As if making a good impression at work and figuring out where you want your career to head wasn’t wasn’t hard enough, managing a medical condition on top of all is even more challenging. In this episode of the Career Relaunch™ podcast, Erika Russi, a former tax consultant turned data scientist shares her story of interrupting her own career to address her medical condition. We discuss how your health can affect your career choices. During the Mental Fuel® segment, I also describe my own tendencies to overwork and why hustling all the time isn’t necessarily the healthiest habit in the long run.
If you’re someone who’s been working nonstop lately or if you’ve had to deal with emotional or physical challenges yourself, Erika’s story is a good reminder to us all about ensuring we’re always mindful of our health and wellbeing no matter how busy work gets. or if you’ve had to interrupt your career to take care of a health concerns
I first heard about Erika’s career change story in this Muse article, where she discussed how she managed to make this big career change from accountancy to data science through a combination of upskilling, coaching, networking, and finding her inner confidence to overcome imposter syndrome. So we’ll also discuss why having a nontraditional background can be an asset rather than liability, even when entering a field where most people have more linear careers.
Key Career Insights
- If you’re someone going into a new role from a nontraditional background, your best strategy for demonstrating your value may be to lean in rather than explain away your past experiences. Attempting to compete with traditional candidates on more traditional metrics will just be an uphill battle.
- Your health should always come before your work. You only have one body and one life on this earth, and if you don’t take care of yourself, your body may force you to do so when you least expect it.
- Believing in yourself is half the battle when trying to execute a major career transition. Comparing yourself to others is certainly natural, but not necessarily great for your own psychology.
Tweetables to Share
Erika’s message to you
Given the nature of what we discussed about how much your health can affect your work and life, Erika wants to encourage people to get vaccinated against Covid-19. As she mentioned during the interview, the long term effects of having Covid (“long Covid”) are very similar to her auto-immune disease, fibromyalgia. Even if you survive Covid, there are long lasting effects after having a strong virus like Covid-19. She also wants to highlight that immunocompromised individuals rely on others being vaccinated. So she hopes her story brings greater awareness about the 7% of the population with an autoimmune disease that may be quietly struggling.
Although I’m aware we have listeners everywhere, you can refer to your local health authorities’ websites to find out how you can get your vaccine if you haven’t done so already. It’s something we all must do in order to protect ourselves and others. Here are a few helpful sites for our top five countries by listenership:
- 🇺🇸US- NBC’s Plan Your Vaccine site
- 🇬🇧UK- NHS’s Book Your Vaccine site
- 🇦🇺Australia- AGDH’s Vaccine Clinic finder
- 🇨🇦Canada- Government’s Covid-19 appointment finder
- 🇸🇬Singapore- MOH’s Covid-19 Covid-19 vaccine registration site
My challenge to you this week is simple, but not easy. I know this because I struggle with it myself. In spite of how busy you are or how busy you think you are, to try and find a way to just go to bed a little bit earlier tonight. Then, stick with that schedule this week. See how you feel. See what impact it has on your work. At the very least, do this to ensure toxins aren’t building up in your brain!
About Erika Russi
Erika Russi is currently a Data Scientist at IBM after completing a 4-month data science bootcamp at the Flatiron School. Previously, she worked as a tax associate for PriceWaterhouseCoopers with responsibilities that included mergers and acquisitions transaction cost analysis, and as a fund accountant for Credit Suisse where amongst other things she developed accounting enhancements for IT teams. Her family’s originally from Colombia, and these days, in her spare time, she loves going on walks with her recently adopted senior dog, Marmee. You can follow Erika on Twitter.
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Interview Segment Music Credits
- Hushed by Sibyl
- Myth by Alan Ellis
- Canon in Db by Cora Zea
- Lupina’s Dream by Lama House
- Paramount Crowning by Rand Aldo
Music provided by Epidemic Sound
Thanks to Audible for Supporting the Career Relaunch® podcast
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INTERVIEW SEGMENT MUSIC CREDITS
- Hushed by Sibyl.
