Many people lack fulfillment in their careers but do nothing to change. Alexandra Grochowski realized that her passion lied outside of finance, so she left her job to enroll in a design boot camp and redefine her career. This 180º move to become a designer has set her on a new, exciting path, and she shares her story in this interview. It is inspiring to see Alexandra be conscious of her life path and take action to align it!
Introduce us to Alexandra as a kid.
I grew up in a Polish household in Glenview, a suburb northwest of Chicago. I was a very independent kid, so I was really good at keeping myself busy. I loved drawing, coloring, and arts and crafts. Even at a young age, I wanted to do everything by myself and didn’t like when others tried to help me! I wouldn’t even let my mom put on my shoes. I was also highly curious: there was no subject or topic I didn’t want to learn more about. I stuck with creative hobbies all through high school, including painting, illustration, and even playing piano, but eventually became curious about business and finance which I knew nothing about.
As a kid and teenager, what did you want to be when you grew up, and why?
To be honest, my many different interests as a child made me incredibly indecisive when it came to a career path. My insatiable curiosity drove me to both enjoy and excel in most subjects, which didn’t make it easy for me in narrowing down options. I would change my plan every week, from medicine to graphic design to business. All I knew was that whatever I chose, I wanted to be really great at it.
You studied Supply Chain Management & Finance at a great business school, then started your career as a Financial Analyst at a big bank. Why did you originally choose to pursue business and specifically finance?
I pursued business because I loved the impact businesses had on the world: employing others, creating new products, and giving back to charity. As somebody with various interests, I also saw an endless stream of opportunity in business, since it’s relevant in every industry. Finance specifically has always interested me because money is an incredibly powerful tool to achieve your personal or business goals. Some people see money as evil, but I just never saw it that way. I believe money is just the key to freedom.
After a year and a half, you decided to leave finance and pursue design instead. Talk about what inspired you to do this!
I was flirting with the idea of leaving and pursuing a new career for about 6 months before I finally did. While I loved the finance industry, I didn’t like being a Credit Analyst. I needed room to be curious, to grow, and to be creative which I just wasn’t getting through writing memos all day long. I knew that if I was going to leave, I wanted to set myself up for success in my new career and be sure it was something that would inspire me. I spent a lot of really long nights just taking a really hard and honest look at myself and who I REALLY wanted to be. I researched a lot of different career paths, but the first one I got excited about was UX/UI design. The “A-HA” was that it combined the need for creativity and practicality, which I always thought was contradictory. Not only that, but it combined ALL of my interests: psychology, graphic design, branding, strategy, and research.
Leaving a job and taking a leap to redefine a career can be really scary. It’s easy to think that it could derail your career. How did you feel about doing it and how did you get yourself to do it?
I think when anyone finds the confidence to make a big change, it’s because the fear to NOT make the change is stronger than the fear of failure. I looked at the people around me at my old job and realized I was afraid of becoming them. I didn’t want to be in Corporate Banking in 20 years and was willing to do anything to stop that from happening. What was really helpful for me was to do a gratitude check of everything I had. I had a supportive family to live with to save money, a strong faith, a resilient personality, a solid work ethic, and health insurance. I also lived in a free country with a great economy, where I had the freedom to pick my career – why wasn’t I exercising it? If I did fail, I could always come back to banking. It began to feel like a waste if I DIDN’T try. Once my resolve was set, I began to tell my family. While they expressed their concerns, they were incredibly supportive of me once they saw my determination.
How do you feel now that you have a new career?
I feel blessed! Every day is exciting. The big change isn’t necessarily from the new career, but from reminding myself of my own choice and what I am capable of once I exercise it. I sleep more peacefully at night, knowing that I am honest to myself every day and am the captain of my own ship. Life didn’t get any easier (turns out, design is hard!), I just got stronger. If I accomplished a drastic career change in a global pandemic, what else can I do?
Can you give any advice to someone who is thinking about realigning their career with something they’re more passionate about?
Yes! Take the time to do a full inventory of yourself. Once you have a strong “WHY?”, the “HOW?” becomes secondary: you won’t give up. What are your values? What does “passion” mean to you? Is it doing what you love for work, having the freedom to control your schedule, or simply having more time at the end of the day to spend with your family? Start being honest with yourself: is there something you are hiding? Chances are, if you aren’t satisfied, there is something you haven’t come to terms with. Take it day by day.