Sofia's Story: Architect to Business Development 

Sofia completed the Career Change Accelerator in March 2018. Formerly an architect, she’s now a business development representative working with builders and home designers. 

1. What career change have you made? What are you up to now?

It’s been a crazy year since I finished escape. My original background is in architecture. About a year and a half after finishing university I felt a bit lost. I’d had 2 professional opportunities that didn’t reach my expectations, and I felt like I needed to step back and learn more about myself and what I wanted to do.

2. Why did you decide to join the programme? Was there a moment of truth?

When you leave university you feel like your life is about to start and you’re prepared for what’s to come. But you get out there and it’s nothing like that. I was living in Portugal at the time – which is where I am from. I’d moved to Italy for 6 months then back to Portugal.

I had heard about Escape from my brother and sister in law, who live in London. It was a very impulsive decision to sign up. I contacted the team and said I was interested. Within 2 weeks I had moved here and was enrolled on the Career Change Accelerator. Doing that completely changed my life and I couldn’t be more grateful.

I decided to do it because I needed to get in touch with my capabilities and skills again, and learn how to use them in a different way. I had no self belief. I was frustrated. I needed to learn how to deal with this, and to learn more about myself as well.

3. What have you been up to since finishing Escape’s course? 

After Escape, actually the same week the programme ended, I got a job producing content for D&AD. It was the first time I had really stepped out of architecture and done something completely different. I got the job by volunteering to work at a festival and hustled my way in to being hired for one and a half months for a specific role. I was helping them on the book they release every year so it was completely different from what I was doing before and a lot of fun. It was a fixed term contract so I was sad to leave but quickly needed to find something else.

I managed to secure another job within a week, and it was another change – this time in a sales environment. Sales wasn’t something that had interested me before, and it was a tough job that needed a lot of tenacity. I worked there for 6 months and there were a lot of ups and downs, but I stuck with it as I knew it could open a lot of doors for me with other roles. I really had to step outside of my comfort zone as I was on 100% commision doing street sales, introducing myself to hundreds of people every day, six days a week. It taught me a lot about myself and introduced me to a completely new world. 

By December I’d had enough of doing that and needed a new change. It was the end of the year and I had no idea what to do next, but thanks to Escape I had lots of tools to help me research and apply for new roles. It also helped me to deal with things in a different way. I organised my days and had the right mindset to find a new role. 

That’s not to say it was easy. It took me 2 months to find a new job, after applying avidly to roles throughout January and February of 2019. I had 15 interviews over the space of a month and a half, which was quite intense. But it wasn’t as hard as it had previously been. I was much more confident. I knew how to use my skills and had more experience. I had reevaluated where I wanted to situate myself. I had clarity and knew exactly what I wanted – which helped me to stay resilient. 

I’m now working at Houzz, which is an online platform for home renovation and design. It’s exactly what I wanted, which was to go back in to architecture in a completely different way. It’s a global company but in the UK it still works as a startup. It has the most amazing company culture and I’m surrounded by architecture and design, but I’m doing sales so it combines everything that I’ve been working. I’m really excited to be here. Looking back over the last year I feel like I’ve done and grown so much.

4. Looking back at your time on the programme, what did it mean to you?

To be on programme is such a hard thing to put into words. The community is still very much in my life. We had an amazing cohort and have stayed really close. Some of my closest friends in London are from Escape. Being around people with the same specific problems as you means you form close friendships, as not a lot of people really get it.

The beauty of the programme is that you can take what you want out of it. You can choose to take it to a more personal level, or check in and check out each week. I took it really deeply and gave it everything I had. This was important for me as I was investing a lot of money in it and wanted to make sure something would come out of it. I wanted to give it my all.

The structure of the programme was really helpful as it guides you through the process. There are so many stages and it’s really hard. It unlocked a lot of things for me that I didn’t necessarily want to think about. You go deep into your emotions, and then by the end it’s much more practical – helping you to apply to roles and stand out in new environments. The programme leaders were amazing. It really combined everything I needed at that time. 

5. What’s been your biggest challenge since completing the programme? 

The biggest challenge for me since the programme has been not letting myself go back to the point where I feel desperate and don’t know what to do. Escape has been in my life  for one year, but I had 25 years of self doubt prior to that. Developing and maintaining the mindset, and that muscle that pushes you to put yourself out there and try different things is the tricky part.

When I finished my sales role in December, it took me a while to settle down and go back to Escape’s principles. Old habits can kick in, but there is so much support. I reached out to Skye and the friends I made from the programme, who are now some of my closest friends. We know we can still text each other and be there for each other. It’s such a supportive environment. 

I’ve never felt disappointment in the programme since I finished it. There’s honestly nothing that I feel like it’s lacking. I just went to a one year Escape reunion with others in my cohort and everyone was really happy. We were all on completely different paths – our lives have completely changed from 1 year ago.

6. What are you most excited about for the coming months and years?

I’m excited that I’ve got the point where I feel like I’m in a stable job that I enjoy. I’m looking forward to spending the next couple of years here and living a good lifestyle. Being content means I have time to explore other things outside of my job.  I’ve also just set myself up on a pottery course – I’m still exploring my tennis balls! Now I can choose what I want to do. I’m happy in my job and looking forward to things to come and enjoy the day to day. It’s a really positive state of mind to be in. 

7. What advice would you give to those feeling the way you did before you began your escape?

Just go out there and read, educate yourself in what else is out there. People get so stuck on the idea that once you finish university you have to start a job, get married and have kids. So when things fail, people go down easily. 

There are so many opportunities available to you, and the more you reach out to people and connect with each other, you learn that it’s good to rebalance and rethink. Take the time to do something for yourself and get to know yourself. Be up for challenges and personal development.

Although this journey was about changing my career path, it’s given me the tools to keep exploring myself outside of work too. I have so many interests and it’s about making sure you have a balanced life and you get to do what you want to do. It’s been about organising and reprioritising so that you get to do it. 

8. Thanks Sofia! Anything else you’d like to share with other Escapees?

If you have a business related to construction/architecture/home design, I would love to feature you on Houzz for free! You can email me directly on sofia@houzz.com

If you’d like to learn more about the Career Change Accelerator, and how you can join us to figure out your next career direction, take a look at this.

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