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Trial and Error

Take it from Deputy District Attorney, Tylyn Wells ’11: Life, like the courtroom, is just trial and error.

“Be open to opportunities because 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,” said Tylyn Wells ’11. Now celebrating two years as Deputy District Attorney for Contra Costa County, her life looks very different from the plan she laid out for herself as a Carondelet student.

“I liked to keep busy in high school and I’m still like that,” said Tylyn. “It’s not surprising I’m a lawyer.” Throughout high school, she filled her days with enriching sports and classes, including technical drawing, physics, and math—all of which made her consider a career in architecture.

She went on to play softball at Stanford, undeclared at the time. “In 2011, you didn’t have to declare a major to apply, which allowed me to explore different subjects to find my interests.” Freshman year she took physics, math, and art history in anticipation of an architecture track. “I didn’t like it,” said Tylyn. “Time to rethink what inspired me.”

College was a big adjustment to what she described as a previously organized life. “I had ‘Floating Duck Syndrome.” It’s the idea that everyone at Stanford knows what they’re doing and are on top of it all the time—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.”

She graduated with a degree in Political Science and was an active member in the Black Pre-Law Society and Black Student Union. Realizing law was her passion, she began attending Santa Clara University Law School in 2015, working a variety of internships throughout. In her third year, though, she wanted to find an internship that meant something personal and found an internship at San Jose State Athletic Department in the Compliance Office.

She loved working with student-athletes and coaches. Ever the planner, Tylyn decided that this was her future and applied for a one-year program with the NCAA, but was not selected. “I was devastated! I had my future all planned out and now I needed a new plan.”

Instead, she passed the Bar Exam and became a graduate law clerk with the Alameda County Counsel. Ten months later, she was working at the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office. “This month I celebrated my second 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,” she said. “I love the work we do and I am proud to be part of a system fighting for people’s rights.”

“People always ask me what my next career move is,” said Tylyn who’s floating the idea of becoming a judge. “They’re the ultimate decision-maker and their power provides the greatest impact for a communitywhich is where my passion isto seek justice and help victims.”

As she reflects on her school days and forwards into the future, she has advice for students trying to find their own way: “Never take yourself too seriously. Have fun in school, go to football games, take a night off, make friends,” she said. “When I went to law school, I wasn’t looking to make friendsI had a job to do, but I met some really great people in law school and I am so thankful. I will remember those people and the experiences we had together more than anything I learned in a classroom.”

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