You could say that you are on a “career adventure” instead of a career path.
Welcome to Project Anywhere’s ‘Career Adventures’!
A new interview series charting the joys & challenges, and many different directions our career adventures can take us. Anything from career changes, working remotely, freelancing, contracting, self-employment, starting your own business, working on your own projects alongside your day job, having a side hustle or a portfolio career – all depending on what choices we make, what steps we choose to take, what opportunities come our way in the most unlikely of places that help you to choose your own adventure.
Enjoy our first interview of the series here where I tell you about my own career adventure. 😊
Tell us about yourself.
Having lived and worked in London for over 10 years, myself and my other half left the hustle of London in May 2017 to travel indefinitely, beginning by basing ourselves in Florence, Italy for a few months. From there we went onto a few months in Lucca, Italy followed by Lisbon, Portugal… we slowly travel around while working remotely choosing to base ourselves in different parts of the world for months at a time rather than moving from place to place quickly. We started off basing ourselves across the UK and the rest of Europe – exploring the countryside and spending time in the great outdoors as much as I can.
Our plans right now are to spend the rest of this year in 2019 and early 2020 in Asia!
I’m a big fan of anything outdoors: hiking, climbing, trail walking, recently completed my first ever bike-packing tour cycling the Avenue Verte route from London to Paris. Now I have big goals to cycle tour everywhere around as many places in the world as I can! I also completed a one week live-onboard introduction to sailing Competent Crew in Greece having never spent any time aboard a sailing yacht before.
So far since 2017, my other half I have been around the UK, to Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain, San Francisco, Portugal, Norway, Bulgaria, Brunei, UAE, Scotland, Malta, Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong… as well as completing many housesits looking after homes and the loveliest dogs across the UK in Shropshire, Hampshire, Yorkshire, Kent and recently in Vietnam.
What are you working on now?
I’m a Remote Business Manager & Operations Consultant where I work remotely with small business owners managing their day-to-day operations, delivering projects for them, coordinating teams, and helping them improve their processes so that their businesses can grow.
Since April 2019, I have been on what I call a “sort of sabbatical”. I describe it as ‘sort of’ because I have continued working on a few small projects for DGC Dance, a London based K-Pop dance school run by my older brother, and I had been working a few hours each month for a little while for a good friend, Alix Wilde, a Holistic Leadership Coach who I met in Leeds earlier this year at a Girl Tribe Gang event with their Leeds Tribe. 🙂 (Check out Alix’s Wylde Leadership Collective on her website!)
For now, I’ve hit ‘Pause’ on all major client projects! I’ve just spent three weeks in Vietnam with plans to be based in Asia in the coming months, exploring, house-sitting and I’ll be picking up on bigger client projects again at the end of this month.
I started Project Anywhere as a working title project last year – I didn’t do anything further with it since then. I’m starting now to build on it to shout about remote and flexible working and actively use it to talk about ‘career adventures’!
Alongside all of this, there are plans to collaborate with another very good friend of mine, Jennie, London-based creator of the fantastic ‘Books on the 7:47’ blog, who I met in my university days many, many moons ago. We met for dinner earlier this year where we shared similar views about women’s experiences in the workplace, lack of flexibility in work (Jennie is a working mum), the ongoing lack of inclusion & diversity across many companies in the UK.
We decided we want to “create our own table!” rather than following the old saying of “if they don’t have space for you at the table bring your own chair”… we’ll create our own table, thanks!
We have plans to launch a remote project together very soon surrounding this so watch this space!
Could you tell us about how your career adventure started, about what experiences, challenges or opportunities you came across over the years that led you to choose your own adventure? Where has your career adventure taken you in the past leading you to where you are now?
When I left London for a year or two of travelling, my plan was to work in hostels or bars along the way. I didn’t think I would find opportunities for my line of work to be able to freelance remotely. I’m very happy to tell you that I was very, very wrong.
I discovered that distributed teams exist, you can freelance or run a business remotely and many people around the world having been doing so for years! Either as digital nomads or working from home full-time.
