I’ve always admired those people who talk enthusiastically about their work. You can see straight away how delighted they are about their jobs and how much they love what they do. I wanted to be one of them, but I couldn’t until recently. The reason was that I was in no way happy with my job. I wasn’t thrilled or motivated, so I had nothing to share with the others.
It all went back to my pretty strict upbringing. My mother taught me that risk is dangerous, and not worth it. So I always stayed away from the road less travelled. Wrong. A thousand times wrong. The past year has taught me that only by taking risks you succeed, and the road less travelled is always full of opportunities. It’s ridiculous to go through the process of making a choice when you know the outcome from the start. As cliché as it may sound, we are our own worst enemies. And it might have taken me 30 years, but I have eventually found myself in the process.
I remember posting one of those Hello August pictures on Instagram last year. It was the first and last time I posted something of the kind, and, coincidentally or not, it was one of the most popular of my pics. I am not superstitious, so I didn’t think anything of it, I simply went on with my life.
We had just come back from a seaside holiday. I had just found out I was going to have another baby, and I was thrilled. My family is my happy place, so I was incredibly happy that I would take a break from the toxic culture which surrounded me at work. There is no greater waste of time and effort than fighting against systems when you’re surrounded by complacent people. People who are terrified of changing the status quo, because that would mean the collapse of the world as they know it.
Just like in the movies, everything changed in an instant, when a friend introduced me to the co-founders of CyberFog. I did not know how things would turn out, but I quit my job without batting an eyelash and joined the startup world. When I tell that to people, they look at me strangely. Not many pregnant women leave their “safe” job to chase after chimeras. I did it partially because I wanted something new, a challenge, and mostly because I strongly believed we would succeed. Failure was not an option in my mind.
So there we were last September, five people making business plans from a kitchen, terrace or livingroom, depending on the day. There was no schedule or office, we took the bus or the train to get to meetings and we shared leftovers with a dog. We were a team of people animated by the same goals, trying to make it on our own. At times it was incredibly difficult, because we were thrown in the vortex of business, and we had little experience. But somehow we made it through. Ok, it wasn’t by chance. We read, and studied, and drafted, and proofread, rewrote and remade plans, meanwhile evading sleep and listening to the all the pieces of advice we could get. As a first perk, even before we received funding, we met some great people, who taught us the ins and outs of the startup world.
In the beginning, our roles were not very defined. At some point, we were more girls than boys and we would work together on every task. Now, we do have official job titles, but the power of the team, which has grown in the meantime, is still our catalyst. We have learned to work smart. That doesn’t mean we spend less than 10 hours working on a presentation someone will read in 5 minutes. Sometimes we’re perfectionists, sometimes we’re way too relaxed. And we can be anyhow, as long as we finish the task.
For someone coming from a rigid environment, with predefined job description, it can be hard to adapt. I have seen people come and people go. A startup often means chaos and adapting to changes right as they happen. What was good an hour before is not valid anymore. A great deal of responsibility is placed on our shoulders, whether we are prepared for it or not. I went from making theoretical projects no one would ever read to creating content that is published in magazines or posted online with hundreds of views.
Writing about cybersecurity does not come easily, you don’t want to know how much time it took me to write my first article. Those narratives and essays in highschool were great practice, but this is the real world. I love writing, and I have rediscovered the thrill it gives me. My wheels are turning with possibilities, every day I get new ideas, new inspiration and more satisfaction when I finish a piece. I’m as thrilled about this as my 4 year old is when she gets a new toy.
Another lesson I’ve learned this year is that your academic background doesn’t really matter, it’s more about what you know to do. After finishing college, you are in no way ready for a job, you will learn through practice. It’s about being willing to grow. I am aware I was very lucky to be given this chance. I know it doesn’t happen everywhere, or to everyone. But that’s one of the advantages of being in a startup.
I feel like there are two parallel worlds, the before and after. I understand now why one of my friends always joked (or maybe not?) and told me to get a real job. Since becoming a PR at CyberFog, I was forced to take a hands on approach. I have to do things, even if they are as simple as making a call or writing an email. I had little experience in the field at first, so there has been a lot of updating in the background. I have had to learn along the way, with every new thing I encountered.
The change in my professional life has also impacted my personal life, I see some things more clearly, and I have higher expectations of myself and of others. I am more straightforward, and more focused towards results. I feel more confident in myself. I know that my work is valuable and valued. My ideas may suffer twitches, but they come to life, they aren’t rejected before I finish voicing them. But I’m still the girly girl who loves pink and a healthy dose of sparkle, even though that may annoy some people.
If someone asked me which was the best period of my life I would answer this past year. Things have been far from perfect, it seems that life has in store one unexpected turn of events after another, and at times it can be overwhelming. Trying to balance a family life that includes a newborn and a 4 year old and a job can be tricky. But the people I have met and the satisfaction I get are some of the highs that compensate the lows. I have become one of those people who speak about what they do with all the enthusiasm they are capable of. I offer energy and opinions wherever I go, and those are things people greatly appreciate.
This post was originally published on LinkedIn.