- Myth by Alan Ellis
- Canon in Db by Cora Zea
- Lupina’s Dream by Lama House
- Paramount Crowning by Rand Aldo
Music provided by Epidemic Sound
Episode Interview Transcript
Teaser (first ~15s): If you’re not already burnt out, you will be burnt out. Your body will find the most inopportune time to make sure that you get the rest that it needs. We only have one body. We only have one life, prioritize that before work.
Joseph: You can get all the show notes from today’s episode at careerrelaunch.net/77. Erika spoke with me from Brooklyn, New York.
Good morning, Erika. Welcome to Career Relaunch. It is great to have you on the show.
Erika: [02:55] Thanks for having me.
Joseph: I was hoping we could just start off by having you give me a snapshot of what has been occupying you recently, both in your personal and professional life.
Erika: [03:07] I’ll start off with my professional life. I’m a data scientist at IBM. I work with trying to get more data awareness, make more data-driven decisions for an internal team. I’m also working on natural language processing. I’m working on a chatbot for internal teams at IBM.
Joseph: What exactly does a data scientist do?
Erika: [03:33] That’s a great question because not a lot of people have a definitive answer. It’s one of those very hype terms right now, so I think it means something different to different people. In a general sense, it usually means someone that codes in Python OR, and they do some machine learning. They also could be doing some dashboards, be putting dashboards together, be involved in data pipelines. We talk a lot about big data, and that just means someone that’s able to get a handle on these giant streams of data to really understand what’s going on, to be able to detect patterns to help people make decisions.
Joseph: Very interesting. Well, I do want to get into how you ended up getting into this path. But, I think I would be very interested in also just hearing what’s been occupying you, just on the personal side of things outside of work.
Erika: [03:07] It’s a little tough to share just because I’m such a private person but I do think it is my responsibility to share. I have an autoimmune disease called “fibromyalgia.” It means I tend to have a lot of widespread pain all around my body. It mostly focuses on my upper body. You’ll also hear maybe people have brain fog. It just it makes me a little tired, makes it harder for me to understand things, or to just really focus on things. It’s really similar to long COVID. When I spoke to my rheumatologist, he pretty much said that fibromyalgia is long COVID. It is very similar to what hundreds of thousands of people are currently experiencing with COVID, and it happened in a similar way for me that I had a virus and my body overreacted with an immune response.
This past year was really tough for me. The summer was really rough because heat is one of my triggers. I just had a really awful summer, pain-wise, and lack of focus. That’s really what I’ve been dealing with this summer. I’m happy to share all this, especially because I’m sure so many people are going through it and it may not be obvious when someone’s going through it. I want to share that to spread awareness.
Joseph: Thank you very much for sharing that, Erika. I know that we actually tried to record this earlier, but I know you had a surgery recently. Is that right?
Erika: [06:13] Yeah.
Joseph: What did that involve? Was that related to the fibromyalgia?
Erika: [06:14] It’s hard to tell if it was related. Part of fibromyalgia is also the inability to sleep, have restful sleep. I was having a hard time getting restful sleep as well. I think part of it was related to my nose, for lack of a better word. I did get a septoplasty and a turbinate reduction. That means my deviated septum was corrected and turbinates, which are the filters at the back of the nose, they were reduced. The idea is that this will help me breathe better and it will help me sleep better.
It’s tough with an autoimmune disease because there’s so many moving parts. You don’t really know if it’s a mechanical issue or if it’s your body, your predisposition to something. Hopefully, this will just help me, on a more general level, get better rest and reduce the amount of issues associated with fibro.
Joseph: Hopefully, the surgery helps and I hope that helps you get back on your feet. I know that in our exchanges over our email, I know you have had a tough few months here. Again, I appreciate your willingness to come on to the show, and also just your willingness to share a little bit about your personal story. Before we dive into your full career story, I do want to talk about how this has affected you in your career. Can you also just give a little glimpse about your family and where you grew up? Because when we spoke before, I understand your parents are Colombian, and they moved to the United States when you were pretty young. Is that right?