I always say, and have been told, that I have a colourful CV! I have been a job-hopper since graduating university with a journalism degree – switching jobs after a year, working across sales, PR, marketing, events… I spent many years working in a variety of London comms & marketing agencies writing press releases, pitching to journalists, running launch events, trade show spaces and branded experiences in festivals. As a PROCESSES GEEK who LOVES PLANNING, eventually I found myself working in operations and projects management for charities, social enterprises and FinTech start-ups in my last few years living in London. I’m always drawn to projects by the people and the impact the projects will have. Every time I changed roles, I felt like I learned more about myself and what roles or projects are the right fit for me.
I spent many years trying to escape from working in PR & Marketing agencies but whenever I went through recruitment agencies they always presented me with what seemed to be new, better PR/Marketing roles so it felt like career progress at the time. I’d say my real progress came when I fully took a leap, after working many stressful late nights plus early mornings promoting soft drinks to teenage boys at gamer festivals and music festivals. I loved the people I worked with at the time, but the work didn’t feel worthwhile. I knew agency life was not for me. (Thought I do have many happy memories as well as many photos from riding milkman floats, working at food shows and chopping Jazz apples! I’ll update this post with a few event days photos soon!)
I love learning new things, learning all about how things work so I love jumping into completely new fields. A lot of the areas I have worked in, I started off knowing absolutely nothing to begin with. I suppose in a way all of this were the catalysts to my own career adventure!
Working in events, my work regularly took me away from home – managing the event on site while running multiple live events at the same time including coordinating event teams from where I was. Both of my last London roles as an Operations Manager took me across the UK by trains which I called my “travelling office” as I travelled to meet clients across the UK. I saw so much of the UK in my events and operations roles! A colleague even nicknamed me “Train Girl” because I went around the UK with my laptop on many National Rail lines so much, often spending half my week out of London. It was in these last two roles where I first properly experienced working remotely – from having the benefit of working from home one or two days a week or from working at my “travelling office” spending hours travelling on trains for work. It never felt like I lost any time because I worked from my laptop while on the trains.
There’s a value placed on physical ‘presence’ in an office which I don’t feel is necessary for good collaboration or productivity. I’ve worked in many agencies who penalise you for arriving a few minutes past 9am regardless of how late you stayed in the office the night before. If not the battle to make it to the office for 9am then there’s the other competition of staying in the office as late as possible, or feeling guilty if you’re not available on your emails late into the night. I know many people who face these same battles today which is a great shame.
Everyone works differently, so this means only certain groups of people have the chance to thrive in the workplace. We should be given opportunities to work in a ways that ensures we deliver the best work but right now most of the world still puts more value on being ‘present’ in an office. I do feel that is shifting now. I hope to shine a light on remote and flexible work opportunities through Project Anywhere for those who do want to explore this route.
My Mum always reminds me that when I was younger I always said “I don’t want to end up working from an office every day!”, I clearly remember being a teen reading about how the drummer from Blink 182 covered himself in tattoos to make sure he didn’t end up in an office – luckily for my Mum, I chose a different approach (though perhaps I will be brave enough to get one or two one day!).
Little did I know that “not working in an office” would translate into working remotely from my laptop for several clients while working from various places around the world.
What past projects spark joy for you when you look back at what you have worked on?
Most of the things that I have worked on that brought me great joy are all things I never planned for and feel that I “fell into”.
In many of the agencies I worked at in my years in London, I was often put in charge of managing internship programmes and mentoring them during their time working with us. I love finding out their hopes, goals and dreams and working with them to make sure they gained experience in the things they were keen on and to help them get involved in projects matching their interests as much as possible. I used to call them my “intern cubs”! I love seeing where they all are now, seeing how they’ve grown and what they’re working on now. I still love training, guiding and supporting everyone around me.
