I Took the Leap and Moved Across the Country

GT: I’ve had dreams about moving to a distant place… shaking life up a bit, trying something bold and new. I admire people who do take that leap to pick up and move, and my coworker, Cameron Olshansky is one of them. She’s very dedicated to her career and actually trained me in the role I’m in now. Cam is a great gal. I asked if I could interview her about what it was like to pack up and move from Arizona to Massachusetts. I wanted to hear her fears, excitements, realities, and what she’s learned. If anyone is thinking of making a big move, it’ll be helpful to hear her experience (and get inspired by her career dedication)!

Tell us about yourself.

Hi! I’m Cameron. I grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona. I studied speech and hearing science and communications disorders at Arizona State University. ASU was basically like a city on its own; the campus is HUGE. It lives up to its party school name for sure. I’ll say, I was one of my only friends that got out in four years… or got out at all. It’s because of the lifestyle there. Somehow I was able to maintain focus and balance work, a social life, and class. I did great in school, but I probably could have applied myself better. I was always just like a workhorse… I loved working.

I got my first job at a restaurant as soon as I could work at age 16. I’d pick up other people’s shifts and say no to hanging out with my friends. I just loved working. It’s not like I saved a ton of money, I just have always enjoyed working and feeling productive. I also enjoyed the social aspect.

I started working for Make Meaning after college because I didn’t want to wait tables or work in the restaurant industry anymore. It was a super creative environment where I could help kids craft. After working for Make Meaning for two years, I had worked my way up to running a staff of 30 employees. I was a General Manager. I knew the business and the company very well. We used Toast at Make Meaning as our POS system. Some of the higher ups said “Hey you’re really good with the system. You deeply understand the technology. You should go pursue Toast.” I loved knowing what buttons to press. I just connect with tech; I’m like a robot.

What brought you to Boston?

Make Meaning saw potential in me, so they offered to have me open the brand new Boston location. I had never visited the city. I didn’t know anything about Boston. I knew no one. I was just like “Well, I’ve never done anything this spontaneous or cool before... I’m doing it.”

My parents weren’t super thrilled by the idea, but I felt like being in Arizona was stagnant for me. I really wanted to do something different. I knew I was going to miss my friends and family terribly, but I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to learn about myself. I don’t think I thought about that at the time, but in hindsight that’s what was happening.

I pretty much closed my eyes, put my finger on a map, and decided to live in Jamaica Plain (JP). It was affordable five years ago. I moved in May of 2012.

Were you fearful of moving? What scared you the most?

Yes. I was afraid of leaving my family. I was also afraid because I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know what to expect about the city. At the same time, I wasn’t scared. I thought I’d take it day by day and see what happens. I think the best thing I did was go in with zero expectations. I knew I just deeply needed something different. There’s nothing to lose if you don’t have any expectations!

What excited you the most about moving?

Everything was new! I wanted to meet new people. Most importantly, was growing my career because I wasn’t going to use what I went to college for. Because of that,  I knew I had to put up a fight for my career. Since I was uncertain, I had to be paving my own way. I only applied for one grad school and I think because I only applied to one, it told me I wasn’t that thrilled about it. I didn’t care about taking the GRE. I took it, but I wasn’t excited about it, so I just kind of let it go. I thought maybe I’d revisit it in the future, but I wanted to focus on my career instead.

What do you love about being in Boston?

Boston is a cool city. Boston specifically has a buzz about it that I can’t explain. It feels more alive than Phoenix for me. I love the public transportation (who says that, but I didn’t have the T growing up). I also love the fact that there’s so much history here that I had no idea about. I’ve learned simple American history living here. That’s embarrassing to say. The architecture is beautiful. There’s also just generally a lot to do and see.

I didn’t realize at the time how much of a tech-place this is. I knew nothing about MIT. it’s strange that I ended up here. I didn’t expect to be in tech. I never really thought about technology being my career, but it kind of just fell in my lap. It’s a huge opportunity to build a career in technology. It makes sense, though. When my parents bought our first mac computer, I was 12. I was obsessed with it. I loved pushing buttons.

What do you miss? What is hard?

Obviously I miss my family. I miss big streets (ha). It’s so much more roomy in Phoenix. Boston’s just so dense and compact. It’s fine, but I feel like I can stretch out when I go home. I don’t really miss driving. Uber is fine. I think the biggest thing is the open space. The desert is pretty cool. The winter’s are mild, but I couldn’t put that on the list of the first things I’d miss. It’s just weather - I can adjust. Honestly, the weather doesn’t phase me either way.

One thing that has been really hard, though has been missing out on my friend’s lives and milestones… like my best friend having a baby.

There was some culture shock around the snow. I honestly had zero idea what to do in it. I didn’t know how to shoveling my car. One time my car got hit by a plow truck, but they ran after. Do I shovel the sidewalk? Does someone else? It was all very confusing.

What tips do you have for someone considering a big move?

JUST DO IT. Do it. If you don’t like it, you can go back. It’s always good to have supporters back home… people who are gung-ho about you leaving. They’ll support you, they’ll miss you, but you can talk to them. It’s totally okay that it doesn’t work out. Go back if it doesn’t. It was also important to have people you thought that I couldn’t do it. It made the move a challenge, but I got to prove them wrong. Fuck the haters. Am I right?

I want to suggest to prepare a little bit more than I did, but honestly plans usually don’t go the way you want. Keep your expectations in check and keep an open mind. Plan for experiences to happen… shit’s going to go sour here and there, but it’s okay.

When I worked at Make Meaning, I had no friends. My employees were younger than me and I was the manager, so all I did was hang out with my boyfriend. It became toxic because it was all I had. That was a challenge when we broke up because I was like “Oh shit. I need to make friends.” It was absolute hell to go through a breakup alone, but I got through. It took me three years of being here to have a solid network.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I will definitely be running/owning my own company. I think that working in the tech startup world has been really inspiring for me. I’ve learned so much through seeing what other people have done. I’ve seen successes and I’ve seen failures. I’ve been able to come up with some good ideas. I will be a CEO. Sort of an after thought, but maybe family. Maybe kids. Yeah, probably family and kids.