Erika: [07:50] Yeah. I was born in Colombia, and we came to the states when I was 6, in 1992. It was a violent time in Colombia, and my dad had lost his job. We were definitely looking for a place with more opportunity. As cliché as that sounds, it really was the best decision for us.
Joseph: Let’s kind of take this one piece at a time here. I’d like to go back in time a little bit more before you were working as a data scientist of user behavior at IBM. I know you have always done that. Way back in the day, you were actually working in tax and tax consulting. Could you just take me back to the time that you were working at PricewaterhouseCoopers? And then, we can move forward from there.
Erika: [08:35] I was an accounting undergrad, and I did my master’s in tax. And then, I got a position at PwC in tax consulting. It was a pretty stressful job as PwC, one of the big four accounting firms. You go in and you’re hired because you’re young, and you can work long hours, and that was definitely part of the job. It was also really stressful. It ultimately wasn’t the industry for me, but I’m still very grateful for the time that I have there. I did learn so much about project management, very basic, soft skills, like writing emails and just dealing with teams. That was really invaluable at that time I had at PwC.
Joseph: What triggered you to move on from doing that kind of work?
Erika: [09:26] I was so desperate to get out when I was at PwC. At that point, I had been diagnosed with the fibromyalgia. I was in my mid-20s, and I had gone on medical leave for two years. When I had returned, I returned to the same role. It was just really hard to manage that kind of job with what was going on with me, personally, with my health situation. And also, ultimately, I was really unhappy in that role. I was looking for a job in accounting. It didn’t really matter if it was in tax or otherwise. I got a job at Credit Suisse as an accountant, non-tax accountant. That’s how I transitioned there.
Joseph: Now, you mentioned the medical leave. This was the time when you heard the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Is that right?
Erika: [10:21] Yep. It was 2013.
Joseph: I see. Can you just take me back to the moment when you heard that news? What ran through your head after you heard that?
Erika: [10:29] To a certain extent, relief, because they definitely felt like it was a little crazy. I was so young to be so sick and bedridden, really, at that point. Like I said, I was working really long hours. It was really stressful. And then, on the weekends, I would just sleep the entire time and I couldn’t really figure out what was wrong with me. I was in a lot of pain. Work was really, really hard for me. I assumed it was related to work. I assumed I was really burned out. But, I went to the doctor just to make sure that maybe it was something else, maybe I had Lyme disease. There were so many different things that could be. We ran through a bunch of tests. Pretty much just trying to exclude everything else like celiac disease, or diabetes, or arthritis. When I got that diagnosis, it was a relief in the sense that I knew it wasn’t in my head. There were a few things I could do. It’s not a curable thing, but at least now I had something that I could google, or I could figure out what the next steps were.
Joseph: I’m just trying to imagine because you were on medical leave for a couple years. Is that right?
Erika: [11:47] Yeah. For two years.
Joseph: For two years. During those two years, you go from working in quite, I’m going to imagine, quite an intense nonstop role at PwC. You’re working professional, white-collar, going to the office every day. And then, you’re on medical leave for two years. What was that like? How did your perspectives evolve during this time about life and also work?
Erika: [12:13] Yeah. On the one hand, it was something I needed just to take a step back because I didn’t know what was going on with my body. I knew I had fibromyalgia, but at the same time, I felt like I had no control of what was going on. I couldn’t really manage it. Like I said, work was always really tough. Even, there was a point where I tried to cut down my hours, but it still felt like the pressure to work longer hours that even if I was signed up for six, I would still work eight hours. I had simultaneous carpal tunnel syndrome at this time, too. I was wearing these ergonomic gloves, and I had golfer’s elbow, too. I would wear straps on my elbows. It felt so much more extreme for such a, potentially, simple disease. It felt really straightforward that I had fibromyalgia, but it just felt like the symptoms kept getting worse. Of course, they did. I was not taking rest. I was really stressed out. I wasn’t really addressing the issues. Medically, they gave me the time to address everything I needed to address. The issues with my elbow, my diet, the lack of stress. It just gave me the time to really figure out what I needed. Physical therapy, too. I would go to physical therapy a lot. It really was the moment to try to figure out a strategy for what I was going to do when I needed to inevitably return to work.
