Wednesday, 24 April 2013

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No More Office Cubicle


No. More. Office. Cubicle.

I didn't even think twice about the decision. The opportunity came out of leftfield and I seized it with both hands, running hard and fast until I reached the point of no return. I knew it was time to quit that tiny grey box and when that time came, it felt right... and completely surreal.

So I've done it. I've quit the life of the city commuter, fled my government cubicle in a remote corner of the Sydney CBD, and I'm finally living the dream.

My dream.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons (Michael Lokner)

Craving change

I never wanted to be that pin-striped guy who works in the city from dawn to dusk. The kind of guy who leaves home in the early morning, bleary-eyed and in a state of 'just-climbed-out-of-bed' shock. I never felt comfortable donning a suit and tie, participating in the daily pow-wows, lengthy team meetings, liquid lunches and late nights in the office.

I don't like working in cities and I prefer time with my family rather than with my job.

We're not all built the same way and I simply crave a different life. One with location independence. One where I can work on my terms, not theirs. One where I can work until I get the job done, irrespective of how and where.

I left my blue-chip corporate job in the UK in 2003 confident that I'd finally quit the world of office workers and routine 9-5's. I was set on the path to adventure and travel, leaving behind the 50-hour work weeks, motorway commutes and wasted time away from family that I could never hope to get back.

It was never going to be that easy.

Before long, I was back in the office, this time working for government and in a slightly different shade of grey office box. For the next eight years, I would change my location, alter the view out the window and improve the lifestyle at the weekend, but I couldn't break away from the traditional office role no matter how hard I tried.

It was all too ordinary.

When the planets align

Family and lifestyle are so important to me, not money or career path.

Every minute I spend away from my wife and son, every minute I spend away from this Northern Beaches way of life we've fought tooth and nail to build around us, is a minute lost and a moment gone forever.

I couldn't live with that.

I soon realised it wasn't about work-life balance, but about work and lifestyle - and being passionate about both on my own terms. I wanted flexibility, a role that allowed me to be closer to home, less micro-management and more freedom, a job that built on the interesting things I did in my free time - blogging, social media, building communities and writing for love (and money).

Then I met Alison Michalk.

An innovator and true believer in reforming the way we work, Alison runs a global company comprised of location independent professionals who work in towns, rural communities, by the beach, in the country, whatever, wherever. She also works remotely and has successfully grown a business that is built on the very things I believe in and write about here - flexibility, innovative work practices, an emphasis on work and lifestyle passions, working smarter not harder, working away from crowded cities.

We shared similar visions and ideals about how we wanted to work, where we wanted to work, and with whom. On that regular working day in that average Sydney cafe, Alison was searching for someone to help run her company and I was searching for a drastic change to my working world.

The rest, as they say, is history.

I joined Quiip as its Operations Director in early April. A global leader in community management, social media moderation, and content creation services, Quiip is an innovative, exciting and fun place to work.

I now operate out of my home on the Northern Beaches, with no more Sydney commute. I hear the dull roar of the traffic in the morning and I selfishly smile. I'm done with all that.


Occasionally, I take the ferry from Palm Beach to Quiip's Central Coast office. I work remotely using a range of online platforms. I manage the day-to-day business and I work with a group of highly talented and intelligent young people. I'm enthused and invigorated by my work environment, I continue to write, and I'll continue to travel. I plan exotic retreats for our employees in far-flung destinations and I sit in front of my laptop wondering if this is all just a dream.

Lessons learned

I learned several things from the past four years of soul-searching and trying to figure a way out of the office cubicle.

  1. I learned that I couldn't handle being a city worker any more and I needed to break free. 
  2. I learned that if you want change, it'll happen, but not without hard work and a bucketload of patience. 
  3. I learned to network like crazy and use social media as a means to navigate my potential new career.
  4. I learned there are plenty of other people like me who believe that career is important, but having a certain way of life close to family and home is more so.
  5. I learned that this change was never about the money, it couldn't be - this was about doing something I loved and escaping that office cubicle.
  6. I learned that my writing remains important to me and this major life change had to allow for that - I'll continue to freelance, blog, and develop relationships with brands and other bloggers (Canada, here I come!).

And the most important thing I learned?

I learned that I went in search of a life less ordinary but I wasn't living it. Not entirely.

And now I think that I am.

Have you taken a risk to achieve happiness and have seen it pay off? Are you seeking a big change in your life? Did location independence or a significant career change work for you?

