January 2020, the coronavirus crisis is already ravaging China and for the past week, rumors are spreading that my company could close any day. I work in a startup that creates and sells hospitality management software. This job is great and really fulfilling, particularly after a difficult change in my career path.
One morning, as I wake up, I look at my phone and an uneasy feeling comes over me; an emptiness of sorts. And then, the shock. My company is going bankrupt and I am losing my job. I already picture myself telling my wife that I am unemployed. I break a sweat. It isn’t the first time.
Many times it was deliberate, and sometimes it was not, just like now. For a moment, I can read in the eyes of my wife this feeling of disappointment and pity. She says “it’s alright, everything is going to be fine”, but her voice says otherwise.
I have never been someone that worries, so I let go, and I stay positive. Yet, it is still a time of grief for me, professional grief. I must climb its stairway, one step at a time: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and acceptance.
Here is denial and anger: I think of the company, the colleagues, what a waste! How did we get to this point? We had a great product and a fantastic team! Then you think of the situation: why me? How am I unemployed again?
But I think of the doctors, nurses and all the patients that are going through hell battling against the wide spreading disease. I contextualize, I calm down, my little personal issues don’t amount to much in the grand scheme of things. The 14 years spent working in China have given me strong friendships. I lived the Chinese health crisis through them and understood quickly the devastating effect it could have if it hit Europe: millions of people unemployed with no income, no health insurance or social security of any kind.
Finally, I enter the phase of acceptance. The time of getting up and moving forward has come. What do I do next? Do I enter the job market? But in which industry? Do I stay in tech knowing that most companies will end up cleaning house? Do I return to hospitality, the industry I have spent the better part of 20 years working in. I left that world 2 years ago after it had pulled all the passion out of me.
No, I need to stay in tech, this is what I am now passionate about and the market is still booming. I can assess my current situation, my skill level, further educate myself, get a certification of project manager or scrum master and be back on my feet in no time.
I also have people asking me to do some consulting in hospitality for them. Why not? I have my previous career to show for it. But consulting in what? What is my specialty? I opened hotels, I have customer service experience, China experience. Is this relevant? The consulting world is flooded with so many people already, and who would my client be? Do independent hotel owners have the budget to pay someone like me? that’d be surprising, particularly now. Would this job be viable long-term? I am available and the project is interesting. I decide to go for it, we’ll ask ourselves questions later.
I am helping a real estate developer on the opening of a sustainable hotel; he is an expert in wood eco-construction himself. Quickly, I now discover the world of eco-construction, circular economies and renewable energies, … so many solutions available that aren’t widely used in the industry. While I am assisting him on the operational management component of the project, my interest is piqued by global issues such as climate change and the solutions that already exist to combat it. I clearly see the synergies and applications in hospitality.
I then call a friend I have known for the longest time. He is a pioneer in the adoption and implementation of alternative proteins in the hotel business, an expert in food and beverage overall, and a self-proclaimed environmentalist. As our conversations become more frequent and evolve, we both realize that we are creating something new and groundbreaking.
Everything fits like puzzle pieces. Our entrepreneur caps on; our desire to do something that has a positive impact on the world and the perspective to work with a longtime friend, we are in the genesis of a life changing and conscious partnership called WiseFins.
Look, I would have lost my job with or without the crisis. Of course, the health disaster that it is and the deaths that are left in its wake, it’s horrifying and heartbreaking. But I’d be lying if I said that all of it to me was negative. What it gave me, personally, is the time and space to reflect. The time to take a step back and make the conscious effort to think of my life with a different perspective. It opened my eyes to the fact that I wasn’t being my best. It made me realize that I could put my life at the service of something bigger than me through the expertise and skills I already have. In a way, confinement helped me find myself and my purpose.