“Life is never about choosing one or the other. Our career does not define who we are and what we strive for – our values and actions do.” ~ Maria Lehtman
Are you looking to insert more of your authenticity in your career? I am dedicating this post to all digital leaders who are making courageous career choices to learn new fields and be true to themselves.
Last year I had the pleasure of publishing a book, The Dreaming Doors, in collaboration with a talented and energetic artist, writer and reflexology therapist Caroline Cunningham. Caroline’s initial experience in Science and Maths later transferring to her authentic path has been a great inspiration. I am sharing in this post an exclusive interview with Caroline about her valuable career insights.
How do you benefit from a stem oriented career?
“Everyone works hard in STEM specialized fields, the question is, what are we doing to ensure people can stay in them?” ~ Maria Lehtman
- Question: Caroline, would you describe in a few words your educational background?
Answer: I originally qualified with Science Degree and followed with a Graduate Diploma in Toxicology and returned to college to complete a Higher Diploma in Education a few years later. My most important education, however, has been in the arts at the Bel Canto School of Singing in Dublin, Ireland.
- Question: What inspired you to seek your initial field of study and work?
Answer: I cannot say I was particularly inspired to study science. I knew very little about the job prospects that science would deliver in those early days. I simply showed an aptitude for the subjects of Science and Maths, and that was what was offered to me after my school final exams.
- Question: What did you enjoy about your career, and what would you have wished was different?
Answer: I enjoyed teaching Science and Maths for a few years, although I did find it exhausting and stressful. At that time class sizes were high, time was not allowed for the preparation of experiments before classes and teachers had to move from room to room after every class. Younger/new teachers tended to be given the most difficult classes to teach. After five years I was burnt out as I used to do quite a lot of preparatory work outside of school hours also.
- Question: How do you feel about the current business environment and the demand for women to educate themselves in the STEM areas?
Answer: It is great to see more women becoming leaders and up-takers of STEM education and careers.
Takeaway #1: Employers out there looking for more women in STEM fields, you have a chance to make a difference. What are you doing to accommodate your vision? An opportunity for a change? Definitely. Use your influence to increase delegation, flexibility, coaching, mentoring, and collaboration as some of the means. Everyone works hard in STEM specialized fields, the question is, what we are doing to ensure people can stay in them?
Let us continue to the next interesting twist in Caroline Cunningham’s career path.
What is an authentic path?
“I have sold my home more than once to keep funding my dream! -Tenacity and self-belief will need to be strong.” ~ Caroline Cunningham, Authentic Path
The stringent requirements in teaching made Caroline Cunningham evaluate her life choices and her best options to lead a healthy and balanced life. She began to pursue what she calls her Authentic Path and study healing with now an impressive resume in Reflexology.
- Question: Describe what the Authentic Path means to you and what prompted you to start on that path?
Answer: Nature forced me to stop and take a look at my life. I had not been taking proper care of my own needs until then. A career coach helped me to uncover the fact that my real talents and interest were arts-related. This is when I discovered The Bel Canto School of Singing.
- Question: How much investment did it take to start your dream?
Answer: I am continually investing in my dream. Most significant investments have been time and financing my creative education and healing. Travel has also served me. I worked in the corporate field for some years while attending classes at night (often five nights a week). Later, I up-skilled and became self-employed as a reflexology therapist. With confidence and knowledge building and gaining more momentum I soon started painting and exhibiting my work, and in recent years I also began publishing my books along with blogging. I have sold my home more than once to keep funding my dream!
- Question: How would you advise other people who are thinking about moving to their authentic paths?
Answer: To follow your authentic path it is vital to learn from the best teachers and guides, especially if you are acquiring new skills. Look for someone who can provide inspiration and support – change is not easy. Self-care is of utmost importance. Tenacity and self-belief will need to be strong. You must be very honest with yourself and continuously assess and acknowledge your progress or achievements. Your goals may change along the way, so stay flexible and be open and prepared for opportunities that may spring up unexpectedly. It is a very worthwhile journey.
- Question: Do you have tools or methodologies you would advise people to look into?