Joseph: The other thing that I’m wondering about here is because I know there was a period of time before you went out on medical leave. Sounds like you got a little bit of space to reflect and recover from what was going on.
Erika: [14:04] Yeah. Absolutely.
Joseph: But before you went on medical leave, you were also experiencing a lot of these things in the workplace. What was that like? Did people notice?
Erika: [14:13] Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. It was really tough. Especially, in that environment, you’re expected to be at 100% at all times. “If you’re not at 100%, then you shouldn’t be there,” was I think the unspoken rule. There were some people, my colleagues that were really honest with me. In hindsight, I do appreciate it. They said that, “You’ve got diagnosed with this. That sucks. But, it’s just going to get worse as you get older. If you’re going to make it, you really need to push through now because you’re young. You have the ability to do that now. You won’t have the ability to do that later. You got to put your head down and just go through it.”
Which at the time was really hard to hear. Especially if it felt like I had no mentorship to help me through that. I had no guidance. It was tough. I think people expected kind of the push-through mentality, and that ultimately wasn’t something I could do. I did have to go on medical leave.
Joseph: I want to shift gears here a little bit. Because I know that you went on medical leave. It sounds like that’s what you very much needed at that moment in your life. What happened next for you? I know you mentioned you went over to Credit Suisse. What was the experience of going back into a role in accountancy, post-medical leave, and post-finding out that you have this autoimmune disease?
Erika: [15:43] After medical leave, I did return to my role at PwC for another two years. I was able to better manage, I’d say, at that point, what was going on. But like I said, that role was not for me and I was really desperate to get out. I think the first job offer I got, I left and I went to Credit Suisse, which was a lot less stressful in experience. It was a more straightforward accounting role. I wasn’t doing tax consulting or dealing with clients or consulting projects. It was just a fund accounting. We were looking at funds managed by Credit Suisse, and we would do the accounting for that.
Joseph: I’m just trying to imagine, Erika, what it must have been like to get this diagnosis, to have to take a significant chunk of time off from work to basically take care of yourself and to recover, your rollback into the office, and you’re back at your laptop, and you’re back doing accountancy work. Was that surreal at all for you to go from the medical leave back into your day job, and being back in the office, and back into the routine? What was that like for you? Did that feel weird at all in any way to you?
Erika: [17:02] Yeah. I know what you mean. I think the surrealism of it was kind of overshadowed by the need for a routine and the need to feel like I was contributing something. The good thing about my fibromyalgia, and especially having it so young, is it made me so appreciative of so many things like basic health care, the importance of rest and sleeping, and good diet. It kept things in perspective for me. I knew I wasn’t having a life-or-death job, like people in the medical industry for example. If anyone ever stressed out, or if anyone ever yelled or maybe crossed the line over something really done at work, it always felt really unnecessary.
Erika: [17:59] That was always really helpful to know that at the end of the day, none of this really matters. This is all just numbers. No one’s going to die. We’re not performing life-saving surgery, so it was great. But I think I needed work again, especially after my medical leave just to feel like I was doing something, I was contributing to a larger need or a larger project. That was really lacking when I was on medical leave. Just constantly focused on what was wrong with me instead of distracting myself with work, which was so important as well.
