Career-Changer Series: From Project Management to Business Owner
This month, as part of my ongoing Career-Changer series, I spoke to Siobhan Ryan about her journey from working at Amazon in Project Management to starting her very own business venture. These interviews seek to share wisdom and advice from those who have changed career in order to inspire those wishing to do the same.
From Project Management to Champagne Business Owner
1. What work were you doing before?
I had been working for Amazon for the last 6 years in a number of different HR and Project Management roles. I studied Psychology and English Literature and enjoyed working with people so HR felt like a natural progression in terms of a career. I loved my time at Amazon and got to work on amazing projects and ideas with them, as well as live in and visit lots of different cities.
2. How did you know a change was required?
I have always been someone who works hard and tries to find the excitement and impact in each role I have. Over the last two years, I really struggled to enjoy anything I was doing and lacked motivation. I also looked at the people who were higher up in the company than me and dreaded getting promoted and moving into those roles. It all just started to seem a bit pointless! Why was I working in a job where I didn’t want to progress or put my best into it? For a while, I thought maybe it was just burn out/ feeling tired but deep down I knew that I needed a change.
3. What helped you make the decision to finally do something about your situation?
I struggled to think about making a change because I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. I really envied people who just knew what they loved doing.
I thought that hiring a Career Coach to help me think through things would help me get out of the endless indecision cycle inside my head. I chose Alice because I liked the fact that she was on her own and not part of a larger coaching company. It felt like she would be able to give me personalised coaching and not follow a generic path - and I was right!
4. How did you go about deciding what you wanted to do instead? What helped you make that decision?
I knew that I wanted to start my own business, mainly because I wanted the freedom and challenge to work for myself, and the ability to decide on my own company’s direction. But, in my head, this was a total daydream and something I didn’t actually think would happen.
The coaching sessions I had with Alice were invaluable here. They gave me the structure and space to work though my skills, values, hobbies, and experience, and blend it together to form a path forward. I was sceptical in the beginning but once the sessions were complete, I had a plan and vision, and, most importantly, the confidence to at least try it out.
5. What new career path have you chosen and why?
I’ve launched a Champagne and Sparkling wine subscription box company that sources bottles from small, family run vineyards around the world. All of the vineyards I work with also focus heavily on sustainability and organic farming practices. Sustainability was something I also explored with Alice and I’m so excited that I’ve managed to bring this element into my business idea.
I chose this path because it brings together a few different passions of mine. Working with sustainable and small businesses, and helping to highlight their products, is something I am really excited about. And finding the best Champagnes and sparkling wines for my customers means visiting vineyards, working with wine producers and, the best part, tasting bubbles!
6. How are you going about or how did you go about changing careers?
I still work full time with a company as a Project Manager. It can be tough to juggle both but I’ve gone slowly and given myself a few hours each day to work on my business. It may seem daunting in the beginning but I promise that there are enough hours in the day to do both and still have a life!
Having a steady income means I don’t feel a huge amount of pressure to be profitable right from the start. Eventually, I’ll scale back my job to part time hours and then hopefully at some point be able to focus 100% on my business.
7. What’s been the hardest, most difficult, or unexpected thing you’ve encountered about changing career?
Honestly, the biggest challenge has been internal. Having the confidence and resilience to do something entirely unknown to me has been really scary but so fun at the same time. It sounds cheesy but I am my biggest critic right now and I keep having to remember not to be so tough on myself.
8. What’s been the best part about changing career?
That saying “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” used to sound so unrealistic to me (unless your job is eating cheese and watching Love Island). But I can see now that doing something that I’m passionate about is the best way to spend my days.
I don’t begrudge anything I need to do for my business (including the dreaded tax tasks) and I honestly just feel really lucky that I get to do these things in the first place. I always used to say to Alice that I wanted a job where work and life felt like one thing, as opposed to ending my job at 5pm and starting my life. Running my own business feels entirely like that. Work isn’t a means to an end anymore, it’s become something that I love doing.
9. What advice would you give to others considering a career change?
Don’t wait and plan and think things through endlessly. Just start somewhere but make sure you start. My ideas changed and evolved as soon I started working on them. I know they’ll change again but you can’t know what’s out there until you jump.
One amazing piece of advice I took from working at Amazon is to fail fast. If you have an idea, test it out in a small way and if it works, grow from there. If it fails, learn from that, change and move on. Don’t spend years and endless amounts of money on a huge idea (because if it fails, you lose a lot). Failing is a natural part of the learning process and it will happen so build it into your plan.
And of course, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today without my coaching sessions with Alice. To me, that was the best money I have spent on myself to date.
10. What additional support, help, or resources would you recommend?
The internet is packed with articles, blogs, videos and podcasts on the exact topics you need help with. I remember googling what I thought were the silliest questions about starting a business and finding communities and posts addressing everything I needed.
It’s also so helpful to find people who are going through the same things, or talking to friends and family. I can get totally stuck in my own head so having people around that will listen to my crazy ideas or insecurities is invaluable.
If you’re considering a career change of your own, and Siobhan’s story has inspired you to finally take action, get in touch to discuss how working with Alice could help you figure out what you want to do instead and how you can make it happen.
Seeing Alice has been a huge help for me. I’m now really clear about what I want to do, where I want to go, and how to get there. I’m excited to enter my new life chapter as a freelancer. I can highly recommend it!