Oh Mentor, My Mentor

I’m going to say something very honest about my work.

I would not be where I am, doing what I do, without three very important people; David Neff, Ilene Haddad, and Julie Gomoll.

I’m not being modest, or looking for praise. These people influenced me, pushed me, supported me, and guided me, and that is why I get to do the work I do today.

The sudden death of Julie is not just a tragedy for those she leaves behind. Don’t get me wrong; we’re devastated. I’M DEVASTATED. But Julie’s death is also a huge tragedy for our community, our digital world, and the close knit family we created when social media first showed us how to make a family online.

Julie did things that most people – especially women – don’t even dare to dream of. She started (and sold) companies, she intuitively understood the web in a way that most of us took years to adopt. She dragged some of Austin’s biggest companies online and made the web what is today. Her story never ceased to amaze me. I loved to listen to her talk about her work. It was mesmerizing. SHE was mesmerizing.

I don’t even watch Game of Thrones, but I would have if Julie was on the Iron Throne.

I really got to know Julie through Blogathon. And I was at first completely intimidated by her. She was so smart and so wordly, and just leaps and bounds ahead of where I thought I could be. And let’s be real; she was a little gruff. She didn’t mince words, and she was not afraid to tell it like it is. But as I got to know her, I realized that just underneath that tough exterior (I mean, RIGHT below the surface) she was the most giving human being. Julie didn’t hoard her smarts; she shared them with everyone. She was always ready to give advice and share her knowledge. And she wasn’t snobby about it. I always felt dumber than her, but she didn’t try to make me feel dumb. It was a rare gift.

I knew Julie struggled with depression. That’s part of the reason we spent so much time together this year. She reached out to me through a mutual friend because I had been really open about my life with depression and anxiety. We drank coffee for hours and she talked very openly about the tough time she was having. But she was getting help, and she wanted a project to occupy her mind.

I was fortunate enough to work on that project with her. She wanted to bring Room for Improvement to more people, help more businesses, save more websites. I was so flattered that she wanted to work with ME. In our meetings and planning sessions, I told her how much her tutelage meant to me, and how honored I was to work with her. She was so humble about it, and never made me feel like her underling. I learned so much from her in that time.

Julie was proud of her work, but she was never as excited as when she talked about the projects she did for other passionate people. She was so insanely proud of her dearest friends opening a coffee trailer, and she said that her work on their branding was some of the best work she’d ever done. She loved to share the story of a friend from culinary school who wanted her to create a logo for his YouTube channel but couldn’t afford her. So he took her out to a fancy dinner instead. He loved her work so much, he almost cried.

Julie inspired that in people. She was passionate and excited about what she did, and it was infectious. When we worked on Room For Improvement, she said her tagline should be “I’m not afraid to call your baby ugly.” And it was true; she’d give it to you straight, whether it was good or bad. But it was never mean. She may say your website looked bad, but it came from a place of love. Because she wanted the best for you, and she KNEW you had it in you to make it better. She believed in people, and she wanted to see people succeed.

Julie paved the way for women in the digital world. She did so many things before those things even had a name. She shared her knowledge, her passion, and her capacity to love with each and every one of us. My life will never be the same thanks to her influence. My life is darker now, without her in it. I feel lost without the light Julie shined in my life.

I’ll never have coffee or lunch with Julie again. I’ll never see her at another Blogathon. I’ll never see her work her magic on a website again. I’ll never get another hug, or hear another story. It seems unreal, and it breaks my heart.

It isn’t fair. Depression isn’t fair. It robs us of so much, but the worst is when it robs us of the ones we love. Julie deserved better. She deserved a life of joy and happiness, a life of no pain. But she was robbed. And now, we’re the ones that feel robbed. We’ve all been shortchanged. We should have had more time with this extraordinary human.

I owe Julie a debt I can never repay. She wasn’t the praying type, but I will pray every single day that our souls will be reunited. I hope I can make her proud, and take all of the lessons that she taught me to continue to grow as a human, as a female entrepreneur, and as a friend.

I am who I am and I do what I do because Julie Gomoll touched my life. I will cherish our memories, and I will love her forever.

Julie loved animals (especially her two dogs) more than anything. If you are so inclined, please consider making a donation in her memory to Austin Pets Alive. Fun fact: She designed the first APA website! She was a badass pioneer for so many. 

2 responses to “Oh Mentor, My Mentor”

  1. Wow, there was so much to Julie I just didn’t know…thanks for sharing Cathy!!! Beautiful account of her influence and soul…

  2. chumplady says:

    Beautiful tribute — and I’m laughing through my tears at “I’m not afraid to call your baby ugly.”

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