In February 2018, Sabina Leybold joined the waiting list for a PhillyCHI meetup while sitting in the Sea-Tac Airport just outside of Seattle. She was headed to a friend’s apartment in Philly, where she would crash for a few weeks and start the process of finding a house and a job. Ten hours later, she attended her first Philly tech meetup just hours after stepping off the plane.
By the end of the month, the Oregon native moved into a rental in South Philly’s East Passyunk neighborhood, which she found with a roommate that she met online. And in April, she started as the Social & MarCom Coordinator at the Manayunk office of San Francisco-based agency Hero Digital.
So what is it like to take the plunge, moving to a new city while still figuring out a plan? Leybold shares her experience in the latest installment of our Entrance Exam series.
Technical.ly Philly: How do you sum up Philly in one word?
Sabina Leybold: Welcoming.
TP: That might surprise people.
SL: No it’s great, I feel like a Philadelphian already. I came here for a girls weekend during my senior year at Ithaca College, and got such a good vibe that I haven’t gotten from other places. I’m from Portland, and this really feels like the Portland of the East.
After graduation I spent about seven months traveling and went to over 20 different countries, then it was time to come back and look for a job. I knew I didn’t want to move to New York City and frankly I don’t care for Boston. But [picking Philly] wasn’t a process of elimination, it was an active choice.
TP: What was that meetup experience like when you first got here?
SL: I had been up since around 3 a.m., but I was feeding off that energy. I love networking and I was so excited to be in Philly and start my life, it got my adrenaline going. During the “Job Time” portion of PhillyCHI events, you can stand up and introduce yourself if you’re looking for a job, and people from companies who are hiring will do the same. So I stood up and said, “Hi, I’m Sabina, I just moved here three hours ago and I’m looking for a job in content marketing.”
"You can ask people for help when you're moving to a new city, and 99 percent of the time, they will want to help."
TP: That must have caught people’s attention.
SL: Absolutely. I saw someone from that meetup at another event the following week, and she said, “Oh yeah, you’re the person who just moved here.” I think it definitely made an impression.
TP: How long did it take for you to start feeling settled in here?
SL: I had a landing pad for a couple of weeks at my friend’s apartment. I literally sat in her bed applying for leases and jobs. I found my roommate, Miranda, through the Facebook group Affordable Housing: Philadelphia in January. It was great to have someone to share this journey with. We signed our lease for our three-bedroom house in South Philly before the end of the month, and by April I was working at Hero Digital. So everything had a pretty quick turnaround.
TP: How did you jump in to the job search?
SL: I actually started following Technical.ly to get to know the industry. I know a lot about the hidden job market, but I didn’t know anyone from Philly except my best friend from high school who is in a completely different industry. However, asking for help is something people don’t do enough. I used my alumni network and just asked people what or who they knew. I did a lot of informational interviews when I first got here, just getting coffee with people. You can ask people for help when you’re moving to a new city, and 99 percent of the time, they will want to help.
TP: Now that you’re all moved in, what do you love about the East Passyunk neighborhood?
SL: I’m really drawn to living in a row home, it definitely is a unique feature of Philly. They’re super cute, especially when they have an colorful door. There’s one particular house with a yellow door I see on my walk to Center City, and I think of it as the “bright-yellow-rain-boot door.” One flaw is that in South Philly it feels like people are just little too close to each other, such as hearing a lot of what your neighbors are doing. It’s like college.
TP: What’s one place you’re really drawn to outside of South Philly or Manayunk?
SL: If I ever question my decision to move here, I’ll just go back to this mural at Belmont and Parkside that really warmed my heart when I visited for the first time during college. I was very captivated by all the street art and Philly is known for its murals. I had made a wrong turn while driving back to my Airbnb in Belmont, and I saw this mural of baseball players. I remember this rush of emotion and just feeling so happy here.
After I first moved here, I saw it again while sitting on the bus and had that same feeling again, and realized — that’s it! That’s the place that made me want to move here. If I hadn’t gone back to that street by accident, I wouldn’t have been able to identify that particular moment.
TP: What advice do you have for recent graduates or career changers who may be holding back on taking similar risks?
SL: I definitely recognize that a lot of my ability to do this comes from a position of privilege. I graduated with zero debt because my parents paid for school, and really planned ahead to save for my trip and afterwards. At one point, I heard someone say this about exercise: “It never gets easier, you only get faster.” That’s in reference to running, but I think the same is true for taking risks. It’s more likely you’ll regret not doing it than doing it.
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