up our dogs, quit our jobs, rented out our sweet-little-view house in West Seattle, created an Instagram hashtag to document our adventure (#thebendexperiment) and relocated to Bend to see if we could make it on our own.

It hasn’t been easy.  I started my “Bend Experiment” by working remotely as the director of product experience for a small company in Bellevue, Wash., which meant sharing coffee with the same people every Tuesday on the 6 a.m. flight to Seattle, enduring the commuting nightmare from Sea-Tac to Bellevue, and then sharing a free glass of wine with the same people every Thursday on the 5:25 p.m. flight back to Bend.

That didn’t last long. Not only was the commute worse than my daily commute from West Seattle to South Lake Union (the center of the Amazon universe), working as an individual contributor for a small company after working at giants like Amazon and Starbucks was eye-opening – the experience validated what I thought:  I had the skills to do “it” on my own, whatever that was going to be.

I also realized in my first few months in Bend, that I had not only landed in a beautiful place, but also in an exciting tech community. I began connecting with amazing men and women in the area who had made similar choices, and who want nothing more than to help me get my own product consulting business, Peak Bend, off the ground.

I’ve landed two projects to date: helping write a strategic plan for a local consumer product, Drink Tanks, and providing product leadership to build a mobile application for another local start-up, JettStream. It’s crazy fun. Working directly with the founders, providing them with the support and leadership needed to grow their business is extremely fulfilling.

What happens next? I am responsible for creating that, and it scares the sh*t out of me, in a good way.

Leaving Amazon was tough. I gave up a lot to ride my cruiser bike to work over the bridge and through Drake Park every day. But I realize that the unknown future that I write for myself in my small, thriving tech community is way better than mailing it in for an obscenely rich guy in Seattle.

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley