the_nicole_chiu

My “Passion Forward” Life

Since the theme inspiration for the upcoming Ms. JD annual conference came from a line on my infographic resume (more on this later), the Board of Directors asked me to write a blog post about what “passion forward” means to me.  

To me, it is an extension of the old saying -  “Do what makes you happy and the money will follow”.  To be “passion forward” means that with every career (and life) decision that arises, you ask yourself - “Am I passionate about this?”.  If the answer is no, then you do not pursue it.  If the answer is yes, you go forward... with passion.

In March of this year, I finally admitted to myself that I don’t want to be a traditional attorney or have a traditional legal job.  Since I graduated law school in 2009, I held several different attorney positions from litigation associate to trademark attorney (to a brief stint as a legal recruiter) to solo practitioner.  I left each job, because I wasn’t happy and I felt like it just wasn’t the right fit for me.  Every time a job didn’t work out, I felt like something was wrong with me.  I internalized everything and it all felt like failure.  

Frustrated by coming to the same conclusion at job after job, I decided to take a break from my search for my next legal job.  I offered to help two friends with their startup that they just launched, a baby book app for the iPad called Story of You.  While working with them, I did all sorts of projects from the more legal (drafting contest rules and terms of use) to the more creative (writing demo scripts, performing voice overs, creating marketing campaigns) and even the technical that I had no experience with before (managing email campaigns, analyzing user data and product testing).  I thought about what I liked and didn’t like about the work - I liked the actual work and the wide variety of it, I just wasn’t super excited about baby books (I’m sure I will be someday, I’m simply not there right now!).  I loved the fast pace, all-hands-on-deck, constantly learning atmosphere of a startup.  I figured I might as well look for a job at a startup in an industry that I am passionate about and, upon a quick google search, opened my eyes to the fashion technology startup space.  Fashion AND technology - amazing.  I realized I would need to re-envision my resume (because my legal resume wasn’t going to cut it) and I found all these inspiring and truly creative examples of startup resumes online.  I designed an infographic (i.e., a graphic with information on it) inspired by venn diagrams and listed out any and all of my relevant experience in bubbles titled legal, fashion, startup, and media/technology.  I began to think that I do have valuable skills and experience.  I nervously debuted my infographic to select friends for feedback and one of my girlfriends suggested I add the tagline “Passion Forward!” to explain my career transition.  Looking back, it was with the creation of my infographic resume (the reframing of my value and what I have to offer) that my life completely shifted.  In startup terms, I “pivoted”.

 Infographic

I attended every startup and fashion tech event I could to network and expand my knowledge base.  I used my infographic as a business card/resume that I emailed out to all the people I met at those events and people were (gasp!) impressed.  I began taking courses in front-end web development (i.e., learning how to code everything you see when you go to a website) and user experience design (i.e., designing everything you see when you go to a website and use its services/products) to expand my skills in areas that interest me.  In the ten weeks that followed, I rebuilt my personal website from scratch, came up with an idea for a startup, pitched my idea and built it at a hackathon (i.e., a competition where you present an idea and recruit people onto your team on Friday night, build out your idea, and then pitch the final product on Sunday).  Through this empowering experience (and trust me, I didn’t start out feeling empowered, I started out scared and the empowerment came later), I realized that I am not only capable of founding and growing my own startup, I think I’m meant to become a CEO.  Hand in hand with this realization came the realization that it’s okay that I’m not going to have a traditional attorney job - that nothing is wrong with me for not wanting a traditional attorney job.  I may not have a job title ending with “associate” or “attorney” below my name in my email signature, but I will always be an attorney.  One of the reasons I am going to be a great startup founder and, eventually, CEO is precisely because I am an attorney.

Taking a leap of faith, making a career transition, leaving a known and charted career path is scary.  It’s also scary to realize that you actually want to be a partner or a solo practitioner or you want to switch practice groups or you want to leave your high paying firm job to work in public interest or you want to work full-time as a mom.  But if the only real obstacle blocking you from doing what you’re passionate about is fear, conquer your fears and go forward with passion.

Let me be completely honest, I am not 100% sure where I am going right now.  But I am able to work past the fear of not knowing, because I know I’m moving passion forward and wherever that takes me will be the right direction for me.  When you see choices and opportunities through the lens of what you are passionate about, it becomes much easier to make meaningful decisions and be true to yourself at the same time.

Nicole Chiu-Wang is a trademark attorney, front-end web developer, and user experience designer living and working in San Francisco.  Recently, she founded Shove, a dating app that lets friends become matchmakers, and will be launching its beta version soon.  To stay up to date on Nicole’s journey to create her dream job, follow her on Twitter @The_Nicole_Chiu or listen to her every Thursday night on The Block Radio.

Ms. JD would like to acknowledge and thank our conference sponsors: Arnold & Porter LLPLatham & Watkins LLPMunger Tolles & Olson LLPSidley Austin LLPWachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and Norton Rose Fulbright

3 Comments

Liz Vaysman

Nicole - this gave me chills multiple times as I read it.  You are truly an inspiration!

lostinazure

That sounds great! How are you covering your student loans? I’d love to take some classes but I simply can’t afford them.

the_nicole_chiu

I’m sorry for the extremely tardy response, lostinazure!  I am blessed to have received a law school scholarship and graduated debt-free.  BUT, I will tell you that I looked into many free alternatives for learning and there are many out there depending on what area you want to learn.   There are also more affordable online platforms like lynda.com or skillshare.  Google away and you’ll be amazed all the resources you find!

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