Joseph: Yeah. I mean, just going back to the keeping things in perspective. It just made me think of one of my first corporate jobs where I was working at The Clorox Company, and I was working on the Glad business. I was working on the marketing team. My job was basically to drive demand for Glad trash bags in the market. I remember one of my first managers, her name was Linda Lori. When I first started there she said, “Just remember, there are no trash bag emergencies here. Nothing really bad is going to happen to you or anybody else in the world. So, go home at a decent time and don’t work yourself to death here. Yes, it’s competitive environment, but there are no trash bag emergencies.” I think that’s sort of what you’re getting at here.
Erika: [19:15] That’s right.
Joseph: You’ve moved on to Credit Suisse now, and it’s providing you with some routine. Around 2018, I understand you went through another transition. Can you just describe what happened to you in 2018?
Erika: [19:27] Yeah, I laugh about it now because it’s funny, in hindsight. This was right after my birthday. Had gone away for the weekend, and something that the team at Credit Suisse did is whenever it was someone’s birthday, they would either surprised them with a cake, or buy them cupcakes, or donuts. And then, sometimes, have a little “Happy Birthday” singing. I remember going in to work that morning and getting a call from my boss to come over to a room in a separate building. I just weirdly assumed, “Oh! It’s a birthday thing.” It’s a little early for a birthday thing, but yeah. It’s a birthday thing. I start walking over. And then, I’m like, “No. It’s too early for a birthday thing.” But, I had talked to him about potentially getting promoted this year. Maybe that’s what it’s about. I walk over, and then I go in and I see it’s my boss and some other woman. I’m like, “No. I’m about to get laid off.”
Joseph: You knew when you walked in?
Erika: [20:31] Yeah. I knew right when I walked in. I saw how nervous my boss was. I got laid off. It was very surreal at the moment. I thought they were kidding at first because I had just thought, “Oh! You’re going to celebrate my birthday.” I didn’t think that was going to happen and it happened, and never expected it.
Joseph: That’s around September 2018.
Erika: [20:56] Yep.
Joseph: What did you do next? You find out this news, go home that day. Like, what’s running through your head, and what did you do next?
Erika: [21:03] Yeah. The emotions came quickly. At first, I thought I was the only one getting laid off. I thought it was more of like a firing situation. Maybe I did something wrong because I had to leave the building right away. But, I found out it was a bunch of us getting laid off. The first week, I went through it, let myself experience these emotions. I really was expecting my boss, at the time who I was really close with, I was expecting him to reach out and say something like, “It was great working with you,” or “I’m sorry that’s happened.” He never did, actually. But, I dealt with that first.
And then, after that, luckily, I have a very supportive husband who just said, “Do what you got to do. Either look for another job, take the time you need.” Ultimately, what I decided, my plan the whole time, was to continue taking Python courses. I had started taking a Python course online on Coursera.
Joseph: It’s a programming language.
Erika: [22:00] Yeah. Programming language, yeah. I really loved it. And so, I wanted to continue doing that. I said, “Okay. Well, I got a little severance. Maybe I can do this full time with a lot more accountability,” I need to complete classes, and I’m paying for classes so it would be good to just take a boot camp style. That was in September, and by October, I was starting a data science boot camp with a focus, not only on Python, but on overall data science. That’s how I started a boot camp.
Joseph: Okay. This was at the Flatiron School. Is that right? Okay. At this point, are you thinking about trying to land a job that requires Python programming skills?
Erika: [22:43] The amount of time was so short. I didn’t even know what I was expecting. I just knew that I wanted to do some Python programming, and I was just going to do this boot camp. Maybe I’d go back into accounting and just have a new set of skills under my belt, and that would be that. I would just continue in accounting. I did not think that I was actually going to become a data scientist. I figured I would just learn data science but probably wasn’t for me. Because to be a data scientist, you need to be a genius. You need to know so much math.
Erika: [23:18] It didn’t cross my mind until the very end of the program that, “Oh! I’m actually going to be the data scientist now.”
