What's your background - career, where you grew up, school?
I was born in Albania, a small, once-communist country in Eastern Europe. My family and I left when I was seven years old. We were excited to leave because my family was heavily persecuted by the communist government. We lived in Italy for a few months before coming to the U.S. My family history has strongly influenced my upbringing. I try to take nothing for granted and I view hard work as a privilege.
I grew up in New York City and went to Syracuse University for undergrad. I was a double major in communications and political science.
After graduation, I entered the media world, which I’ve been in for 10+ years. I worked in media planning/buying at large agencies like GroupM, and eventually transitioned into business development/negotiations at Conde Nast. I was strongly drawn to business and entrepreneurship so I went back to school full-time to get my MBA at Baruch.
It was at Baruch (right around graduation) that I started working on my first company, BOULD, a career platform helping young professional women overcome roadblocks in their careers. At the same time, I accepted a full-time role in business development at the largest news organization in the world, the Associated Press and simultaneously found out I was pregnant.
It was a crazy time with so many changes all at once, but giving up on my side hustle wasn’t an option. Entrepreneurship was calling me, and I was going to find a way to make it work.
I pushed forward with BOULD hosting events and workshops and slowly building a career coaching network to make coaching affordable and accessible for millennials. However, my co-founders (and good friends) and I realized we had different missions in our careers so we went our separate ways amicably.
What was once BOULD is now Work Bigger, a movement to redefine work as a vehicle for creativity and impact.
Work Bigger started as a blog in January 2016 where I began writing about challenging the status quo at work. I soon realized writing was something I had to do, a form of self-expression that I hadn’t tapped into before.
Furthermore, I realized the gap left by our education system in cultivating creativity and self-awareness in students is a big contributor to young professionals entering the workforce and feeling disillusioned, lost, and confused about how they can make a valuable impact. Self-awareness and creativity are key skills we need especially as the future of work approaches.
The blog has now morphed into a four-week pilot aimed to help 20 to 30-somethings get clear on their mission so they can make an impact through their work. Details on what’s next are still to be determined, but Work Bigger is a movement that will reshape how we view work.
What's your biggest success so far?
It depends on how you define success. I’ve been fortunate to work in great roles at large companies like the Associated Press, Conde Nast and GroupM. I also did well in school getting As and accolades. But I’ve felt most successful working on my own businesses, even while pre-revenue.
Through BOULD and Work Bigger, I’ve had a chance to make an impact by teaching others how to negotiate for a raise and get clear on their missions. Furthermore, entrepreneurship has pushed me to tap into my creativity, something I’ve realized has been buried deep down for years.
So many of us crave this, and while I once lacked this, I insisted on finding it. Writing, building a business and mentoring others brings me in the zone, and the result is more valuable, creative work. Although I’m only getting started with Work Bigger, I feel successful because I know creativity and self-awareness will lead me in the right direction.
What advice would you give to a business owner starting out in your industry that you wish you would have known going in?
Find a community that speaks to you. There are amazing groups out there ready to help you along the way, and you’ll be able to move a lot more quickly.
Also, go easy on yourself. It’s easier said than done, but enjoying the process isn’t only better for us mentally and emotionally, but it also yields more successful results.
Finally, approach your business like an experiment. You’ll fail many times, but work to fail in small increments and identify key learnings along the way.