ometimes social media can be used for good after all.
I put up a LinkedIn post recently that had some unexpectedly high engagement (400+ likes, 40+ comments, 35k+ views) and received several DMs and comments essentially asking the same thing: “what steps did you take in order to execute your career switch?”
The first couple times I answered the question, I responded matter-of-factly as if the lengths I went to in order to get paid to do what I enjoy was normal for everyone.
The dozens of months I spent post-MBA sifting through my various talents to find the right one I wanted to get paid for, while sacrificing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process, was uncommon behavior.
I didn’t realize that it wasn’t normal to not only say your plan B is your plan A, but to actually see it through come hell or high water.
The extremely broad overview goes something like this:
I left the United States for business school in Europe in 2018, graduated the following March and worked odd jobs while transitioning into tech in 2019, finished a 5-month software development bootcamp by March 2020, started a web design business and subsequently got hired as a digital marketer in 2021, and have moved on from being a Digital Marketing Manager into a client services leader for a prominent private investment bank thus far in 2022.
That 2018 - 2021 stretch was easily the most trying, frustrating, and difficult period of my professional life thus far.
I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to do professionally going into 2018, regardless of what I may have told people at the time.
All I knew was that I was done with accounting, I was really good with Excel, I picked up tech-related stuff very quickly, I enjoyed solving complex problems that involve software tools and process optimization, and I reveled in leading.
A lot of pride and ego had to be put to the side in order for me to hone in on a singular goal regardless of the road, something that’s required in order to continue marching forward in the face of uncertainty, doubt, and rejection.
It took for me to partner up and start my own business a year ago, within my desired career direction, for all of the hard work to finally be on display for the world to see.
Only then was I taken seriously, and doors began to finally open after months and months and months of consistent work on my craft.
By the time the right opportunity finally presented itself at the right time last year, the resolve I’d built up during such a long period of uncertainty manifested itself into a level of confidence within me that couldn’t help but exude during my interviews.
As the legendary Houston-based poet Michael Allen Jones so eloquently put it, “back then they didn’t want me, now I’m hot they all on me.”
At least that’s how I felt as I finally started getting substantive opportunities within this new path towards the end of 2021.
So what career steps did I take to allow me to successfully pivot from accounting into digital marketing between 2018 to 2021?
Here’s my story.
My Professional Accounting Foundations
Anyone who’s gotten to know me, dating back to my college years, knows one thing is certain about me - I’m going to learn my job with the intent to be the best, regardless of whether I like it or not.
I fell into accounting by accident.
I was basically dragged to the Texas Tech business school as an undergrad by a peer, one that I had great respect for, who was looking out for my future during a time when I wasn't.
He said we're not leaving until I get serious and choose a major that'll challenge me and make me some money.
So while we were there, I simply asked the counselor which major everyone runs from and generally hates to take coursework from.
That's how I landed on accounting.
Despite the fact that I had no interest in it, I took it head on and embraced the challenge since I knew that it would always afford me a baseline level of job security.
My mindset that I carry with me everywhere propelled me through those boring, mundane, tiresome courses.
Regardless of the discipline, I always go into a situation thinking that I'm better than my competition if given the opportunity and time to learn the craft.
In my mind, I’m destined to be the top dog no matter where I’m at because, with all other things being equal, I will “die on the treadmill” (not quit) before anyone else will.
So when I’m asked how I’ve been able to execute many of the moves I’ve made and how I maintain the consistency necessary to persevere, whether I like it or not, it all starts with that competitive mindset.
I’m not sure how that’s generally developed, but mine came about from a mixture of overcoming childhood adversity, formal higher education, plenty of book reading, some Googling, and taking high-risk chances professionally.
The hard work necessary to develop that mindset was already done upfront over the course of many years, so the confidence in my ability to make any major move starts with knowing that I’ve already put in the work to be successful.
So it’s no surprise that my first major leap of faith took place at 23 years old, when I uprooted my life from Texas to New York one year into my career.
