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Nov 14, 2019
I never thought I was the “type of person” that could work at Axon. To understand why I say that, we have to go back to early 2018 when I first received my offer. I was a senior at a university in Philadelphia studying Communication in the liberal arts school, and was heavily involved with a student organization that studied the effects of gun violence on the local community. I spent hours speaking with parents, friends, and siblings of those who had been lost to gun violence, as well as with individuals who wanted to share their diagnosis of the cause of the growing epidemic. A common thread running through their stories was a distrust of law enforcement. This sentiment took the form of: “We can’t trust the police to protect us, so we have to protect ourselves.”
From hearing countless versions of this narrative and from my own experience as a person of color in America, I admittedly felt this distrust myself. Even now, as a proud (and I mean proud!) Axon employee, my ties to my community and working for a company that produces weapons is a tension I feel almost daily, despite having spent hours upon hours with our law enforcement customers whom I’ve developed a reverential awe for.
In the spirit of Expecting Candor — my favorite among our values — I continued to feel the reluctance of taking a chance on Axon, even into my first couple of weeks at the company. I looked different than a lot of the people I saw, I felt different, and I worried that Axon and I could never be a match. Despite the incredible conversations I had with individuals across the company, I was afraid- afraid of betraying my beliefs, afraid of not being accepted, and afraid of what others outside of the company would think of me. Was I a sellout? Was I actually making a difference? Why didn't I choose to do something easier?
I spent so much time during the first couple weeks imagining what my life would look like if I decided to work at a company less entrenched in social change and issues. My life would be “simple” - go to work every day, sit at my desk and perform my daily tasks without having to consistently consider the real-world effects of my actions. There would be no stress, no interactions with law enforcement - just me being content at a straightforward job.
Thinking back to that time over a year later, I’ve often tried to identify the single moment this illusory desire for simplicity began to go away. Was it my first ride-along with an officer? The first time I saw body camera footage in the news with our signature Axon delta watermark? One event in particular that always stands out was a sit-along I had with a 911 dispatcher in Oakland, California. I listened to her take call after call, each more intense than the last. Within the short time of my sit-along, I heard her take at least two suicide threat calls and I watched in amazement as she remained calm, focused and determined to get the caller the help they needed. And on top of everything, she did this while using outdated software, slowing her down as she performed critical work that would save lives. I came away saddened, motivated and appreciative that I work for a company dedicated to using technology as a medium to improve the lives of people like that dispatcher, and the outcomes of the work they do for the safety of the community.
In retrospect, considering all of the incredible, transformative experiences I've had thus far at Axon, I can't imagine having taken any other path following college. During all of that time of hesitation, I had briefly forgotten why I had decided to join this company in the first place. I did not then, and do not now, want “simple.” Believe me when I say, there is no greater motivation than knowing that the products you work on have the ability to literally transform the world as we know it. We create technology that has the real capacity to save lives with forward-thinking products like, a more efficient dispatch system that will expedite the process to get life-saving aid to the places and people that need it most, and less-lethal weaponry that gets us closer and closer to our mission of making the bullet obsolete.
I think despite the differences I was so fearful of before joining the company, there is a powerful commonality among all Axon employees that becomes obvious when you start to work here. The people here are genuinely interested in making the world a better, safer place for all individuals living in it. They have taken it among themselves to attempt to solve the world's most challenging problems, which honestly is not always the most “fun” experience. The things we see and the conversations we have do not always leave us with a light heart at the end of the day, but it is necessary work that we are all deeply committed to doing.
I recently discovered a mantra while watching a show that I believe sums up my feelings toward working at Axon pretty well - “Here am I. Send me!”. There will always be challenges, but I’d rather be a part of the discussion for ethical solutions, rather than assuming that I am not the “type of person” to do this work.