My Origin Story – Why I’m passionate about helping others in their careers

My Origin Story –  Why I’m passionate about helping others in their careers


A lot of people ask me what is it
that got me interested in careers and helping people with
deciding on their careers, changing careers or that
type of a life journey. What is it that got me interested?
I mean to answer that, I have to go all the way back
to where my journey began. I was an orphan and at the age
of nine my mother passed away and my father didn’t want to
continue a relationship with me. So it was from that moment on
a fight for survival every day. And a year later when I was 11 I
started working at this restaurant and I was doing all the hardworking tasks,
washing toilets, waitressing, cashier or
things like that. And, one day when I was 14 this older couple
came into the restaurant to dine. They were having dinner there and I was
their server and this couple at the time they were in their 50s and they
were very observant and wise couple. And they noticed,
just by meeting me for the first time, they noticed and knew that
I needed a place to stay. So at the end of the meal
when I settled their bill, they invited me to stay with them.
It was just like that. They invited me to stay with them.
So when I cleaned their table, I followed them home right that night
and they they led me to the road to their home and I followed them home and then they
led me upstairs to this yellow bedroom. All the floors, all the walls were yellow
and there was this humongous furniture, it was like the style from the fifties
and sixties with this cherry wood color, and this roof on the top that was
slanted so far that when you walk towards the bed you kind of have to slant
your head so you won’t hit your head on the ceiling. And then they turned to me and they said,
“welcome home Grace, you can stay here for
as long as you need.” And I was 14 and I remember the feeling
was really awkward and I didn’t know what to say,
but at the same time, what really bothered me was
that I didn’t trust them. And I didn’t trust that they had my
best interests in mind and that I really could stay there for as long as I needed. So I spent the next two years testing
that, you know, as a typical teenager, I was rebellious.
I was rude to them. I didn’t want or make any effort
to have a relationship with them. And by the time I was 16, I got up one morning and
I had this A-ha moment, a realization that they
were the real deal. They really genuinely cared about me. I had this realization and everything
changed from that point forward, and I was truly grateful that they
had opened up their home to a complete stranger. So it was then that I made a decision
that I wanted to have a relationship with them
and that I could trust them. In that moment I also decided
that I was going to take extreme ownership of my
whole life moving forward. And for me it was a committed, and a decisive commitment
that my education was going
to be my ticket to freedom. So then I set on this journey, I studied hard in high school. I set on
this journey to do well in high school. I studied hard. I continue to
work at the restaurant, and between customers I studied hard so
that I learned about scholarships that I could get, and between
customers I studied really hard, so that I could earn scholarships
that would pay for my tuition, and that way I wouldn’t have to work
for years and delay my education, waiting for myself to save up for college. And that was a journey I had been
on for the rest of high school. I wanted the freedom to live out my
life and not having to depend on other people to do so. I mean, I wanted the kind of life where I had
freedom and I could live wherever I want and to be whoever I wanted without
constraints of money. I mean, I grew up in poverty and I didn’t want that to be a repeat
pattern of my life and I wanted to be able to afford the lifestyle
that I wanted comfortably. My adoptive parents allowed me to
stay at their house for as long as I needed and I really trusted that they
had my best interests in mind and that they genuinely
cared for me as one of their own, they had kids of their own,
and I was completely adopted by their whole family and I had the
sense of belonging for the first time. But I was so afraid that if I
still had depended on other people, that in the future that I might end up in another precarious situation
if I wasn’t independent. That was my greatest fear. And for me it was also
about my adoptive parents, they gave me the second chance at life, I wanted to be able to give back to them
in the future. I mean, in their old age, I wanted to be able to give back even
a fraction of what they did for me, and to do so in a way where
I could do it in abundance. And that was really what I wanted. I earned that scholarship after high
school that paid for my tuition for my first degree, and I was off to the races
so I went to college, got my degree and in that degree I chose
all the subjects that I was interested in.
I did really well in all my subjects. In order to keep that
scholarship year after year, I had to maintain a certain GPA, in all
my subjects an overall average as well, and I maintained it throughout my degree, but as I was approaching graduation, the problem was I really didn’t know
what I wanted to do with my career. I didn’t know how to decide
on my career after graduation. Graduation was drawing near and I really felt the pressure
of deciding before the date, before the graduation, yet I was so busy with exams and it just
felt like I was accumulating all this knowledge and pursuing all these
subjects for the sake of my interests. It felt that way and it felt like I
wasn’t making any leeway on how am I going to turn this into career now? And I knew how to be a student and I
knew how to do really well in school, and navigate classes and subjects, but I really had no idea how to
make money in the marketplace. So the only thing I knew how to do was to
really climb that academic ladder. And I did that all the way up to my PhD.
But after my PhD, I had absolutely no more clarity on how
to build that career and how to monetize and how to make money in that marketplace.
I felt so lost and so confused. I mean there were so many
people out there, an abundance
of people giving advice, abundance of people with PhDs who had their own thing going on and
they would tell you what they did, but it didn’t quite apply to me. And I went to all these
career counselings, and I went to all these departments
that held career services, or what do you call those,
career fairs and still nothing. Nothing stood out to me. I
mean, I had varied interests, but I really didn’t know how to pick my
career path and how to make it work and how to be successful.
