After pursuing an education in the arts, including a Masters of Art History from the University of British Columbia, Laura embarked on a mission to become an “art star”. In pursuit of her dream, Laura worked various full and part-time contract jobs to fund her personal performance art practice. Her income was often erratic and unreliable for many years. Eventually, this life started to wear Laura down, and she realized she needed to make a change in order to provide herself with a better life.
Looking For Change
Laura set the intention of starting over from scratch. She went through a systematic decision-making process she says was immensely helpful for making such a tough choice. She made two lists, one described everything she wanted in a job and the other was an inventory of all of her skills and strengths.
Having struggled with job insecurity as an artist and activist, Laura knew that she wanted to never face unemployment again, so her first list included things like “part of a professional order” and “something every organization needs”. The list of things she was good at included being organized, negotiating, and managing money. With these lists in mind, Laura spent time researching online, and finally decided on a new life as an accountant.
It wasn’t easy for Laura to get back into the learning groove. She didn’t have many resources to rely on when she enrolled in the undergraduate commerce program at Concordia but what she did have was lots of hard-learned punk wisdom. Translation? She knew how to make something out of almost nothing.
Laura used the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) to borrow interest-free from some small RRSPs she had saved, waited tables part-time at a worker’s coop restaurant and then applied for a small amount of student loans to make up the gap. But within 6 months she was able to impress one of her professors with stories of her experience teaching in anarchist free-schools, landing herself a position as a teaching assistant.
Meanwhile Laura feverishly researched and applied for scholarships, more than thirty within her first year. This process of hunting for scholarships is usually overlooked by students but Laura’s experience shows that it is worth the effort. Laura received a $20,000 scholarship, later discovering that she was one of only ten applicants, and that some scholarships aren’t even handed out in certain years because nobody applies for them at all.
Near the end of her undergrad, Laura was offered a job with the Montreal office of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the most prestigious public accounting firms in the world. It was a huge opportunity – only 50 candidates were chosen out of more than 1000 applicants that year. The competition amongst her classmates had been fierce and the opportunity was so prized that Laura was willing to try to fit in with the generally conservative culture of being an auditor at a “Big Four” firm.
Embracing, and Being Embraced by, Tech
Over the course of the two and a half years that Laura worked at PwC, she realized that even though she was able to be “out” at her job, she was still expected to be “normal.” Using her background in performance art, Laura performed a version of herself at work in what she called “Business Lady Drag”. But over time, the performance of normality, even an openly gay normality, started taking a toll on her mental health.
When Local Logic first approached her to work for them, Laura worried that leaving PwC would be giving up too much. Despite the challenges, PwC was an incredible environment for accelerated learning and unique professional opportunities. But Local Logic was persistent and pursued Laura for several months. Eventually Laura relented and met with Amanda Levin, COO at Local Logic. Laura saw much of herself reflected in Amanda, but also much more; Laura saw a potential mentor who could help supercharge her career. It was during that meeting that Laura came to understand the potential that working in tech presented; accelerated career opportunities without the need for daily business drag!
“Tech was a diverse group of weirdos,” Laura says, and for that reason she took the leap. Fast forward to now, and Laura has built her own department within Local Logic, a company where she feels comfortable and proud of who she is. She has retired all of her business drag costumes. These days she comes to work as herself.
Her life has regained balance.
The Benefits of A Unique Perspective
The advice that Laura would give to queer folks looking to make a change is to find what you want, and what you’re good at, and don’t hide your identity. Laura included all her queer activist work on her accounting resume, and willingly shared her less affluent background with perspective employers, because she says those are valuable perspectives for employees to have.
But making a change in your professional life doesn’t need to mean you give up on your dreams of making change in your community, and it certainly didn’t stop Laura. She finds that she can give back to her community through her technical skills CPA, providing financial oversight on boards of community organizations such as Head & Hands, Project 10 and (most recently) QueerTech.
By pursuing her new life, Laura secured herself a brighter, more employable future where she doesn’t have to give up on her passions in order to take care of herself. It’s never too late to make a change and with the help of QueerTech’s job boards, and special events you can be on your way to a new life too!