Here’s a question I hear a lot from young women: “How do I leave my job that comes with benefits and direct deposit paychecks and become an entrepreneur?” There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. So I share stories of what I did and what other women are doing to give them perspective, context and color to help them find their answers.
A month ago Shinjini Das (24 years old) and I were talking about what she was doing. She was a digital strategist at Iron Horse Interactive in the San Francisco Bay Area; she moderated a panel at the 2016 Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in recognition of her advocacy work to empower women and youth; she had a social media following of 67K+; she’s been interviewed on ABC, CBS, NBS, FOX and Sirius XM; she’s an industrial engineer with a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Tech and she speaks three languages.
And then we got together at the Forbes Under 30 Summit last week and we recorded our conversation about Das’ desire to inspire women to stop being apologetic, to stop being the good-girl and to write their own great stories. And we talked about Das writing her own great story and why I want to be just like my mom (who continues to write her own great story) searching for a push-up bra when I’m 90 years old! And that brings us to today and Das’ Mentoring Moment, in her words:
I have chased goals my entire life, but at 24, for the first time, I listened to my heart and it ignited my soul on fire.
Born in India, lived in Malaysia for four years and moved to America at nine years of age. I am a daughter of the world. But that often means that the idea of belonging is not so simple, because where do I belong? My roots are Indian, personality inherently American and ambitions vastly global. Do I hold on to tradition and fit into the mold of what my family wanted and expected of me, to scale the ranks of a big company? Or do I change the game and create my own niche in life, one that meshes my talents, passions and desires?
Fresh out of college, I wasn’t ready to answer that question, so I followed the path of what was expected of me and got my first job in technology consulting. I was grateful for the opportunity to dive into an exciting industry, learn so much and check the “normal for my family” box. But it didn’t take long for me to proudly proclaim my desire to do the unexpected.
The truth is that this hunger to not be normal, to not do what is expected of me, had been latent within me for a long time. But I had just chosen to ignore it. But not completely. For the past 18 months, my passion to do the unexpected became my side hustle. I have always been fascinated with creating my own story, and quite frankly, had no interest in someone else writing my own story for me, so I christened myself “The Go-Getter Girl!” who was on a quest to lead a personally and professionally fulfilling life while positively empowering individuals to take action to achieve their highest potential. A quest that was so important to me, but still had the position of side hustle.
And then two weeks ago, I listened to my inner voice, quit my job and struck out on my own. I became an entrepreneur and turned my side hustle into my main hustle.
But, you must understand what a crazy idea this is. I am an Indian-American female and entrepreneurship is still viewed as a very risky endeavor in my community. How would I convince my parents that I haven’t lost my mind? How was I sure this is the right move? Here are the top four things I did before making the jump:
1. Think. The jump had to be layered with a great deal of thought, intention and foresight. I had to listen to my deepest voices, understand what my desires and passions are and make my goals align with what is driving me. And I realized that only I could make it happen. Of course, I want and need the help of others, but it must all start with me believing in myself. And that leads me to point #2:
2. Fall in love with myself. That’s not egotistical, that’s something we should all be proud to say because loving myself gives me the power I need to say, “I can do this.” Plus we are not in a position to love anyone else if we do not love ourselves first.
3. Test the waters. My passion was a side hustle for 18 months which gave me the time to explore the waters of American media and figure out my plan before I decided to dive in full-time.
4. Stop Asking A Question That Doesn’t Have An Answer. I stopped trying to answer the question, “Am I making the right move?” — the only way to find out is to make the move.
An entrepreneur quite literally means the “bearer of risk.” I’m now ready to take that risk and create my own destiny. I am extraordinarily grateful and excited to call myself a newly minted female entrepreneur.