We asked our Under 30 community about their big break–the moment their life and career launched in an exciting new direction. This is what they shared:
The Incentive Of Working From Home
Growing up in The South I always thought my big break in entertainment would be while living in Los Angeles. Little did I know it would happen in my own backyard. The 2007 – 08 Writers Guild of America strike had dried up work in Los Angeles and I was ready to head back East defeated. However, Georgia introduced a film tax incentive that year. This drove economic development encouraging Hollywood projects to film in The South. Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva” was to shoot in my hometown of Peachtree City, Georgia and needed local production assistants who knew the area. Since I had both Los Angeles and Georgia experience I was hired on the spot. Since then I have worked on over 16 television and film projects in the state and could not be more proud to support Georgia Film.
–Tara Ansley, VP at New Artist Pictures
Two summers ago I was working with our research team developing advanced prosthetic devices with novel sensory feedback at radically low cost. After seeing a talk by a non-profit prosthetist who worked out of Guatemala and Ecuador we formed a close collaboration. The whole goal of our research was to make these hands cheap and widespread so they would be available to patients in developing countries. We began closely working with a group in Ecuador to simultaneously test and develop our devices. The U.S. embassy in Ecuador received word of our work and funded a trip for us to do extensive testing with patients in the field. This resulted in a really positive relationship with patients and our share of media attention, which quickly advanced our work. Upon returning to the U.S. this relationship and experience gave us the credibility and technical position to raise funds and leverage rapid growth. We’re poised to return for more trips and excited about the surprises and advances the future will bring.
–Patrick Slade, cofounder at PSYONIC
The Night I Became “Doctor of Business”
My “black swan” moment happened during the final year of my MD/MBA program. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in the process of applying for the 2014 Medical Residency Match, and my Rank Order List was due on a Wednesday night. This was my chance to rank the residency programs where I could potentially spend the next 3-5 years of my life. Before I could hit the “submit” button, I received a phone call at 8:45pm. “Hi Reda… We’d like to offer you a job leading IncWell’s investments in health care and medical devices.” I was elated, shocked, and somewhat sick under the pressure of the 9pm Rank Order List deadline. I called my brother Ryan to make sure I wouldn’t be crazy to drop residency. I also confirmed my sanity with my then-girlfriend-now-wife Sara. I called IncWell back to accept the position. I held off on telling my parents for about a week. When I finally broke the news, my mom’s biggest concern was that she had already told her co-workers that her son was going to be a doctor. “What do we call you now? A doctor of business?”
–Reda Jaber, partner at IncWell
From Burritos to Beijing
I was in line at Chipotle when an email popped up on my phone from someone named Sarah Wang with a Chinese email. I had to read it again for it to register. High School HeroesX was in its infancy in Philadelphia, and a girl I’d never met wanted to take my platform to China? The lure was irresistible, but the thought of “going global” so soon hadn’t occurred to me. The testing phase of the Philadelphia Challenge was about to begin. It had been exhausting, with problems mounting daily. Honored she found me, I began to work with Sarah. A year later, the Beijing challenge is almost complete. Five top high schools in Beijing (including that of Secretary Xi Jinping) worked on our Food Safety Challenge. Meticulously gathering data, students isolated one of the biggest purveyors of citizens’ interactions with unsafe food: students buying food from street carts after school. Through prevention campaigns, they have seen these numbers go down dramatically. When I received that email, I realized I could be onto something. It may have failed, but thinking that opportunities to take the leap from one local challenge to a worldwide platform don’t appear often, I grabbed it.
–Eli Wachs, founder at High School HeroesX
Falling On My Break – Literally!
After a bad ankle injury from a baseball workout during my senior year of high school, I ended up at Hospital for Special Surgery, the #1 ranked orthopaedic hospital in the United States. While I naturally wasn’t thrilled to learn that I needed surgery, little did I know that it would lead to “my big break” that I wasn’t even looking for.
In a casual conversation with my surgeon at one of my appointments, he asked me what my plans were for college and if I knew what I wanted to study. Ironically, I wanted to go to medical school and was interested in orthopaedics. He laughed, and told me that I should come in and work with him for the summer after I graduated from high school. So, off I went to NYC at 4 am every morning; my path to research and medicine began before I even started college.
I always tell people that there’s nothing to be ashamed of when you say that “luck” (even seemingly bad luck!) had some part to play in getting you to where you are. It’s truly about seeing the best in certain circumstances, recognizing a break, and running with it.
–Chris Murawski, MD Candidate at University of Pittsburgh
“Turn Around and Watch Me”
It was 2007 and I was a student in pursuit of a pharmacy degree at the University of the Sciences. Like many entrepreneurs, I wanted to take the road less traveled and was pursuing my passion in entertainment while earning a degree as a healthcare professional, as well. On one end, I wanted to provide people with enjoyment through events and on the other I wanted to improve people’s lives through health education and medication.
I knew it would be tough to balance but entertainment was something I loved and was willing to work extra hard for. My passion for it started with a dance team I founded at the university. It was multiple classes during the day, 6-8 hours of practice at night, and countless hours of studying overnight. What about sleep? Little naps here and there. The work paid off and our team quickly gained recognition as one of the top-ranked South Asian dance teams in the States leading to opportunities within the movie industry and a national tour with platinum recording artist, Jay Sean. These opportunities would build the foundation for what would one day be my event company, Platinum Dream Events.
A turning point in it all was when I was speaking to someone who told me, “Mayank, you really shouldn’t be doing all this or you won’t make it…you’ll fail in school and with your hobby.” Those words have echoed in my head ever since and have pushed me harder every time I have been faced with a challenge. I wouldn’t say I’m the most successful person out there but I’m happy and love what I do.
I’ve learned that at times the negative voices that surround you saying “you can’t” are the ones which push you to turn around and say “watch me.”
–Mayank Amin, founder & CEO at Platinum Dream Events