23 comments:

Andrew Creelman said... Add Reply

Great stuff, good luck!

Aisha Isabel Ashraf said... Add Reply

Congrats Russ! Fantastic and inspiring post. Best of luck with your bright shiny future :-)

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Thanks, Andrew. Fingers crossed! :)

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Cheers, Aisha! I'm in good hands so it should hopefully be nice and bright and shiny (with sand on it). See you soon in TO? :)

Anastasia ASHMAN said... Add Reply

YOW! Congrats Russell!

LA Janssen said... Add Reply

Well done, Russell, very excited for you and your family. Love that you kept sight of your dreams while expanding your talents, experience and skill set.Looking forward to reading more about this new adventure. 2013 is a year of massive change!

Carrie Sanderson said... Add Reply

Yey! Well done Russell. Reading this post gave me goosebumps because it's so familiar (reminds me of when I quit a well-paid marketing/pr job at a big insurance company and plunged into my freelancing/portfolio life). I just love it when people follow their hearts and passions. Really inspiring. Good for you! :-)

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Thanks so much, Laura, and likewise... Really looking forward to it :)

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Lol. Thanking you kindly, m'lady.

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

I love it too - and I'm so pleased and proud to be joining the legions of people who couldn't take any more and followed their hearts. Appreciate the pat on the back from you as always :)

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

2013 is certainly proving to be an interesting year already! I pinch myself, look around and think "is this for real?" I tried to keep sight of my dreams and it wasn't always easy but I knew where I wanted to get to - it was the 'how' part that took time to figure out ;-)

TheAmericanResident said... Add Reply

You are AWESOME! You decided on a goal and you did it. Many congratulations Russell, it'll be exciting to see where you take it. I shall go click on the links now...

Sarah-Jane Kurtini said... Add Reply

Congratulations! You will love it. I do freelance CM work whilst setting up my business and love the freedom it gives me. I work from home, from the local coffee shop, on my phone anywhere and everywhere and also from a co-working space when I need company and inspiration. Wouldn't have it any other way.
Think Alison is coming into Fishburners, the co-working space to give a talk on communities soon, so will be good to meet her.
Looking forward to following your journey...

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Haha, thanks. Pretty nice to be called awesome now and again ;-) Having support from good people like yourself along the way has certainly helped! Enjoy those links (and that late English Spring sun!).

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Cheers SJ! I didn't realise you did CM work so now I think we need to have a chat offline ;-) You're totally right though - this area of work is great for freedom and flexibility. And some of these co-working spaces in Sydney are just fantastic - we're placing one of our guys in Hub Sydney when it opens and we spend some of our time at various other places, mainly in Surry Hills. It's an inspiring way to work.


I may come down with Alison so I can meet you too - and keep up the great work on TinyBeans. Just love it.

Sarah-Jane Kurtini said... Add Reply

Would be great to meet you. Think the date got changed to some time in June and always happy to talk about CM work.
Glad you like Tinybeans too :)

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Look forward to seeing you soon then! :)

Chris Wright said... Add Reply

Inspirational! Im glad you added hard work, persistence and networking online and offline like crazy. Following a similar route and your blog post both helped and inspired. Thanks

Russell Ward said... Add Reply

Thanks, Chris. Really appreciate you saying so! Keep me posted on your own route - always fascinated to hear other's journeys. Hope to see you here again :)

Rob said... Add Reply

I'm a financial analyst for a large company. Been doing it for 2 years since graduating. The same stuff, same cubicle, every day, every week, every month. .. Realized I didn't want to be 50 making the same days sales outstanding bs reports. Realized I'd be happier with no income living in a tent.


So I just quit with no real plan. Got myself a tent in case it doesn't work out, and I'm happier than ever.

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Love it, Rob. Just love it. Maybe not for everyone, but you packed up, got the tent, and said to hell with it.... and good for you! Some of us see it earlier in life, for others it takes a while longer but surely no-one can be happy with the same cubicle day in, day out. Have you ever seen the movie The Office? I think that was the final straw for me! Best of luck to you ;-)

Philenia Parker said... Add Reply

I am at the beginning of this story... I don't know how people do this for 20+ years. I've been in the corporate world for, going onto, 6 years and I can't stand it anymore. I want to travel the world, and live, really live. Not look back and tell my kids I was stuck between four walls and angry adults for most of my life!!!!

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Sounds good to me! Get out there and experience life - if it isn't for you, you can always go back to the way things were before. If it is, enjoy the ride!

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