“I want to spend my life doing something I’m not passionate about,” said nobody ever. That’s why Nicole Wood, CEO and Co-founder of Ama La Vida, has created a service to help professionals find careers that align with their goals and, at the same time, offer a deep sense of personal fulfillment. In this interview, she talks about why we need to get back in touch with the one thing that many of us have lost sight of -- ourselves.
Weekends make up roughly 30 percent of our week -- which means that those of us who are constantly waiting on Friday (there’s always someone who comes to mind) are wasting more than two-thirds of our lives. And if you feel also like you’re counting down the seconds to every weekend then you should know that you’re not alone; in fact, a whopping 51 percent of all employees in the United States don’t feel engaged with their jobs, not to mention that an additional 17 percent are actively disengaged -- which means that more than two-thirds of today’s workforce don’t find meaning at work.
It’s a problem that eventually caught up with Nicole Wood.
“I was one of those typical millennials who did all the ‘right’ things and got my dream job in management consulting. It’s what I had thought I wanted to do for so long, but I started to feel burnt out and like my work was no longer meaningful to me. When I told my friends, I realized that a lot of them felt the same way.”
Wood knew that she wanted to take her career in a different route but at the time, she wasn’t entirely sure where she wanted to go. As luck would have it, her firm -- one of the Big Four auditors -- offered leadership coaching.
“Honestly, I thought it was pretty woo-woo at first, but it was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. My leadership coach helped me realize how I can make improvements and drive growth in my professional life. I wanted to make the same type of coaching available for people who weren’t receiving it through their employer, and I wanted to use technology to make coaching more process-driven, data-backed, and less woo-woo.”
And that’s when Wood, with the help of Co-founders Foram Sheth and Katie Bennett, began building the foundation for Ama La Vida (which translates from Spanish into ‘love life’). It’s a good thing she did, especially since millennials job-hop more than any other generation. While Wood attributes some of that to a generation of young post-grads who have yet to find their calling, she says that another part of the problem is that today’s supervisors don’t always have the proper tools or training.
“We’re helping people figure out what it is that they love to do and what their passion is, but we’re also helping bosses learn to become better managers. We found that so many of our clients were quitting because of bad leadership and not necessarily because of their jobs. We want to help companies keep these talented employees.”
And although Wood started by helping young professionals find purpose in their careers, she’s since expanded Ama La Vida’s services to college students and more seasoned clients. She says that every demographic has their own unique needs and desires which redirect their career priorities.
“Some of our clients are workforce veterans so they have more clarity around what they want and where they want to go. The flip side is that many of them have been working in one specific industry for so long and they want to change career fields entirely -- which becomes harder and scarier to do at that point. For these clients, we come up with creative solutions like starting a side hustle in their targeted career field to help them kick-start that transition in a way that makes sense for them financially.”
Speaking of transitions, Wood went through her own when she quit a lucrative job to start her own business. Her experience couldn’t have been more different from the overnight-montage, everybody-wins type of journey that you see on television and in movie theaters.
“I think it’s important for people to realize that entrepreneurship is truly a marathon and it’s really about having stamina. You’re going to make a lot of sacrifices, you’re going to struggle a lot, and you have to be prepared to endure all of that going into the experience. It’s hard, but there are things that can really help you along the way -- like having a strong community.”
It was that sense of community that brought Wood to WiSTEM, 1871’s 12-week, curriculum-based program for women entrepreneurs. Although both of Wood’s co-founders are women, she wanted to see what other women entrepreneurs were doing in Chicago and share her experiences with a larger network of like-minded founders.
“Entrepreneurship is a profession with the highest highs and the lowest lows, so it’s very refreshing to find a community that can relate to your experiences and provide support. That’s what makes WiSTEM such a powerful network.”
It’s no surprise that Wood holds her community in such high regard. After all, much like the service that Ama La Vida provides, Wood is all about the people who surround her. While her clients receive priority, Wood takes great care to ensure that her staff comes first as well -- an effort that’s produced its own rewards.
“I remember when we actually had to go back and change our pricing model and pay our coaches less. I was so nervous that they were going to leave or be upset with us, but overwhelmingly, they knew that they always had our support and understood that it was necessary for the good of the business.”
Though Wood’s regard for others -- whether that be client or colleague -- is certainly inspiring, she says she finds motivation for herself from another woman entrepreneur.
“Arianna Huffington [Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post] has a quote that really champions the idea that you don’t have to be miserable or sacrifice your own health, family, or well-being to be successful. She says that, ‘life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen.’ I really love that.”
And it’s true isn’t it? Life is short so whether you’re building a business or making a career change, you might as well enjoy the journey.
As they say in Spanish, ‘Ama La Vida.’
Learn more about WiSTEM at www.1871.com/wistem.