Get To Know A Bullish Reader: Meet Zelda!

Introducing a brand new feature on Get Bullish: Get To Know A Bullish Reader! After more than two years, Bullish has built up an impressive roster of readers who have used Jen’s advice to achieve all sorts of personal and professional successes. We’ll be interviewing readers from all over the world who want to share their stories.

This week: Meet Zelda! Zelda got in touch with Jen via Facebook recently to discuss how Bullish had changed her life. Here’s what she had to say:

Hi Jennifer, I just wanted to let you know that I love your articles and finding them very inspirational. One thing that struck out the most – your advice about combining something that you love with something that is difficult or something many people find boring. Your advice encouraged me to go ahead and start learning programming/web development. Currently I’m a digital game artist, but there are many, many digital artists – and many programmers – but not many people who know both areas well. I’m pretty sure that by venturing into this territory I’ll be making my skillset much more unique and sought-after. I took a weekend to teach myself asp.net and designing a game application, and it’s challenging and awesome. In the past few months (because of my efforts) I’ve already become a the “go-to” person at work because I’m the only artist who can deal with very technical software for particle systems. I think this path is going to open a lot more opportunities for me, so I just wanted to say “thank you” for your awesome articles/life coaching.

We asked Zelda to tell us a little bit more about herself and answer a few questions for other Bullish readers.

I’m currently 28 years old. I was born in Russia. When I was 7, my parents decided to immigrate to Israel. We lived in Israel for 3 years before moving to Toronto, Canada for 6 years. I was drawing since childhood, but it was in Toronto when I started taking actual art classes. I decided that I wanted to do art/graphics/animation for a living when I was in 9th grade mainly because it was enjoyable and easy for me. When I was 16, my family and I moved to Los Angeles. I went to school and received a four year degree in computer graphics/animation.

That’s when I got into a lot of student debt, because I was on an ‘international student’ visa – meaning I wasn’t eligible for grants/scholarship or federal aid, and I wasn’t legally allowed to work for more then 20 hours a week on campus.

I’ve been working in this industry for 6-7 years now, and it was always in teams with programmers, and I was also almost always the only woman (or one of the very few) women on the team. I also ended up marrying a programmer 5 years ago. We both moved to new state and a much bigger city a few years ago, because it’s impossible to have any decent career or options in a town that only has 40,000 people.

When did you first start reading Bullish? How did you hear about it?

I started reading Bullish about a year ago. I came across it via a Facebook link from one of my friends.

You mentioned that since you began reading Bullish, you’ve made some changes to the type of work you do at your existing job. Can you tell our readers exactly how and why you made these changes?

I work as a digital artist in a game company, where we have a team of artists and a team of programmers. In the game creation process, there are a few areas where a bit of an overlap happens (for example, creating animations or effects that require the use of a tool developed by and for programmers, or that involves scripting). I’ve decided to actively learn the scariest proprietary technological tools we have instead of just focusing on digital illustration and animation with artist-friendly Adobe tools. As a result I’m now involved in many more interesting projects then I otherwise would have, and became a more needed and specialized “go-to” person.

By learning something that a lot of my coworkers didn’t particularly want to (because it was too boring/technical), I made myself a lot more valuable. Continuing down that path by going further and actually learning full-on programming will give me a lot more options in the future. Right now I love my job and everything there is great, but many things can happen (I’ve been through layoffs before). If the economy tanks again, I’d like to know that I’d be able to look for a job not just as an “artist”, but as a general developer – who also get paid more as a whole, and can work in a lot of additional fields, unlike artists.

What are your future financial goals? What are your future career goals? Be as specific as possible!

I’m married and I currently have a mortgage, a car payment, some credit card debt, and student loans to pay off. My financial goals are the following:

a) To pay all of that off
b) Build up savings
c) Continue to make enough money that I could, for example, support my spouse if he chose to pursue further education, or have freedom to take “a year off”, or something of that nature.

Basically I want to have the financial ability to be able to provide stability and a sense of freedom for myself and people that I love – instead of the existing “indentured servitude” feeling that living paycheck-to-paycheck creates. I want that without having to drastically downshift my lifestyle or having to count every penny – for me that is a depressing way to live; there’s only a limited amount on how much you can save, I prefer to find better ways to make more money. There’s also a cost-benefit analysis to this – I could spend 2 hours on Sunday clipping coupons to save $30, OR I could spend 2 hours on Sunday learning a new skill, which would be a much better investment of my time and pay off a lot more in the future.

In addition, I want to develop a skillset that would give me the most mobility. Right now I work as a digital/video game artist, which means I can really only expect to find gainful employment in just a few cities (where most video game companies have studios). I don’t like having such a level of dependancy.

I don’t have a super-specific career-goal in terms of “oh, I want to be a creative technology director in 5 years” (although that does sounds good!) But I have the following guidelines for myself.

I want to develop a level of expertise in my field to such a level that:

a) I would be widely recognized by my peers.
b) I would be actively thought-after/recruited .
c) Make 50% more money within the next 5 years, coming in from several different sources instead of just one
d) Work in, or at least partially contribute my skills, to a field that I think is useful/benefitting in general. For example, I would personally find it more meaningful to work in a place like SpaceX, because I think science and engineering and space exploration are great things and would benefit humanity in the long run as opposed to working in a company that creates some inconsequential product that nobody would miss if it wasn’t there.

If you could give any advice to other Bullish readers, what would it be?

Don’t get too attached to labels or other people’s expectations of what you do or what you should be. Be flexible .nd keep learning! In my case, I encountered a lot of “coder versus creative” mentality. I’m simplifying of course, but there was a sense of “you can’t be a real artist if you like programming and technology”, or vice versa.

Was there a specific article that inspired you to make these changes?

This one – Bullish: Tech Skills Are Not Optional For Your Career.

Do you have a favorite Bullish article?

Bullish: How To Run Your Career Like A Gentlewomen

Zelda’s story is inspiring for a lot of reasons: she saw a niche in her industry and she put in the extra time to fill it, she used existing skills to supplement her education, and she’s working as hard as possible to succeed in a field that has a traditional lack of young women. She’s truly a Bullicorn.

Want more? Read these classic Bullish articles:
Bullish: Reg Braithwaite On How Tech Can Help Women, Minorities, And Any Non-Schmoozers
Bullish: How To Make A Career Out Of The 10,000 Things You Want To Do
Bullish: How To Go To There (Your First Steps To Making It Big)
Bullish: How to Run Your Career Like a Business
Bullish: Maybe Work-Life Balance Means You Should Work MORE

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This interview has been condensed and edited. Names have been changed.