February 5, 2020

That Time We Landed On The App Store Home Page

What a whirlwind of a weekend! On Saturday, Feb 1, 2020, the first day of Black History Month, ✊🏾 if you opened your Apple App Store, you would’ve been greeted with some unapologetic Black Girl Magic ✨. That’s me.

I never thought of myself as a techie up until just a few years ago, but here I was this weekend on millions of screens as the “Meet the Developer” spotlight. This experience has taught me so much about the expectations I set for myself and the authenticity I choose to share with others.

Yesterday, I got so many supportive congrats messages like: “you’re crushing it” and “you’ve got it all together”. But what people didn’t see were me, Arnelle Ansong, and Scott Paillant coding our butts off making sure the app could handle all the traffic without crashing. We hadn’t slept well in days, were getting some negative reviews that made me sad, and felt a whole lot of imposter syndrome all at once. This was the real story.

An authentic journey

In always wanting to share my authentic journey, here were my biggest lessons:

  1. It’s okay for us to not be perfect; it’s human. Zimela crashed for several users, but for many more, it delivered tons of value.
  2. Even those that look like they have it all together are fighting to stay afloat behind the scenes. Social media makes everyone else look way ahead.
  3. Most importantly, no one does it alone. Though Zimela started as my senior thesis for Computer Science (and the first iOS app I had ever built), it morphed into the startup, Edlyft, that Arnelle and I are working on today as co-founders. It also became the pet project that my partner, Scott, and I obsessed over. The Apple feature highlights me, but there were many others who poured into getting it to where it is today. Meet my team:

This is my brilliant co-founder Arnelle, a technical and operations genius:

This is my partner Scott, an amazing backend engineer:

We all have folks around us that we need to celebrate. These are my people. 

What started as a simple computer science assignment, became my rocket into startup world.

I never could’ve imagined how much studying Computer Science would affect my career.

Zimela became my hope that I could build something of value for the world and make it one day as a venture-backed black woman tech founder, despite statistics.

For me, this is a year of disruption on all fronts. Arnelle and I are considered unicorns in tech, not for valuation, but as two technical black women co-founders. Our goal is to build a successful company with Edlyft and change the game for many to come. 

Erika Hairston

Co-Founder & CEO of @theedlyft | ex-PM @LinkedIn | Coder | Yale '18 |

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