Last week at Miss Kaya, we said goodbye to our summer intern from California, Laura Nicklas. Working with Miss Kaya for the last three months, she shares her valuable life lessons with us in this article, highlighting the important difference between having a task and having a vision. Describing what drives her to chase her dreams, Laura Nicklas writes on her motivations and beliefs.
I went through a lot of phases growing up. Since elementary school, I always wanted to be great at something. I didn’t know what, exactly, but I have always had an “all or nothing” mindset. At first it was starting a restaurant out of my kitchen (sorry about that Mom!). Then it was becoming the next Jane Goodall— I read her autobiographies and did all of my science projects on her. I wanted to be a professional tennis player, an investigative journalist for the New York Times, the next Claire Underwood. By the end of high school and after taking my first Economics class, my next big thing was finance. I became infatuated with investing, wanting to work on Wall Street.
A common trend I noticed when pursuing each of these “passions” of mine, was that I would go from loving what I was doing to simply forcing myself to do it. Tennis practice and writing for the school newspaper became a chore. I would read books on investing and took an online accounting course and was bored out of my mind (even if I never admitted it).
The summer after my freshman year of college, I took an internship at a tech startup in my hometown of Houston. I knew nothing about technology or startups, but knew that as a freshman, that I needed more work experience. I would still study finance on my own and worked on accounting projects for my mom, as my mind was still set on landing an internship in the future at one of the top tier companies such as EY or Deloitte.
However, something that summer changed. And I became hooked— on startups, tech, the whole shebang. I loved the excitement of going to a trade show and talking to sharks interested in the technology my boss had developed, the business deals that could make or break the success of the company. It was like gambling— gambling on an idea, building a vision.
So the summer after my sophomore year I worked for a FinTech startup under a private investment group in Singapore. And It was a truly humbling experience. Not only is it exciting to learn and experience a whole new ecosystem, but I also gained new perspectives and was able to be part of a region where the primary objective seemed to be creating innovation and collaboration.
I watched a Ted Talk the other day called “Stop searching for your passion.” In the video, Terri Trespicio says “If you’re so busy looking for this passion, you could miss opportunities that could change your life”. I spent a majority of my time growing up searching for something to be great at— and usually failing.
I recently decided that I need to start focusing on what I love instead of what will build my career and make me successful. I need to stop convincing myself what I need to do and instead, focus on what I want to do. I realized adding strict goals and expectations for everything I did was even making me hate the things that I used to love doing.
In terms of my interests, I still love investing. I have always been a numbers person, with math being my favorite subject growing up, and I scan the markets everyday. However, my mind is no longer fixed on working for a top tier financial firm. I invest my own money I’ve earned from summer jobs for fun, and read finance news because I find it interesting. I’ve learned that you don’t need to be a finance major or take advanced accounting courses to become a good investor unless you want to sit at a desk for 12+ hours a day crunching numbers on Wall Street. In general, familiarize yourself with the basics, read the news and keep up with trends, open an account, and just do it.
There is also something very refreshing about the tech community, particularly in Southeast Asia. Especially as a woman, the “Wall Street” culture in the United States is very toxic. Working in the technology and startup space has taught me how much company culture makes a difference in your work. Of course, there are exceptions to everything, but what I love most about this ecosystem is the people. I go to a tech conference and everyone I talk to is welcoming and quirky, always looking to nerd over the latest trends, grab a drink, or connect with others. And in general, there always seems to be one common goal: how can I change the world and make it a better place through technology?
Moving forward, instead of setting strict, rigid goals for myself and feeling like a failure when I don’t achieve them, I have tried to broaden my purpose. Everyone needs goals— the innovators of the world like Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos wouldn’t be where they are without them— but now I try to make my goals a vision instead of a task. I am passionate about the latest tech trends such as blockchain, financial technology and the concept of digitizing money, and most importantly, increasing women representation in STEM and business-related industries. Whether achieving these goals will be accomplished through working in venture capital, continuing working at a startup, or building my own startup, I do not know. But I don’t need to know right now either.