I was having drinks with a friend
Although I’ve been leaning towards this concept for a long time, the trend was really validated when I recently attended a talk by law-firm director Jeff Dennis on the landscape of VC funding in Canada. He said to the room of eager-eyed start-up entrepreneurs, “people in your generation need to figure out how to be self-sufficient and secure in a jobless economy, where soon tasks and employees will be replaced by robots.” Coming from a well-respected lawyer, one of the most traditional & longstanding careers in our country, that wa saying something. Jeff recognized the trajectory early on (as early as the
Essentially, the traditional path of obtaining an education, securing a good job, working your way up in a career, and staying in on one industry, is dead. Or
Instead, people are pivoting. They’re eschewing the 9-5 in favour of working for themselves, within whatever schedule works for them in order to live a more
How it all started
I began my career in architecture. Fresh outta architecture school (arguably the most gruelling program in the entire formal education system), I had tunnel vision entering my first job. It was at the largest architecture firm in the country, and I was the youngest to have ever been on their payroll. (I wasn’t even legal drinking age yet, and prayed that I wouldn’t get carded every time my colleagues and I went out for after-work drinks for fear of my actual age being exposed). I quickly had to learn the real-life ropes of what working in the industry was actually like, compared to the creative almost art-like studio courses I was used to.
I continued working there over the course of 5 years. Given the substantial size of the firm, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to a wide variety of project types from commercial to transit to residential, and even worked on some fun cultural proposals. I learnt an incredible amount from project bidding & proposal submission, to state-of-the-art designing programs & the construction process, and made some really great friends there.
As time ticked away, however, the reality of the industry and the career I had chosen started to sink in. All I had to do was take one look around at the desks next to me to see exactly where I would be in 10, 20, hell even 50 years from now. There were guys in their 70s – even 80s – still showing face! (Note: I say “guys” because the traditional realm of architecture that those order colleagues once entered was an incredibly male-dominated profession, so there are few women ready to retire.) And while that may have served them well, it was a stark realization for myself that was not whom I wanted to become.
Around this same time, I read Tim Ferris’ infamous book The 4-Hour Work Week. It needs no
So I quit. I packed up my shit. And I moved to a tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean. I physically forced myself out of my suffocating situation, to try my hand at starting something for myself.
Prior to the move, I started freelancing as a graphic designer on the side. Part of the issue of becoming an architect (and what prevents
My point is, architecture is its own little bubble, and it’s hard to get out simply because you don’t have much knowledge or skills in anything else. I found lots of what we did as students in architecture school was kind of like glorified graphic design. Every assignment was accompanied by a presentation that had to be visually stunning. Except we were all self-taught. I’d put an Architecture students Adobe Creative Suite abilities up against that of a Graphic Design student’s any day. Coupled with our abilities to think and draw three-dimensionally, and you have a unique approach to design that could lend an
So, graphic design was a natural progression. I started taking on freelance clients, developing their branding identity designing logos, book covers, web elements, social profiles, and various brand collateral. I loved it, and found it extremely fulfilling as a creative outlet.
A blog is born
By this time, I was living the expat life in Malta – that tiny European island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. My family and friends were curious as to what I was up to, and with frequent trips throughout Europe, I was eager to share my adventures. Being a visual person, a photography-based blog seemed like the ideal way to capture the beautiful moments I was experiencing. I launched an Architect Abroad in October of 2014, while living a stint in Ukraine. I had a lot of cool things to share, and finally had a platform that fulfilled all of my creative desires!
The brand gained momentum and
When we eventually moved back to Malta, I had to get a job. The one-off freelance projects were just not sustainable. By this
I also negotiated the fuck outta them from the get-go (if you are currently applying & interviewing for positions I highly recommend Ramit Sethi’s course from I Will Teach You to be Rich of Find Your Dream Job). I positioned myself from a point of authority from the onset, and by doing so, I commanded
I worked my way within the umbrella company redesigning all their brand collateral, establishing new practices, implementing innovative ideas, and
Now, I know this is not a traditional trajectory. I MADE it such. I took on projects beyond my job description’s
Experience trumps Education (IMO)
After a couple more years of experience in marketing under my belt, we made the move back home to Toronto. After living in Europe for so long, I had collected so much cool content and had accumulated a healthy loyal blog audience. I was working incessantly on the
So, I found myself once again looking for a position, but this time specifically in digital marketing, with the hopes of trying my hand at an agency. I wanted to explore multiple verticals and work alongside a talented team and be exposed to different projects. It was not easy, and I was losing hope in the daily uninspiring slog that is job hunting. Finally, I was connected to an agency through a mutual friend. I went in for a meet and greet, without any particular position in mind, and we all hit it off.
The company not only admired my transition from architecture to design to marketing, but they saw my own personal brand, an Architect Abroad, as an asset. This was hugely refreshing (and frankly, relieving), as I no longer had to separate my side passion project from my day job. Instead, it was seen to go hand in hand with what my full-time career would be. A position at the agency opened up, I was a perfect fit, and once again, negotiated my way through the contract signing process. Remember – if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Soon I was working on really interesting multi-faceted projects with clients that spanned various industries tailored to my interests from travel to wine, fashion to fitness. I was starting to feel as if I was doing exactly what I was meant to be working on, and it showed through my work.
The blog rebrand
Having no longer been living abroad (nor working as an architect), I feared my brand an Architect Abroad was misleading and no longer sustainable. I struggled with this for a long time. I did not know which direction to take
Where I currently am
After working at the agency for a year and a half, I went fully freelance. I now consult as a Digital Strategist under my own sole proprietorship. I gained unprecedented freedom and
So I did.
On a whim, I decided to temporarily relocate to Portugal this past Fall. I had some friends living
This is my current life. The one I’ve only dreamed of sitting at my desk at the architecture firm, wondering to myself is this was it.
No, Cassie, it definitely was not.
There was so much more in store for you.