I really had no idea. So I was confused and I felt that a
tremendous pressure on the competitiveness of careers inside of
academia, up after graduate school. I met a friend who
invited me to this luncheon with esteemed business owners and entrepreneurs
in the city and there were seasoned entrepreneurs there as well. And at the same time there was this
keynote speaker who got up on stage and he shared his journey on how he built this empire with little to no
seed money and all the challenges and obstacles along the way
that he had to face. And when I heard that, I mean I was sitting there and I was
listening to to that keynote speaker and all the other guests
around my round table as well. And of course everyone there is a
business owner, a seasoned entrepreneur, and they have all these experiences.
I was listening to them, I was thinking to myself,
I noticed something. I learned that many of them either never
continued on to college or they had a college degree, but they built their empire despite a
seemingly unrelated college subject or an unrelated college degree. And that’s what I noticed as I really
listened and I started talking to people around me. And that was an A-ha moment for me
because all along as I was growing up and going through college, I really felt this pull and that is such
a strong one that if you’ve invested so much time in an interest, and effort and energy
into your degree program, especially if you’ve gone on to other
degrees or advanced degrees like I have, then it kind of feels like a waste if you
didn’t continue along that exact path. So listening to them, I had this A-ha
moment and it really changed my life. So then I joined this
business association, from that moment on I joined that business
association that put on the luncheon, and I really immersed myself
in the business world, in the business culture and
that business community. And I got myself really familiar with
the challenges that business owners face, that those seasoned entrepreneurs face,
especially small business owners that are just starting out in this
competitive business world. And I started a draw these
unique and interesting parallels between growing a business and a career. And that was really a key moment for me.
And that’s when I realized that really, the secret to building a successful
career is strong business acumen. My plan was to gain as much business
knowledge as I possibly could so that I could become proficient at solving problems
and figuring out ways to
make money along the way. And I started with marketing and branding and after that I implemented
what I learned and that’s when I pivoted my career and I implemented what I learned in marketing and branding
to land a position in a completely new industry in healthcare ethics. After that I pivoted again and that’s
when I left academia and I went, and jumped head in to a product
marketing role in the corporate world. And that was where I was
in charge of managing this product line that brought in
4 million revenue every year. Each time I pivoted and changed careers
or changed industries completely, I was met with new challenges, of course, that I had to overcome and new learning
curves and that wasn’t a problem for me. Along the way at each step of my career,
at each career move, I had a lot of achievements
and those went on my performance record, but with every turn of my
career I was either bored, burnt out or feeling completely miserable.
Like in my first career, first career pivot,
I was just feeling so bored and unconnected with what
I was doing. I hated it. It was, it was not inspiring to me.
It was unenergizing, I was completely unmotivated doing what
I’m doing and then in my next career move I was just so burnt out.
I mean it was exhausting. I didn’t have the energy to carry out,
and the weekends were spent just recharging and dreading Mondays and then
on my next career move when I pivoted again at that time,
I was just miserable. I felt like I was in a toxic environment
and the management just didn’t meet the values, they didn’t meet with my own
personal values and it just wasn’t, it just didn’t feel right.
It didn’t feel right. And the work that I did felt didn’t
feel right. And at the same time, all of these times that I’ve
made these career moves, I didn’t feel connected with my purpose. I couldn’t see what is my purpose in this. There’s gotta be more than this.
And there was no fulfillment. I ended up getting so frustrated at my
last job that I quit without a backup plan. I documented everything
I did though to land the job, and at each time that I
reinvented my career and pivoted, I documented everything I did
to get that next career move, even without any prior experience. I reverse engineered all my processes, my whole process that I did in order
to make the next bold career move and I did this all so that I
could figure out what was missing, the missing piece as to why
I didn’t achieve fulfillment. Then I decided to do a year abroad,
what I called my own sabbatical. I did a year abroad and I
traveled to Southeast Asia, where I was immersed in cultures among
people that I’ve never met before. Cultures that I’ve never
experienced before. My plan was to look for inspiration
among these cultures that I’ve never experienced.
So along the way I met with a lot of locals who shared their
stories with me and most times it always involved this really strong duty to
make money, to support for the family, to provide for themselves or to
provide for their aging parents. And those conversations is what
really solidified my purpose for me. It was in those conversations that I really started to realize the
missing piece to fulfillment. And along the way I met more people like
me who are either bored, or burnt out, or miserable in their career,
or trying to decide on a career path and didn’t know how to approach it
or didn’t know what they wanted. So then I started to share my journey
on how I reinvented my career and how I was able to make bold career choices. And I shared with them how they could
build fulfillment into their career. Within three months I had six people from completely different backgrounds
who were able to build and create careers of fulfillment, doing work they love and getting
paid their worth in the marketplace. After celebrating their
new beginnings with them, I connected to my life’s purpose,
to helping people find theirs. I started a coaching career to help
people to create fulfilling careers. Not only was I able to find
fulfillment and success, but I was also able to
give back to my parents in ways that I never thought I could. My parents went on to start
an orphanage in Uganda, Masaka where they live and where
they are now citizens. And it’s my honor and my privilege
to have visited these poor countries on the outskirts of Masaka
to contribute to their lives. And because of my parents, I was there
first orphan, and because of my parents, hundreds of other orphans who would
otherwise have no basic provisions, now they have education, they have medical care and
they have a chance at a future. So I have 10 children who I contribute
to in that orphanage and I’ve contributed since they were the age of three and
now they’ve grown up to nine, then, and eleven and it is just
a joy to see them happy and to see them living out their purpose.
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