2012 - 2013: FirstCapital Bank of Texas
Coming fresh out of Texas Tech University in the spring of 2012, I was happy to take any job that aligned with my degree.
FirstCapital Bank of Texas in Midland, Texas was that job, and I was easily sold once they told me they’d cover my moving expenses from Lubbock to Midland.
Midland housing was in short supply at the time thanks to an oil boom, so they also housed me in the company apartment for the first month or so while I settled into new city.
They even let me use a company car while I saved up for my own vehicle - I was ecstatic!
Add in the fact that management was great to me from the top on down, and I couldn’t have asked for a better foundation for my career.
Except for one thing - I was in Midland, Texas.
That’s not a town made for a young person who’s from anything even resembling a big city.
It’s much more fit for someone who’s used to living in rural areas or small cities.
I barely made it a year before I was ready to bounce, despite the fact that I was enjoying the work environment.
I tried to find anything interesting to do there - from community service, to playing basketball, to going out to various bars and restaurants, to hanging out with coworkers, to strip clubs that I had no interest in… name a legal activity and I tried it.
The vibe there just wasn’t for me.
What was there for me was an excellent management team that trained me properly on how to be a professional.
The way my manager, Melanie Horton, challenged me to be accurate, efficient, and confident, while remaining firm yet supportive, laid the perfect foundation for any subsequent professional success.
Despite the great organizational structure, I was never satisfied with the city and that inadvertently made me sour on the career as a whole.
I submitted my resignation a year into it and, after taking a week-long vacation shortly thereafter, I had the mental clarity I needed to move to a city that best suited me - New York City.
2013 - 2015: Brookfield Asset Management
A bank account with $2,000, a backpack, and a suitcase full of 2 weeks’ worth of clothes - that’s all I thought I needed when I took a one-way flight to New York City in the middle of 2013.
It was bordering on disaster from the start, as I thought I could crash with a friend of mine while he stayed there on a work assignment for 3 months.
That 3 month assignment quickly turned to 1 week just days before I was set to take off.
Thankfully, I told my mom my intentions to leave for New York with enough time to spare because I was able to lock in a place to stay on short-notice at a house owned by my relatives.
That was just dumb luck since I didn’t even know I had relatives who owned any property, but sometimes luck shows up just to reward you for your hard work and commitment.
That small boost, and a runway of 2 months rent-free, was all I needed.
Only 40 days after arriving with virtually nothing, I found an excellent job as a fund accountant at Brookfield Asset Management, one of the top private equity and real estate companies in the world (currently at about $700 billion AUM).
I was in the game and loving it!
Then recruiters learned I was in the game and started loving me too, but I was enjoying the work environment at Brookfield way too much to seriously entertain any of them.
After 2 years into it, one call from a major player in the private equity space gave me a call I couldn’t resist.
2015 - 2016: Blackstone
Once the company and offer was revealed, I was out of there.
I immediately jumped on the opportunity knowing that having their name on my resume would be the gift that keeps on giving well into my career, regardless of which direction I decided to ultimately take it.
In another bout of pure luck, I also had another company that was lined up and ready to make me an offer at the exact same time that Blackstone was - around the same starting salary and bonus.
This prompted me to negotiate between the two, even though I was told “Blackstone doesn’t negotiate” given my position and experience at the time.
Two phone calls later, Blackstone went up 6% from their original offer, which I took even though the competing firm was willing to go up to 25% from their original offer.
I took the lesser deal from Blackstone because the competing firm had nowhere near the same brand recognition or potential opportunities.
My first day there was great, and my decision to go with Blackstone appeared to be yet another great one under my belt.
The skill with which the people worked, their attention to detail, and the demand for timeliness across the board (even down to no tolerance for arriving late regardless of how late you worked the night before) all showed me what competing at the highest level looked like.
This was the type of commitment to excellence that I craved.
Anyone who knows me knows I treat a career like a sport.
When the lights come on at the arena or the stadium, it’s time to perform to the best of your abilities given your skill level at that time.
