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Ann Arbor Spark

October 9, 2019

Michigan Native Switches Career, Returns Home for New Opportunities

Are you thinking of making a career transition? How about moving to the Ann Arbor area for a job? Sarah Ball, a software developer at Menlo Innovations recently did both!

Sarah grew up in Holland, Michigan — just west of Grand Rapids. In 2014, she graduated from Calvin College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and literature. Shortly after graduation, she moved to Maryland to begin her career as a digital publishing representative for an academic publishing house.

It only took two years for Sarah to realize she needed a new career, “I wanted to do something where I could continually grow and learn more,” said Sarah. “I loved puzzle solving and enjoyed the computer science classes I took during college, so I looked into online computer science degree programs and enrolled at the University of Maryland University Global Campus.”

At the same time, Sarah was learning that living on the east coast came with its own set of challenges. “My husband Nate and I were renting on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. and paying D.C. prices. On top of that, all of our vacation time was spent traveling to and from Michigan.”

Once Sarah had earned her second bachelor’s degree, this time in computer science, she started applying for jobs back to Michigan. Ann Arbor appealed most to Sarah because it was big enough to support a large tech community and still close to some rural areas. “Someday we hope to own a home on some property out in the country a little bit more,” said Sarah. “That felt feasible in the Ann Arbor area.”

When she started to look for jobs, Sarah’s sister recommended she read Joy, Inc. by Richard Sheridan, Menlo’s founder and chief storyteller. “A lot of what he wrote resonated with me, especially the challenges he identified in more hierarchical structured organizations. Before I was even done with the book, I applied for a position with Menlo.”

Menlo invited Sarah for interviews (an intensive, multiple-day process) and then a three-week trial period — all standard for hiring at Menlo. “I quit my job for the trial period — which we don’t recommend — but I did it,” Sarah said laughing. “Fortunately, they hired me, and I’ve been with Menlo since.”

This was in November 2018 and over the past year, Sarah and her husband have discovered even more benefits to living in the Ann Arbor area. “In Maryland, if we wanted to go to a park, our choices were either a little one right next to a highway or an hour-long drive. Sure, eventually you could access areas with beautiful waterfalls, but it was an ordeal just to get there.” Sarah and Nathaniel now live in an apartment along Ford Lake in Ypsilanti and can easily walk over to a neighboring park. “It was a bit of a surprise to discover just how many green spaces there are in the area. When I started researching parks, I realized, ‘Oh, I know that road. That’s on my way to work.’ It’s been cool discovering new areas within an easy driving distance that either have no entrance charge or sometimes just a nominal one.”

An added bonus: Nathaniel, a former marine who took a lot of odd jobs when they moved to Maryland, now works from home. “With a more balanced cost of living, we both have more time to pursue our passions.”