Linda Watkins has a Master of Business Administration degree from BYU and works as a Finance Manager at Cisco Systems in the Bay Area. She enjoys many hobbies including glass blowing, ballroom dancing, playing the flute, traveling, and shopping for beautiful shoes. She tries to enjoy running, has completed two half marathons in Boston, and has signed up for a third in Santa Barbara this spring. She has 14 nieces and nephews and loves keeping in touch with friends across the nation by reading their blogs and tweets.
I love the flute. I started playing when I was 10 years old. It seemed like as soon as I got an instrument in my hands, we were inseparable. Music came into my life at a time when I lapped up new information. I was a sponge and practiced much more than a normal 10 year old. As a result, I excelled and felt I had found my chosen profession at a very early age. When people would ask, ‘what are you going to be when you grow up?’, I would say, ‘A professional flutist’.
I went on to get a Bachelor’s degree in music (flute performance emphasis) and a Master of Music degree (also in flute performance). I was single minded in my focus and loved my music education. I never worried about a career because I was idealistic and thought it would just work itself out.
After graduation, I started to realize the difficulty in making a full time career from playing the flute, but I was fortunate to get a job at a flute manufacturing company in Boston. I moved 3,000 miles from my home in Arizona to Boston, where I didn’t know a soul, and worked four years at a company where I learned how to make the instruments I loved.
It was a great job at first. I learned new things, had access to the best instruments in the world, and could play any of them I wanted. I also performed in community orchestras and other small gigs. I realized quickly, however, that I was in a profession that had no other progression opportunity for me. Where do you go from making flutes? A full time job in music wasn’t going to work long term for me and I had to look at other opportunities. I had other dreams even though I didn’t quite know what they were. I just knew I needed to feel progression and growth. It was then that I considered a degree in business.
At this point in my life, I was 30 years old, had been out of school for 5 years, and was solidly designated as a ‘musician’. Could I dare consider a position outside of music? Who would even consider me? It would have been easy at that time to count myself out. What made me think I could make such a dramatic shift in my life? How could I get potential employers and universities to take me seriously when I wasn’t even sure I could make the change myself?
There have been several pivotal moments in my life when I’ve had the chance to reinvent myself in small and big ways. It’s scary. I don’t always take the challenge, but I have learned a few things. Above all, I’ve learned to be fearless. Maybe I won’t be accepted into a business program, but I certainly won’t if I don’t apply. Why should I be the one to reject me? I decided not to count myself out.
I set my goal to pursue a Master of Business Management degree. I quickly learned that I would have to take a standard test (GMAT) as well as some prerequisite classes before I could hope to be admitted to a program. I hadn’t taken a math class since my freshman year in undergrad (10 years earlier) and now had to take accounting, statistics, and economics. It was overwhelming at first, but thanks to my stubborn nature, I started at the beginning and persisted. I got a respectable score on the GMAT, passed the prerequisites, and got accepted into the Marriott School of Management.
It’s now been three and a half years since I started business school. There were some very stressful moments along the way. I got a 55% on an accounting test (the curve saved me), got rejected by several employers, and was extremely stressed that I didn’t have an internship lined up as quickly as I wanted. But, I also did some things that surprised me: I chose finance as an emphasis (which was very intimidating for me), got into a prestigious student investment group, was asked to be a teaching assistant for undergraduate finance students, and took a trip to India to help a social business plan develop. Looking back, I’m surprised by all that I accomplished.
I’m now 35 and working in the Bay area at a large technology company as a Finance Manager. I love my new career and the financial stability it gives me and continue to follow my dreams, big and small. I still feel the initial fear of doing something totally new and outside my comfort zone, but I take a big breath and go for it anyway. I’m not sure what new dreams I’ll come up with this year (maybe ballroom dancing?), but I’m optimistic that I’ll dream big and take a risk. As long as I don’t reject myself, then I’m way ahead of the curve.
And when you dream, dream big
As big as the ocean blue
‘Cause when you dream it might come true
When you dream, dream big
(Partial lyrics to ‘Dream Big’ by Ryan Shupe & The Rubberband)
While Linda has decided not to become a professional flutist, her ability to practice and progress and grow has facilitated her new dream of pursuing a career in business. How can path toward our childhood dreams, realized or not, lead to discovering and accomplishing our dreams as an adult?
What a great question: Why should I be the one to reject me? To count myself out?
As you have taken on hard things what have you accomplished that in retrospect surprises you?
What if Linda were to date the dream of ballroom dancing? Wouldn't it be fun to hear her report back?
Had you ever heard these lyrics, “when you dream, dream big as big as the ocean blue?” Lyrics/music can inspire us as we dream. What songs are inspiring you?