When the lights go off and the crowd dissipates, that’s when the real work begins to get better and develop those skills.
However, even as a competitor, I understand that there are limits to what the human body can reasonably sustain.
What I’m not willing to do is perform like it’s game 7 of the NBA Finals everyday into perpetuity, and end up so burned out that I no longer enjoy the process of getting better.
My situation was essentially Game 7, 2010 Lakers vs. Celtics when the Lakers won 83 - 79… everyday.
The draining effects that pace had on both my work and my personal life, consistent 10+ hours day while being in by 9:00AM no matter what, is the biggest reason why I only lasted 7 months.
I once worked from 9:00AM to 3:45AM the next morning, just to be back at work at 9:00AM that same morning.
It’s possible that I just wasn’t good enough, and maybe that would be more plausible if I didn’t see my entire team, and other teams, working even later than I was on a regular basis.
Maybe we all weren’t good enough.
So just 7 months in, I submitted my 2 weeks notice with no backup job or prospects and decided to leave.
Due to the significant amount of hours I put into the role during that short period, I started to rethink my approach to employment as a whole.
That experience allowed my mind to think I could be a high-performing entrepreneur given how much they work to keep their business alive.
I made my mind up after 7 months that if I was going to put in so many hours per week for someone else, I needed to see what that looked like going into my own thing.
The problem was I didn’t have “my own thing” to pour my hours into.
I left myself with only 2 weeks to figure that out.
2016 - 2017: Brookfield Asset Management
For the first couple days after my resignation at Blackstone, I committed to just doing things to decompress to get ready for the long, unpredictable road ahead of me.
There was no particular plan I had - just confidence and the ignorance to the harsh realities of life that come with being in my mid-20s by this point.
My only certainty was that I had less than two weeks left at Blackstone.
Luckily (common theme here), I had stayed in touch with some of my old coworkers at Brookfield after my initial departure, so it felt natural to shoot an innocent text to one of the managers I was cool with to let them know I decided to leave Blackstone and figure out my own thing to start up.
What I wasn’t expecting in response was a job offer.
They had an immediate need for someone with my skillset and fund knowledge to head the onboarding of their first third-party administrator.
After more details were explained to me, I jumped at the opportunity and just like that I was back at Brookfield in an elevated role.
The entrepreneurial desires I had never faded, however, this opportunity sounded like something that was at least worth exploring.
I really enjoyed the work environment at Brookfield from my previous time there - so much so that I jumped on the second chance to return.
Once I returned, I played a critical role in onboarding my team’s first third-party administrator over the course of several months.
This was the first professional opportunity I had to lead and I flourished - so much so that I caught the eye of my biggest advocate within the executive leadership team who has since become a friend of mine.
I was 27 at the time and they told me that at the rate I was going, being a Senior Vice President 10 years from then was well within reach.
From there, it's executive leadership - at one of the top financial services companies in the world.
This sounded great, but my heart was never in accounting even with that golden opportunity directly in front of me.
Despite being told that I was next up, I was still determined to carve my own path and decided to spend my hours after work striving towards getting into business school instead.
Call me a glutton for punishment, but the fear of the unknown and the prospect of failure was much more attractive to me than continuing down a laid-out path towards defined success and wealth.
At the time, I thought business school was the missing piece I needed to not only gamer the general business knowledge I lacked, but to also network with like-minded people who were also driven to be the best at what they chose to pursue.
That itch to do my own thing, whatever that looked like in practice, never left me.
The year and a half I bought myself allowed me to have a positive impact on a company that I loved working with previously as a more junior fund accountant, allowed me to save up a little bit of money, and gave me the time I needed to compete for a spot at a few highly-regarded business schools.
Once I completed the business school application process towards the end of 2017, and chose Rotterdam School of Management ahead of Fordham’s business school, I informed my team with 2-month advance notice that I was out for good this time.
I told them I was heading to The Netherlands that following January, into an abyss of uncertainty, to see if I could finally realize my true potential.