Answer: Everyone’s journey is different, some may need more healing than others. Some may find it is necessary to travel to find the right circumstances for fulfilling their dream. I can only emphasize the importance of self-care on this path.
Takeaway #2: The path to self-discovery and authentic path is unique to everyone. People should not have to choose between corporate and entrepreneurship by force, but by natural choice. We will also need an increasing level of creativity to support innovation in all workplaces and careers, combination of different career types.
The question in my mind was: How does Caroline manage the different fields she is pursuing?
Finding success in healing empowered with digital skills
- Question: How do you support people seeking your help in reflexology? Also, how do you combine your therapy and other creative areas, i.e., painting, blogging, writing/poetry?
Answer: All my work is aligned with supporting others through relaxation and inspiration for change and well-being. My artwork reveals nature and travel themes that link closely with well-being. My written works serve to inspire others to take a closer look at the world around them and be more self-aware.
- Question: Where do you feel society should invest and make changes to help people think and act more creatively?
Answer: Learning to keep positive mental health is the most essential factor for creativity to flourish. I wish there could also be more emphasis placed on the link between mental health and how human beings interact and treat each other. This is where we could possibly make the most significant shift in our society in becoming creative. I have a feeling that robots are going to spell that out to us. However, it will be us humans who will need to input that information more consciously.
- Question: What are your favorite digital tools and how do you create networks in them that support your development?
Answer: I use blogging and social media platforms to connect with my business network and clients. Blogging* is number one for me as it is a great way of opening doors both off-line and online. I have lots of stories to tell, and sometimes people are eager for me to share their stories too.
*) Caroline’s blogs have reached the finals of Ireland Blog Awards in 2015, 2017 & 2018.
- Question: You recently cooperated with the Finnish author on Dreaming Doors (Maria Lehtman), how did you experience that journey?
Answer: I loved the collaboration on Dreaming Doors. Maria has a wealth of knowledge in many areas, and we share many similar passions. I love having international connections, for me, this is motivating as I feel my work and energy are reaching many more communities. Every advancement and opportunity is a reason to keep the dream moving forward.
- Question: If you had to give three priorities to people thinking about starting an authentic path what would they be?
Answer: Three priorities: Take responsibility for your actions and decisions. Learn to trust your intuition and always have a backup plan and especially take good care of yourself.
- Question: What do you feel is the success criteria for combining STEM and authentic path creative skills?
Answer: STEM skills for me are about innovation, keeping an open mind while seeking new ideas and ways of improving our world. The same holds through when someone decides to delve deeper into their essence and bring forth the best of who they can be and their talents and skills.
- Question: What ideas do you have for your next creative projects, what are some of your short or mid-term plans or dreams?
Answer: There are books to be written and paintings to be created, but ultimately I hope that in the next few years my dream of singing can be realized. I need to create a space for this to happen. I love many genres of songs including classical, jazz and rock. Maybe I can create some themes that will incorporate all three.
Takeaway #3: Above all, look for a balance in your life. No matter the path, your health is an area you cannot negotiate with. If you want to succeed in the digital age leadership, you need to adapt to a pace that accommodates different skills, needs, cultures, and geographies – requirements for balanced health.
Takeaway #4: In today’s rapidly evolving economy we need more than one line of a profession – even if we learn new skills for a later application. Collaboration through digital means provides an infinite platform to learn and open new doors.
Thank you, Caroline Cunningham, for this insightful interview!
The Dreaming Doors Book I https://thedigitalteacup.com/the-dreaming-doors-are-now-open/
Caroline Cunningham ǀ https://www.carolinecunningham.com/
Bel Canto School of Singing ǀ http://thesingingschool.com/
Bizcatalyst360 ǀ Eileen Bild ǀ https://www.bizcatalyst360.com/work-life-balance-i-can-see-clearly-now/
Caroline Cunningham ǀ Refloxology ǀ https://www.carolinecunningham.com/about/
Caroline Cunningham ǀ Authentic Path ǀ https://www.carolinecunningham.com/reflexology/
Bizcatalyst360 I Featured Contributor, Columnist I https://www.bizcatalyst360.com/author/marialehtman/
Caroline Cunningham ǀ Paintings ǀ https://www.carolinecunningham.com/about/paintings/