Tell me your hopes, goals and dreams, please, and let’s see how we can get you there together! ❤
If we’re talking about past client projects that ‘spark joy’, I once worked on the press launch for a product called ‘Le Whif’ – a breathable chocolate and breathable coffee invention from an American artist-scientist. With only a background in media, having to learn all about ‘pulmonary particle inhalation’ was a great fun, additional challenge when writing press releases and speaking to science journalists (some of you might have even been lucky enough to try ‘whiffing’ a few Le Whifs around the time I was working with them). At the same agency I learned all about the health benefits of macadamia nuts to discuss it all with health professionals at a trade show in London. Other projects required me to learn all about gambling regulations to set up charity lottery fundraising schemes, others led me into the world of payment gateways, point-of-sale systems and how mobile payment apps integrate with UK banking systems, the health benefits of macadamia nuts & how to cook with them, and what temperature is best to keep your jars of goose fat… these are all topics I learned all about over the years for different roles. If you work in a field completely new to me, I am all ears for you to tell me all about how it all works.
It’s always been the people I’m working with and the impact I’m creating that sparks real joy for me. There are many more completely unexpected projects I have worked on that all took me on unexpected journeys that I would love to tell you all about. We’ll have to save those for another time, or it would need a whole new section on this website to tell you about these stories. Perhaps I’ll tell you these stories over a cup of tea or a glass of wine one day. 😊
How do you choose what to work on?
Most of my freelance clients have come by word-of-mouth – from referrals from friends, family or existing clients. It’s been the best way of reaching potential new clients and also the best way for finding clients who are a good fit for me to work together with people who share similar values.
I’m very motivated by the people around me and by knowing I’m having a positive impact through my work in some shape or form.
So when I’m deciding what to work on it’s more important to me to be working with the right people and for the right purpose! I need to believe in what I’m working on and who I’m working with. We spend most of our days working so I feel it’s important to be working on things you really care about and believe in.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career adventure similar to your own?
One thing I am always telling everyone like a broken record is that we do not need to be “hustling” or “crushing it” all the time to be successful. If that’s your bag, that’s great too, but I hope to get the message across that it’s not compulsory for everyone. It’s not the key signal of success!
Success can mean something totally different to different people.
Figure out exactly what success means to you personally. Don’t use others as your benchmark. Make sure you are setting your own goal posts based on your own hopes, goals and dreams. 😀
For anyone wanting to work remotely full time, I’d suggest testing the waters either in your current role or by freelancing alongside your current role to get a feel for it. I love it – I find it gives me the flexibility I need day to day to change spaces (café hopping anyone?) or to work quietly at home without any distractions when I need to deep dive into work or be creative. I love variety also so freelancing works well for this (Freelancing is not the only way to work remotely though, there are plenty of companies out there run by fully remote teams). I was lucky enough to have work from home days in my last few London office roles, I also worked remotely with external partners based elsewhere in Europe, and had employers who supported flexible working who gave us the option to work remotely out of London to spend out-of-office-hours time visiting our family without using our annual leave.
Another advice I would give is:
Find out your “whys”.
Why exactly do you want to work remotely? How would working remotely improve your life? What work motivates you and how will you do that remotely?
Could you describe your day-to-day at “the office(s)”?
It varies! I’m either working at “home”, from a café or in a local co-working space. I get my best work done at home! I often start my day with a coffee (followed by many more coffees and cups of tea!), a bowl of cereal and a banana for breakfast before I open my laptop at the dining table or desk (depending on where we’re staying at the time) – some days I begin my work day after breakfast in bed or on the sofa while still in my pyjamas – I’ll jump straight into working on plans for client projects, virtually updating clients and remote teams, facilitating virtual meetings, replying to emails, researching opportunities for my clients. A few days a week I have virtual catch up calls with my clients, sometimes I’m calling potential third party partners or suppliers on behalf of my clients.