Joseph: When we spoke before, you mentioned to me just how you found your job. Could you just take me through how in the world do you go from being an accountant, then going on medical leave, coming back, going to another account. I’m imagining that you’re quite seemingly potentially siloed in this accountancy world. How do you then make the transition from that, into finding a job as a data scientist?
Erika: [23:45] It really felt unreal. But, looking back on it, it does make sense. How I found the IBM role is one of my classmates in the boot camp, she got a role at IBM working for their internal search team. Part of her larger department, they were also looking for data scientists, and she referred me. It was one of a couple of classmates that she referred. I landed the job. I was more amazed than anyone. I really didn’t think that that was going to happen. I mentioned that in hindsight, it makes a lot of sense. I do think that the skills that I developed everywhere else, whether it’s just basic Excel, basic presentation, basic working with the team, these are skills that some of my classmates straight out of college really didn’t have. I was able to use those skills as an asset, really. When I was interviewing, and to this day, I think it’s amazing to me how much more I use my soft skills than the technical skills that I’m constantly developing and leverage soft skills all the time. It makes sense looking back on it that I was able to do that.
Joseph: Was there anything in particular that you learned about the job market? Since you were able to successfully, and very almost suddenly, land this job in such a distant different area from what you were doing before. What did you learn about the job market and how it works?
Erika: [25:19] Not to sound repetitive, but I think that that was really the biggest takeaway. That I’m competing with data science PhDs, and people that are recent graduates and master’s in Applied Math, et cetera. These are highly technical people. I can’t compete with them on a technical level. It’s just four months out of boot camp is not going to cut it compared to the potential decade of work that they’ve done in this field. They don’t compete in that sense. I compete by using everything else I learned at my other jobs. It really is harder to teach soft skills to someone than it is to teach technical skills. I use that to my advantage. I knew that it’s if you’re a manager, data science machine learning engineering manager, you don’t want to have to teach someone how to write an email or how to make a presentation, or how to filter down relevant information when you’re making a presentation to a higher up. I knew that I had those skills, and that’s really what I showcased when I was interviewed.
Joseph: The last thing I was hoping to talk with you about before we wrap up with some of your learnings is just what you’re focused on right now at IBM. What exactly is it that you do at IBM as a data scientist? I know you mentioned the chatbots before, most machine learning. Can you just tell me a little bit more about your day-to-day job these days?
Erika: [26:42] Sure. I can’t mention too much of the technical stuff because we are an internal-facing team. One of my favorite parts of the job is really trying to distill machine learning or data science and to really just straightforward concepts. It’s an industry that tends to be a little gatekeeper-y, and use a lot of really fancy language, like machine learning and deep learning, and there’s no need for that. I mean data science and algorithms surround us in so many things that we do. I think it’s so important that people understand how that process works, and how it is that a machine does the machine learning, how those patterns get identified. They’re just looping people in whether it’s content writer, designer, or higher up that isn’t really familiar with the specifics of the technology. It’s just really boiling that down for them, and just really explaining it in straightforward language so that it’s less of a black box. I think it’s really satisfying and I love that part of my job. That I can make it less gatekeeper-y and make sure that people have a say and understand what’s going on because it really is all around us. Everything that we’re doing with algorithms and data science.
Joseph: Very interesting, yeah. That is a world that I know virtually nothing about. You’re absolutely right about the need for there to be people out there who can explain it in plain simple English to those of us who are not involved in that sector. That’s very interesting.
Erika: [28:17] As someone who really literally just learned it, it is so important for me, too. Because it felt like it was so unattainable to learn all of these things, and it wasn’t! I’m here as the data scientist. I may not be as nearly as technically advanced as other people, but I’m still able to code and contribute. It’s important to make sure that other people have a say in the things that we’re doing.
Joseph: I think that goes back to one of your earlier points about the fact that you didn’t have the traditional background that maybe other data scientists have. But because of that, not in spite of that, but because of that, you’re actually very well positioned to explain this to people outside of your function. Whereas, somebody who’s maybe lived and breathed data science their whole life, they may not be able to extract themselves from it and explain it in a way that’s digestible to the average layperson out there.
