They say that when one door closes, another opens. For me, this couldn’t be more true. And sometimes, the door that opens can lead you to a new, magical world you never dreamed of being possible. When I found myself in a precarious position with the future of my career hanging in the balance, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I used that ending to create a new beginning. And that beginning has been pure magic.
In the fall of 2016, I scored what I thought was my dream job. I was leading the Design and Development team at a digital learning agency, managing million-dollar contracts for a wide range of clients in diverse industries, as well as a team of 10-15 creative professionals. I was over the moon about the company’s vision and the fact that they had a female leadership team that I would be a part of.
Within the first few months of working there, I started to notice some red flags. I began to feel marginalized by the leader I had once looked up to, disempowered in my work, unfairly compensated, and disenfranchised with the company’s overall business practices. When this happens in your personal life, you take it seriously. When it happens at work, it can sometimes be harder to do something about. Career advancement was important to me, and I was invested in our clients and the innovative projects we were building as a team.
But I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, and soon enough, rumours began circulating about a “sinking ship.” By the spring of 2018, the company’s bankruptcy was announced.
What was I going to do? What about my team? And our clients? Who was going to complete the half-finished projects we were working on?
I took that night to process my feelings (read: splitting a bottle of wine with a friend, talking it out, and shedding a few tears). I thought about calling in sick the next day and quite frankly, never returning. What could they do? They were going bankrupt anyway.
But the next morning, I made the decision to be the bigger person and to commit to my future. I put on my black dress and red lipstick and went into the office prepared to handle this experience with grace, class, and true leadership. And that day, I set up my future.
In the spirit of “the captain goes down with the ship”, I stepped into my leadership role as authentically as I could under the dire circumstances and committed to wrapping up our clients’ projects in the most graceful way I could and made sure they felt valued and cared for.
Sure enough, those clients began to ask about my next steps. This proved to me that my dedication to my work and collaboration with them was meaningful and important. It was suddenly so clear to me that it was up to me to continue these client projects under my own company. I had already been managing million-dollar deals for my employers—why couldn’t I do it for myself?
I ended up rescuing eight clients and taking them under my wing to finish their projects or continue conversations about potential future work.
This was the launching point for my company, Digital 55, which is now a successful full-time endeavour. I am heading into my third year of business and I’m projecting a seven-figure revenue by the end of 2020. I feel happier, more powerful, and more in control of my life than ever before, and I’m so proud of the impact my company is making.
After 2 years in business, I am now in a position to curate clients and projects based on the subject matter I am most passionate about. I am able to work on topics like intersectionality, leadership in modern workplaces, healthy eating for children, and so much more. My company is doing work that matters and I’m so proud to be at the helm.
The lesson here?
Sometimes a chapter closing is the best thing that can happen to you, even though the process is not always easy. In life and in business, you are always just one move away from completely changing your reality, so you must be brave and trust yourself when making those big decisions.
It’s going to be scary. Lean into the fear of vulnerability and the fear of screwing up. Fear means you care. Fear means you have something to lose.
Be graceful and take care of yourself. Lean on your support system as much as possible, but remember that sometimes you’re the only one who can do it so you have to step up to the plate.
Most importantly, trust the process.
Big change comes with a lot of uncomfortable moments. Remember that what you’re building—and who you’re becoming—matters. Uncomfortable moments matter because they lead to the greatest growth. It won’t be easy and it will feel like a work in progress all the time, but what I can promise you is this: it will be magic.
Lauralee Sheehan is the founder and Chief Creative Officer at Digital 55. Lauralee is a design thinker, a digital addict, but above all an artist. With years of experience working in the creative and digital product development sector, Lauralee is a trailblazer in the digital space, pushing forward how creative and tech intersect, all the while bringing a fresh, authentic and innovative approach to experience design and digital learning.