I frequently house-sit looking after homes and pets while their owners are away on holiday. When I’m house-sitting, my favourite routine is making a hot drink first thing in the morning to bring with me in my camping thermos while walking the dogs. I haven’t kept up my routine of running or yoga in the mornings so having to wake up early to take the dogs outside every morning when I’m housesitting is one of my favourite routines! The dogs always need to be taken for a walk a few times each day so it gets me outside and away from my laptop while giving me the chance to play with some beautiful fur-babies at the same time.
My work hours can be odd at times to revolve around other plans or commitments, which means I can be found working in the evenings and on weekends.
I choose to do this on some weeks so that I can go on a city walking tour in the morning or to meet a friend over a long lunch or to see family on a weekday. While it can be challenging at times, I find that it works better for me this way to have the freedom and flexibility to make impromptu plans without it impacting any of my work.
Where do you feel you work best and thrive the most?
Although I’m very sociable and no one would call me shy, very awkward at times maybe… I’m a massive introvert. I need quiet, alone time to recharge. I work best in quiet environments! Which is why I love to work from home! Especially when I need the head space to deep dive and focus.
I also need time to mull over things. I didn’t know this until a few years ago when one of my clients at the time – who is a coach – commented how she loved to pose questions to me one day, to let me sleep on it so that I could come back to her “with ideas that were gold”. I never did work well in quick-fire brainstorming sessions, it frustrated me when the session leaders always refused to share any of the brainstorm topics beforehand so that “we kept our minds clear for the session”. I never contributed much to these sessions because I need to have a think over it first before sharing my thoughts or ideas. I used to think what a failure I was at brainstorming or coming up with ideas until that day she pointed out to me that people just need to let me mull things over. I now communicate this to anyone I work with right at the start. I think everyone should always communicate how they work best to each other so we can all support each other to do our best work.
Most work environments these days are built for extroverts to thrive. It definitely feels like we live in a world where most of the time it is whoever shouts the loudest the fastest who are seen as the stronger workers or leaders. I’ve been lucky to work in a few places the teams consciously create environments that allow different personalities to thrive. I think there is a shift in the working world happening slowly now to create spaces for different personalities.
Everyone works differently, everyone thrives in completely different environments.
I’d love to see working environments that gives everyone the same opportunities to shine no matter what their working style is. There’s room for everyone to thrive. If anything, I hope I can play a small part in driving this shift for those who don’t want to shout or for those who want to lead quietly like me. (If you haven’t read it already, grab a copy and read Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”.)
What inspires and drives you every day?
People drive me! I’m very driven by the people around me either by feeling inspired by them or by how I can help them. There’s plenty of space for all of us to be happy, successful and be treated with dignity! I feel strongly about supporting others along the way wherever we can. Competition is fine, but there’s absolutely no need to point fingers, shame people, or trample on each other to get ahead.
I feel very grateful to be born in a time and place where I do have access to many opportunities and privileges that many people wouldn’t have access to. As an ethnic minority woman, I know that I have many opportunities today because of the actions of people in the past pushing for change. I hope I can lift others up with me to help them reach the same opportunities. I’m also very happy to push others ahead of me – they can stand in the spotlight instead of me, thank you! 😛 Plus: Collaboration over competition. As the saying goes about human rights, I’ll say it about opportunities in life too: “There’s enough for everyone, it’s not pie.”
What advice would you give to your younger self, knowing what you know now?
Everyone is winging it! I cannot stress this enough. Nobody has everything all figured out. None of us fully know what we’re doing. We’re all trying our best and learning as we go along.
Start before you’re ready, let yourself fail and learn from your failures (share your failures). You don’t have to know everything straight away.
Get out of your comfort zone. If you feel scared and uncomfortable, that’s a good thing! It means you’re growing.
There is more than one way to reach your goal. There isn’t one way to get ahead and there is no “right path”, there are many paths that you can take and all of them will be wonderful!
It’s not a race so don’t compare where you are with anyone else and do take your time.
Check in with yourself regularly to figure out what your goals and values are all the time.
You can find out more about Becky Wong’s work here.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about any of our career adventure stories. Come back soon to read more career adventures! Contact us here if you’d like to be featured here to share your own career adventures story.