Erika: [29:13] Exactly. Yeah, very well said.
Joseph: Well, the last thing I was hoping to wrap up with, Erika, was just some of the lessons that you’ve learned along the way of your very interesting and winding career journey. I know you mentioned the medical condition that you had to manage, and that you continue to have to manage in your career, and also your life. I know that there are people out there who are also dealing with either a physical disability, or they’re having to take a leave of absence, or even these days, quite commonly, emotional challenges that are really taking over their day-to-day life and professional life. But, what would you say to other people out there who might be struggling with an emotional or physical condition, but have maybe just had to either shove it to the side or to just self-manage it? What would you say to people out there who might be struggling with something challenging in their careers?
Erika: [30:02] First, I’d say, “I’m so sorry.” That’s really tough. It really is such a challenge. I don’t want to pretend that everyone has the luxury of taking two years of absence. That’s definitely not the case for everyone who’s incredibly lucky to do that. But, I’d say right now, especially in the context of a pandemic, to prioritize your health in whatever way you can. Whether that’s if you have the ability to take some time off, to really be able to take a step back and listen to your body. Figure out what’s going on. I don’t think pushing through to continue working under the circumstances that you’re going through is healthy. I think if you’re not already burnt out, you will be burnt out. Your body will find the most inopportune time to make sure that you get the rest that it needs. Regardless of whether you need to have a super important presentation or need to finish up a project, your body will decide for you. To whatever extent you can, please prioritize your health. It’s so important. We only have one body. We only have one life. And if nothing else COVID has taught us that it is so important to prioritize that before work. Health is always before work.
Joseph: Yeah. That is a very good reminder I think to all of us because I think we can all get in this. I guess, they actually kind of like in popular media and in movies, they almost glamorize this hustle culture, and that you got to work hard to go to achieve all your goals. You have to finish what you started, and yet, there’s a cost to all of that. You’re right! If you don’t pay attention to your body, at some point, your body will force you to pay attention. Thanks for that advice. When you look back on your career change, is there anything that you wish that you had known about making a major career pivot that you now know?
Erika: [32:08] I really wish I would have believed in myself more. I think this has been a humbling career transition for sure. Every day at work, I definitely feel like I don’t know anything. It’s constant imposter syndrome, but I’m learning. I’m still going through it, and I’m still figuring things out. I doubted myself so much at the beginning because like I said, I was comparing myself to people that had years and years of technical experience and that really wasn’t the correct route, I think. It is the most rewarding thing to be able to go from, “Oh, wow! I don’t know anything. This is an entirely new topic and subject,” to being able to code just a little bit in it, and then finally really understanding the concept. It’s the most rewarding experience to go from novice to — not expert, but less of a novice. It has been the best part.
Joseph: Having been through this career change, what’s one thing that you’ve learned about yourself?
Erika: [33:13] That I could be happy at work. Obviously biased by my own very specific experiences, but I just always assumed that work was just work, and misery was always attached to it. But, you weren’t really ever going to enjoy work because work was really just for a paycheck. But, the fact that I really love what I do, that I’m constantly learning, is such a blessing and I really never thought that that would be the case.
Joseph: Well, thank you very much, Erika, for taking us through your journey and all the ups and downs. I appreciate you getting into some of those details related to your medical condition. I just wanted to thank you for telling us more about how you actually can stand out and be effective in a role, even if you feel like you don’t have the traditional background of a typical person in that role. The impact your medical condition has had on your career. Ultimately, how you managed to pull off a major career pivot in spite of your condition, and all the challenges you faced along the way. I hope you bounce back from your surgery and continue to make a full recovery. Also, continue to manage your condition the best you can. Thanks, again, for coming on to the show.
Erika: [34:27] Thank you so much. Yeah, it was my absolute pleasure. Thank you, Joseph.