If I Knew Then
Maia Hariton is the founder of Cassiopeia, a web development agency. In 2015, she quit her 9-5 job to travel the world while working remotely for a wide range of clients. Since then, she and her husband have traveled throughout South East Asia, Europe, and the United States.
Originally published on Ladies Get Paid.
When I was 19 years old, I moved to the United States from France. My hope was to work with international organizations and nonprofits, so I graduated with a degree in political science. Four years ago, I was interning at a nonprofit in Washington D.C., and I was asked to edit their website. Even though I knew nothing about HTML or CSS, I accepted the challenge and discovered a new passion, coding.
I decided that web development would be my new career. I invested time, money, and tears in that decision, and even after all of that, I’m so happy that my life has reached a point where I can earn a great living while working all around the world.
I KNOW MY YOUNGER SELF WAS SCARED OF THE FUTURE, AND NOW KNOWING EVERYTHING TURNED OUT ALRIGHT, HERE ARE A FEW THINGS I WOULD TELL HER:
Your life can change radically, if you work for it. I remember traveling to New York as a child and seeing all of these skyscrapers, and I was so amazed at what I saw. I promised myself that, one day, I would live in the US. Of course, announcing that to your family at 12 years old, no one takes you seriously. But I did it! I now live in the US (just got my permanent resident card!) and am so lucky to have achieved my biggest childhood dream. It took years of planning, learning a new language, and being okay to leave my family and friends to achieve my dreams.
You do not carry your parent’s legacy. Most of us disagree in one way or another in the way our parents raised us and the dreams they have for us. I strongly believe that we do not have to follow in these paths that were made for us when we were young. Our parents definitely may have experience, but the world today is so different from the world they grew up in, that their advice may not be the best for the lives we lead today.
I decided that I only have one life, that it was mine and that I deserved to be happy (I know, so cliche, but so true!). So I tried to listen to this voice inside my head that pushed me towards my passion and gave it a chance. My younger self did not see many paths of career and life outside of my parent’s perspective and I would love to tell her that there is so much that parents don’t know.
You can choose a professional path outside of the 9-5. I’m sure you have been hearing about remote work and digital nomads for a while now. Well, I’ve made the jump and it is amazing! It is becoming more common now to work remotely and if I could tell my younger self that this would be possible, I think she would have been so happy that she wasn’t going to be stuck in an office all day. I started freelancing before quitting my 9-5 job so that I would have something to show for when I went solo. I can tell you it’s not easy and getting clients can be challenging, but it is so fulfilling to decide on my own hours, work in my pajamas if I want to, while traveling around the world.
You can ask for help. I have a tendency to be extremely shy and blush whenever someone talks to me. For many of my college years were in a new country, I was terrified of talking to strangers or asking questions in class. Over the years, by attending conferences, meetups, and talking to people during my travels, I have learned that the best way to overcome my shyness was to push myself a little bit every day. I was always afraid that by asking questions, people would think I didn’t know anything and would judge me for it, or worse, fire me for it. But as soon as I started to ask questions and feedback, I felt more confident in myself and learned that people actually want to help you. Asking for feedback felt terrifying, but I learned a lot about myself and what I should work on during those discussions.
We don’t always see ourselves in the same way others see us, and, in my opinion, viewing ourselves with an alternative perspective it is the best way to grow. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can be difficult at times, but the benefits will last you your whole life.