Candace Thille’s mother, who had an undergraduate degree in physics and a master’s degree in mathematics, always told her that all work is honorable work, as long as you set a high standard for yourself. Her father, an electrical engineer, was the one who emphasized the importance of education: “The most important thing you can learn,” he’d tell her, “is how to teach yourself new things.”
When Thille was 11, her father quit his job working in missiles and space at Lockheed. Her parents were pacifists, and her father realized he was building systems that were being used in war. “So everybody in the family started working doing all kinds of different things to help financially support the family,” she said.
Thille has worked at Stanford University and is now Amazon’s director of learning services. I recently spoke to Thille about creating macramé plant hangers, following one’s passion while paying the bills, and lifelong learning. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Lola Fadulu: What sort of work did you start doing when your father quit his job?
Candace Thille: I started doing house cleaning and babysitting. And then I was 15 when I got my first real job, which was working in retail at an arts-and-crafts store. In the arts-and-crafts store, I also learned started teaching macramé classes. Macramé is essentially the art of knot-tying to create artwork. A real popular thing was to create macramé plant hangers. I actually started my own business when I was 15, creating macramé plant hangers and selling them through the local plant shops. In building these macramé plant hangers, the knotting was fine with me, but cutting hundreds of pieces of yarn for each plant hanger was really tedious. So I built a wheel whose circumference was exactly the length of the yarn piece that I needed. I could quickly put the yarn on this wheel, spin it around, and then make a single cut off one side of the wheel. So then I'd have my hundreds of pieces of yarn, at the length I needed to build my plant hangers.