Interview with Tylyn Wells ’11
I was reflecting back on what high school was like for me and realized I was very busy during high school. I liked to keep busy and I’m still like that…not surprising I’m a lawyer. I was very dedicated to sports and academics. I tried really hard to do my best in everything. Sophomore year I got into art. I took cartooning sophomore year at DLS and really enjoyed it. Senior year I took technical drawing because I was thinking about becoming an architect. In school I liked math, physics, and art and thought architecture would be the perfect career.
I was a student athlete at Stanford, a softball player. In 2011, you didn’t have to declare a major to apply, which allowed me to explore different subjects to find my interests. So freshman year I took physics, math, and art history in anticipation of my architecture track… and I didn’t like it. Time to rethink what inspired me.
College was a big adjustment to my previously organized life. It was sort of trial and error experience. In listening to other athletes, everyone’s story varied; some would say they take their lightest course load during the season while others would take their heaviest course load to make them stay focused. I had to go back and forth trying to juggle my schedule and academics but finally I found what worked best for me.
“Floating Duck Syndrome”; it’s the idea that everyone at Stanford knows what their doing and are on top of it all the time, but if you look at a duck, they’re super calm on the surface and you don’t see their feet paddling frantically just to stay afloat. Just remembering that saying helped me stay calm and learn to live with ambiguity until I figured it out.
I graduated with a degree in Political Science and was an active member in the Black Pre-Law Society and Black Student Union. Law was my passion and I was accepted at Santa Clara University Law School in 2015. I worked in a variety of internships during law school. My first summer I worked for the Santa Clara County Counsel working primarily on elder abuse. During my second year, I worked in Santa Clara University’s Entreprenuer’s Law Clinic providing legal advice to start-ups under the guidance of an attorney. In my third year, I wanted to find an internship that meant something personally to me and I used my connections to find an internship at San Jose State Athletic Department under the Compliance Athletic Director. I loved working directly with athletes and coaches and decided that I wanted to work in a college athletic department after law school. I was sure this was my future and applied for a NCAA one year program in hopes of being hired by a college athletic department. I was very confident I would be accepted into the program and when I didn’t, I was devastated! I had my future all planned out and now I needed a new plan. I took the Bar Exam along with my fellow class of 2018 folks. I passed the bar during my first post law school as a graduate law clerk with the Alameda County Counsel. Ten months later I was hired by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office.
This month I celebrated my 2nd year as Deputy District Attorney for Contra Costa County. Looking back, not getting the NCAA internship was the best thing that could have happened to me. I love my job and I definitely made the right decision. I love the work we do and I am proud to be part of a system fighting for people’s rights. I just celebrated my 28th birthday this year, and people always ask me what my next career move is. Becoming a judge? A judge is the ultimate decision maker and their power provides the greatest impact for a community—which is where my passion is—to seek justice and help victims.
My message to all students, high school and college, is to be open to opportunities presented to you. You never know what path you’re going to take to get to your destination. That openness to different opportunities helped me get to where I am today.
And never take yourself too seriously. Have fun in school, go to football games, take a night off, make friends. When I went to law school, I wasn’t looking to make friends—I had a job to do—get through law school and do my best. I met some really great people in law school and I am so thankful for that. I will remember those people and the experiences we had together more than anything I learned in a classroom.