Alumna's Blog, &fail, Gives New Perspectives on Failure

Veronica Brown '17 Assistant News Editor

Tessa Ann Taylor ’08 started the blog “&fail” (andfail.com) as a place for contributors to share stories of failure and how these stumbling blocks can actually help in the journey towards long-term success and happiness.

Posts include “& I Was Rejected from the Foreign Service,” “& My Screenplay Tanked” and “Rhodes Scholar: & I Quit.” Taylor wrote the first post, “& I Failed High School,” about how being forced to attend summer school later allowed her to discover her passion for computer programming, which she has since turned into a successful career.

In 2012, Taylor created the app Co, which consolidates personal messages from all of a user’s phone applications. She described Co as “an interesting learning experience,” explaining that “acting as the sole founder also means that all decisions are ultimately mine to make[and] suffer through.”

Taylor was inspired to start “&fail” after a conversation with her cousin, who expressed her frustration with her own job search and told Taylor, “I just don’t understand why I’m having such a hard time.  You never had to struggle like this.”

At that moment, Taylor, who, as a woman interested in technology, exists in a male-dominated field, realized how little she had shared of her own challenges. “I was taken aback by her comment.  Of course I had struggled,” she said. “I opened my mouth to say this to her, but then I stopped.  It occurred to me that she didn’t know about any of my challenges… because I had never shared them with her.  How could I expect her to see something that I wasn’t willing to show?”

Taylor realized popular, linear narratives of success leave out any mention of failure, and she was inspired to continue this conversation with a broader audience online. “Sharing failure is an uncomfortable experience, but an important one.  An open discussion of failure allows us insight into the realities of the journey, rather than just the successes of the destination.”

Taylor acknowledges that sharing experiences of failure puts a person in a vulnerable position, but believes that “this vulnerability, while uncomfortable, is what makes &fail powerful.”

Taylor credits Smith’s small community with teaching her to “really own [her] actions and experiences… both positive and negative.” She continues, “I imagine I wouldn’t have had the confidence to follow through with [&fail] without my Smith experience.”