Wait, what did ‘just’ happen?
If anyone had told me 10 years ago that in 10 years I’d be living in San Francisco, working for Google (loving my job) and holding a degree from Stanford Graduate School of Business, I’d call them mad.
Then again — here I am.
Somehow I figured today would be a good day to look back at the last 10 years of my life, I mean not like I have anything better to do.
In the last 10 years I lived in 4 countries, met amazing people that since have become my friends for life and learned about running a business from the best. All of that while being healthy and having support of my loving family. I’ve been blessed.
Ten years ago I did not have ‘big’ dreams — in ‘change the world’ type of ‘big’. They were pretty much in line with the dreams of 95% of millennials that I share social and cultural background, and geographical proximity with— get a good education, good job, find a partner, become financially independent, travel, buy a flat/house, start a family, raise healthy kids, retire. That’s pretty much it.
Starting with the education then, I think I was a fairly decent student, trying to figure out how I’m going to start making money. And then, through a series of lucky coincidences, I got a job selling batteries, then shaving foams, then telling people to love their moms and buy more diapers, then selling fabric softeners and then batteries again. I started the battery gig while still having 2 years of college left and a prospect of studying abroad in Barcelona for 6 months. But I followed my gut and took the job anyways. I think mostly out of vanity — working and studying at the same time made me feel really important. Plus I enjoyed the additional income.
I was (in my own opinion) the s***. I told myself, ‘Now I’m going to climb the corporate ladder’, cause this is the best company in the world and if in 10 years I make it to the middle management, I’ll be successful. I’ll achieve my dream. I’ll make it in life. I did believe that— why wouldn’t I — company with strong values, decent compensation, health insurance, job security, teammates I enjoyed working and partying with. I WAS HAPPY.
Then in 2008 suddenly an opportunity presented itself. Switzerland. WOT? Company decided to change their financial reporting and so was in need of folks from that part of the world to go and work in Geneva. WOT? Yeah, I know it sounds like no big deal but believe me it was back then. Honestly, the only reason I applied was to have the chance to live abroad. Geneva was to be my Barcelona I had never gotten the chance to go to.
BUT this change meant new team, new business, lack of network and support built over time in my old location. I was actually freaking out. I was 23 at that time and about to move to a country I didn’t know, with language I didn’t speak and living on my own for the first time in my life. I know it sounds a bit dramatic, given that we got a lot of support from the company every step of the way. Still, freaking out.
In retrospect (surprise, surprise) I’m happy I made that call. I could’ve not imagined how much those 2 and half years would broaden my horizons. Not only professionally, but personally as well.
Though ‘The Swiss Job’ also affected my ego. I thought that because I had been chosen to go to Geneva, I was better. I was expecting preferential treatment. NOPE!
I mean I got promoted and everything, but to a less than desirable position (at least that’s what I thought at the time) and shipped back to Poland. To tell the truth, I was miserable for the first 3 months back. REALLY MISERABLE. To a point when I was thinking about leaving the company. But then around April/May things took a turn for better and for the next 12+ months I would work on the most rewarding 2 projects of my professional career to-date. This was also a great way to learn how to swallow my pride.
I built a short term plan. Stay in Poland for 2–2.5 years and then fly back to Geneva. But the company had decided on a different route for me (despite my vocal disagreement). Uh oh, trouble in paradise.
Then August 2012 came about with the most serendipitous beers of my life that ended with the decision to apply to Stanford. It was surreal. I mean I had no reason in the world to believe I’m getting in. Zero. None. I hadn’t known anyone with my background that ever made it. So while I was working on my GMAT and ‘what matters most to me and why’ I was actively looking for a job.
And then March 26th, 2013 came. Phone call at around 11am CET from Derrick Bolton. I was in. FREAKIN IN. Admitted to the Stanford GSB. BOOM!
I remember driving back home that day and thinking to myself how unbelievable this whole situation was. I was going to Stanford. I mean it had not even been an option a year earlier. I WAS REALLY, REALLY HAPPY.
September 1st, 2013 marked the beginning of the most challenging yet the best 2 years of my life. I’m not gonna spend too much time on it, as apparently there’s a whole blog about it.
I had my ups and downs over the 2 years of the GSB, but I feel like it was my Geneva^squared. I was soaking in all the new, unexpected, diverse. It was scary but rewarding in so many ways.
Also, I kind of knew what I wanted to get out of the program…but not really. One thing I had my mind set on though was getting a job at Nike. Global Marketing. Dream Come True. I don’t think I had ever been more prepared for an interview in my entire life…and ever gotten turned down so quickly. Honestly, I did not have a plan B at that time. YIKES!
Turned out for the best. I think I ended up getting an internship and finally an offer at Google because deep down Googlers like challenges and a bit of thrill here and there. Overall the process wasn’t anything out of ordinary — not to say it wasn’t stressful and loooong. But luckily I got the chance to prove my added value and that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last 4 months. Not sure if it’s still the Kool-Aid or this place is actually that great to work at, but it’s been nothing short of amazing so far.
In my VERY BIASED opinion:
- Making long term plans when you are 20 is bonkers. I mean really. It’s good to have some…but it’s even better to gather experiences and not worry about long term plans till you’re 31;)
- Getting angry just because things are not going your way is childish. Pride kinda sucks, cause it stops you from looking at EVERYTHING as an OPPORTUNITY.
- Following your gut works. Make sure to train it first by making small decisions and seeing the effects.
- If it seems impossible, GO FOR IT. 99 out of 100 times it won’t work, but that one time will compensate for all the upsets, with a big margin!
- Retrospection is good. Especially when it comes from a place of gratitude and self-improvement.
So should I make plans for the next 10 years? Absolutely YES
Am I going to end up where I plan to? Probably NOT…but I’m fine with it. To my surprise, my dreams have not changed that much over the course of the last 10 years. Maybe with one exception: I might just give ‘changing the world’ a shot. I mean what’s the worst thing that could happen. Cliched as it sounds, life goes by fast and I think playing it safe always leads to regrets. ALWAYS.
Happy 2016. Talk in 10 years.