- The Facts:David Casarez, out of money and homeless in Silicon Valley, went to the streets with a stack of resumes and inspired an overwhelmingly positive response in his search for a job, with the slogan ‘Hungry 4 Success’.
- Reflect On:What does it take to inspire people to care about our lives and our goals?
David Casarez has something to teach us–something that likely would have been far from his mind after first arriving in Silicon Valley from Austin, Texas last September. He had three years experience in tech jobs at General Motors, a bachelor’s degree in information-systems management from Texas A&M, and $20,000 from cashing out his 401k. He thought that he would be able to continue developing his pet project, a food-service startup, by way of the “lean startup” method. If need be, he’d get a job at another startup until he’d finished building his own.
At a networking event, he met an investor interested in his startup idea, but a budding deal fell through over differences in vision. Following that, hoped-for job interviews weren’t happening. He lacked connections, and concluded outsiders have a tough time getting tech work in Silicon Valley. Then an idea arrived, a way to make valuable industry connections by making a splash at a high-profile event.
For three days in November, Casarez camped out in front of an Apple store in Palo Alto to be first in line to buy the just-unveiled $1,000 iPhone X. He succeeded, and made a very powerful connection when CEO Tim Cook wrapped his arms around Casarez in a congratulatory hug. Soon, Casarez was invited for an interview at Apple’s campus. But the job, he said, went to someone already working for the company.
That’s when the downward slide began. Casarez was sleeping in his van in Mountain View to save money, and had calculated the “burn rate” at which his cash reserves were dwindling. He’d figured his nest egg would last six months, maybe seven. “I was barely scraping by in March,” he said. He started to miss payments on his van. In early June, the vehicle was repossessed, and he was on the streets, sleeping in a park.
“It was very hard, because when I was living in the van I had the safety of knowing I was enclosed. I was literally at the very bottom.”
He’d never imagined his own choices could bring him so low. Depression took hold. “I was crying a lot — ‘How did I let it get to this point?’” he said. “It really got to me.”
He held onto a gym membership so he could shower, but as his savings vanished, he had to sell the iPhone X–which would seem like the ultimate demoralizer.
Many of us have been in this position before and thrown in the towel. We would have plenty of outside forces to put the blame on: the people, the lack of connections, the environment. Or we could simply blame ourselves, lose confidence, and give up. But those who press on in such times of desperation, and simply lay things out on the table, often end up being surprised at how life responds.
Was it anger, desperation, or an enterprising spirit with a penchant for irony that prompted what came next? Only Casarez knows for sure. But there was undoubtedly something in the spirit of what he was doing that would go on to attract so much attention. Humbled, broken, but still believing in himself, he took a stackful of resumes and stood out on the sidewalk where El Camino Real and San Antonio Road come together in Mountain View, holding up a sign saying, “Homeless Hungry 4 Success Take a Resume.”
“I was just out there at the intersection hoping that somebody at least would take my resume and give me a job offer in the Bay Area. I was not taking money.”
Positive Side Of Social Media
That was a week ago, when passerby Jasmine Scofield asked permission to take his photo, and posted it, along with a photo of his resume, on Twitter. The social media platform went mad. As of Tuesday evening, Scofield’s tweet had been shared more than 138,000 times.
Today I saw this young homeless man asking for people to take a resume rather than asking for money. If anyone in the Silicon Valley could help him out, that would be amazing. Please RT so we can help David out! pic.twitter.com/ewoE3PKFx7
— FullMakeup Alchemist (@jaysc0) July 27, 2018
“I didn’t think people were going to think anything of it — there’s people who stand at corners all the time, asking for money, asking for beer, asking for whatever,” said Casarez, whose Twitter profile now features his “Hungry 4 Success” mantra and includes an email for media inquiries. Casarez’s life was instantly transformed. Television and newspaper reporters were calling, and he had to limit his media availability after Monday so he could devote himself to responding to prospective employers who contacted him, he said.
“I really want to make the right decision, and take the time to do that,” Casarez said. “For it to have turned out the way it has, it’s just been a blessing. It’s just given me hope to move forward.”
One of those who saw Scofield’s tweet was Austen Allred, CEO of Lambda School, a Pleasanton company that trains software engineers at no up-front cost, and operates a fund for homeless students in its program. Casarez’s story struck a chord with Allred, who in 2016 spent months living out of his car in Palo Alto after arriving from Utah in pursuit of a tech job.
“I view it as my responsibility to help the people who are in the same position that I was,” Allred said, adding that he admires anyone like Casarez who “searches for a job and just hustles.” Lambda is providing Casarez with up to three months in an Airbnb and mentoring for his interview process.
Sometimes, just being straightforward and acting with humble self-belief is the most inspiring thing to others.
Thanks to this article in The Mercury News for some of the content.