Alumni Q&A: A Time For Change

With continued news of layoffs and organizational changes all around us, we don’t often hear the stories of those who made a choice to leave a stable job because it was what they needed at the time or their current position was no longer a good fit. I recently connected with two business alumni who left a corporate gig looking for a change.

Emily Koski, a 2001 undergraduate alumna with a major in marketing, left Target more than 10 years ago to pursue her creative side. Matthew Trapp ’11 M.B.A. was looking for an opportunity to better utilize what he learned through the Evening UST MBA program.

What prompted your desire for a change?

Matthew: It was a combination of feeling more confident using the skills I learned during my MBA studies and a recognition of the changing environment of business. I saw an opportunity to explore – whether that be a new position with a new organization or trying my hand at starting my own business. This is a unique time when many startup costs have been dramatically reduced by technology and there is no time like the present to take advantage.

Emily: I found the corporate world to be more suffocating than I expected. I felt like I was being put in a box which hindered my creative side. After leaving my job, I enrolled in cosmetology school as I had always had an interested in makeup. I wanted to do something that was more creative and more fulfilling for me personally. I always thought I’d eventually return to the corporate world and work for a company in the beauty industry.

After completing cosmetology school, I got licensed and started cutting and coloring hair, as well as doing makeup for events. I enjoyed connecting with people and being creative day in and day out. I also valued the casual, flexible schedule. Eventually, I took that experience, as well as what I learned at UST, and started my own business providing onsite hair and makeup services for events, largely weddings.

What’s next? Where do you see things going from here?

Matthew: One option I’m considering is starting a business. Should I work up the nerve to follow through, I think if you get the nerve to start a business you need to recognize that you will be living in the moment for quite a while. It seems a recipe for success includes customers giving you money for your product or service from as close to the start as possible. The next step is the ability of the leadership team to scale the business. This is true if you are starting a restaurant or a software company. In many ways that is the lightening in a bottle.

Emily: Currently, I am focused on organic growth. In the last year, I transitioned from doing hair to focusing on my business. Stepping back from the salon has given me time to re-evaluate and figure out what is next. I can’t say what the future holds for my business or even what I want right at this moment. For the time being, I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to be home more with my family, explore additional entrepreneurial pursuits and do a lot of soul searching to ensure I make the best choices for myself and my family moving forward.

What advice do you have for someone looking to make a similar change, leaving the corporate world for something unknown?

Emily: Moving out of a structured environment is a big change and can be overwhelming, there is no doubt about that. I would say to focus on the big picture, as well as the here and now. I don't necessarily mean the tangibles like hitting your five-year financial goals, but more about how you want to feel. The here and now is what feels overwhelming, but if you can visualize a more present you, a more passionate you, a more satisfied you in the future, hold on to that each day as you move forward. That is what I think will keep you on your path to success. And remember nothing is black and white. If something you thought was the perfect fit or perfect plan does not work out, there is always another opportunity. It may not come to you immediately, but it will all come together if you are doing what feels best for you each day.

Matthew: Given that the process of starting a business is new to me, I’ve been seeking a lot of advice from my network. All the people I have talked to emphasize the need for a founding group of four to six individuals who can each focus on various parts of the business. That is the first step in a very long and difficult journey. They also say there is no better feeling in the world which inspires me to continue to explore this opportunity.

How has your MBA prepared you for this experience?

Matthew: There are lots of ways to participate. As an engineer I always felt like I needed to come up with the next new thing. Reflecting back on my classes, I can now see how that is only one piece of the puzzle. All functional areas, from finance to marketing to accounting, are important to achieving success. I think the most fundamental skill taught in each of my classes was the importance of communication. That seems to be the foundation of success in any situation or organization.