ARIKIA MILLIKAN – WRITER, BLOGGER, & ASPIRING CYBORG
Brook Pifer: For people that don’t know, tell me how you came to live and in New York and what your background is.
Arikia Millikan: I moved here to New York from Michigan right after I graduated with two suitcases and no idea of what I was going to do. I was supposed to work at the New York Hall of Science and then got a call the day of my flight saying, “sorry we just lost bunch of funding from the government so good luck in New York but we can’t hire you.”
So I got on the plane anyways and starting working at a cyber cafe called the Internet Garage. And I just started blogging, not knowing if anyone would wind up reading my blog. It got pretty popular so I used that motivation to jump into a career of journalism. From there I went to various publications in New York, Seed Media Group, Psychology Today, Wired. I was editor at Wired for almost three years, which was something that was my end-of-life goal.
BP: You achieved this career status so young in life, that’s amazing! What are some of the struggles you’ve had to overcome along the way?
AM: Being a women in a man’s industry has always been a challenge. I’ve been so grateful that I’ve had so many motivational men around me in my career, but there is a big discrepancy regarding actual and ideal gender ratios in the tech journalism field. The industry still views technology as a man’s hobby, man’s profession, man’s landscape. At Wired they would market the publication the same way you would market GQ, completely not acknowledging that women are the biggest consumers of at least the top ten fastest growing technologies in the world. I’m focusing my journalism career on incorporating women into that picture. I’m creating a space where women can equally shape the conversations that we are having about technology and contribute to the process, and run the process.
BP: I like the focus of brining more women into the conversation. What’s next on your plate?
AM: I’m happy to announce that the company that I’ve been wanting to start for the past year is finally getting it’s moment in the sun. I am launching LadyBits on Medium, the new content management system started by Evan Williams, the founder of Twitter. It’s being managed by Evan Hansen, my former editor at Wired. LadyBits will have a collection on Medium that will focus on personal narrative stories about women in technology and really focus on getting women’s voices into the technological landscape online.
BP: You seem to be filled with a lot of passion. What inspires you to write?
AM: I’ve always had a deep interest in human beings and what motivates them and the things that make exceptional people, successful people, kind people stand out from their peers. That’s pretty much the driving process in my journalism. Just investigating every facet of someone’s personality, tying that in together with whatever their success story is.
BP: You obviously love what you do, describe your perfect workday in the city.
AM: Being a freelancer, I totally make my own schedule. My perfect workday in the city would be going to co-work at one of the companies that I write for. I really like the space at Vice. The space and the crew there are fabulous. I would get some legit Brooklyn coffee at The Verb. They have super strong latte’s and great espresso, it’s fantastic. I’m a pretty big night owl, some night’s I’ll work until 1 AM when the writing kind of flows naturally out of me. So many Friday, and Saturday nights I’ll lock myself in my apartment and not go out to the big thing that everyone’s at because I’m working. But there are days where it’ll be a Wednesday but I was out until 5 AM the night before and just decide I’m gonna hang out and not work on anything and just give myself that time to relax and walk around the neighborhood, maybe catch a movie. That’s the luxury I have that comes with a really competitive, and sometimes frustrating industry.
BP: I feel like being a freelancer you can tolerate a bit of risk, not knowing when or where the next gig will come from. What advice can you share with other people on the fence about quitting a stable job to pursue a dream?
AM: In the freelance world you’re definitely trading stability for freedom. You have to be confident in yourself and know that you can pull through to secure those gigs and sometimes work around-the-clock to finish a project. There’s a lot of self-discipline that goes with this industry. You have to believe in yourself and know that the work you are doing is meaningful and will be valuable to the world.
One of my friends Lauren Wolfe manages a website called Women Under Siege that explores the war crimes that women face all over the world, both in direct combat situations and more institutionalized crimes against women. It’s so tragic, and I want to shine a light on to the dark corners of the world and create a better understanding of how people live. People have a tolerance for how much sad stuff they can see on a daily basis, but I think it’s the responsibility of the press to keep pursuing these stories even if they are going to get half of the clicks compared to a story about celebrities. People need to be aware of how we exist as a species.
BP: I couldn’t agree more, mainstream media really can miss the mark on social issues. There’s no way to top that but let’s switch gears, how has living in New York shaped your life? I know you’re heading off for some major travels abroad, what is the driving force behind seeking adventures elsewhere?
AM: In New York, everyone has their thing that they are working on, their chance at success, the reason they came here in the first place. It’s a lot more stressful than other places but the quality of interactions that you find with people living here are so genuine and so rewarding. The friends that I’ve met in New York City are life-long friends who I know that I’ll be talking with and working with and growing businesses with well into the future. Pretty soon, though, I’m going to give it a bit of a break and give myself a chance to miss New York and then come back.
I’m ready to fall in love. It’s something that I put on hold since I’ve been living here because I’ve been so driven to meet my professional goals that I never allowed myself the time for meaningful relationships outside of friendships. I’m open to that now. I’m ready to give myself the spiritual nurturing that I have not been getting in New York. I’m excited to reconnect with nature and just experience humanity outside of the bubble I’ve been living in.
BP: For extra credit, check out this essay by Arikia about life and leaving New York.
LadyBits on Medium