Out of Office

Out of Office

Eleven people on the decision to upend their lives during a pandemic by changing careers or starting their own businesses

The pandemic led many to reevaluate their life choices, which sometimes meant realizing that their jobs had become joyless or unsustainable. So as the world began to reopen in 2021, some people decided to completely upend the course of their careers. Whether out of financial necessity, a desire to do something more meaningful, or just wanting to try something weird or fun, here are eleven people who decided it was time for a change.

Image of Serial Tech Entrepreneur



Serial Tech Entrepreneur


Alexandra JoJo, 27

Denver, CO

I created a tech agency that helped other companies realize their vision, but I was starting to feel passionless. I’m looking for a creative outlet and to be more expressive, so I’m going into screenwriting and film production. Before I get to the point where I am doing a disservice, I want to make a change. There’s somewhat of a correlation to when I came out as trans, being authentic and doing what I want to do.
Illustration of a hand on a keyboard
Image of Technical Product Manager



Technical Product Manager


Jinny Koh, 41

Seattle, WA

My last day was in March. That toxicity was eating away at me, and I needed to heal as a person. I think being in corporate for so long, and as a female queer Asian working in tech—that’s its own trauma. My partner and I started watching this knife-making competition on TV, and I became obsessed with how one starts to make knives. I was always producing or refining or organizing and collaborating with a group of people, but never something I was really in charge of creating from start to finish. With knife-making, that’s what I get to do. I’m the one that designs it and says this is the kind of knife I want to make, the kind of handle I want it to have, the materials I want to use, and this is going to be its purpose. Once I started to really understand that, it became so alluring.
Illustration of a hand holding knives
Image of Started Sanarai, a Spanish-language mental health marketplace

Started Sanarai, a Spanish-language mental health marketplace

Luis Suarez, 35

Chicago, IL

Like many startups, Sanarai originated from its founder’s own need. Luis Suarez was working a demanding job as a management consultant and planning a wedding when the pandemic began in the U.S. last year, so he looked for a therapist to help him cope with the stress. But Suarez, a native of Mexico City, wanted someone who spoke Spanish, and just 5 percent of American mental health professionals fit the bill. So he created Sanarai, where Spanish speakers can book virtual therapy appointments with psychologists in Mexico at a variety of price points. His customers, many of whom are uninsured or underinsured, are thrilled. “When we hear that they are finding value, people say, ‘Oh, I thought we couldn’t afford this. I have never had these services.’ That’s what we like to hear,” Suarez says.
Illustration of a head missing a puzzle piece
“I think in this time where everything feels so far away and uncertain, I needed things that felt less conceptual and more concrete.”

Started Dooder, content marketing firm

Natalie Shahmiri, 40

Park City, UT

As the owner of her own digital marketing agency for the past eleven years, Natalie Shahmiri realized how little she, and most other agencies, knew about self-promotion; they were too busy promoting their clients. That’s why she founded Dooder. The company—which Shahmiri calls a “content machine”—creates a suite of customizable inbound marketing content for agencies, such as SEO-optimized blog posts, short video scripts, and Instagram posts. Shahmiri says there aren’t a lot of resources for autistic entrepreneurs like her, but she relies on the unique skills she has as an autistic person. “ I think my strength is my ability to strategize and connect the dots,” she says. “Instead of maybe just sticking with ‘This is the foundation of how you build a business,’ I’m able to see gaps where it’s like, ‘Oh, but why did we skip those steps? That might be another opportunity.’”
A woman stands, smiling through a ring light.A woman stands with her arms crossed in front of a tree.
Image of Film Literary Manager


 Ice Cream Maker

Film Literary Manager

Ice Cream Maker

Gabby Green, 29

Los Angeles, CA

I think the biggest thing for me in terms of dissatisfaction was that so much of working in film or television is building up and talking about things that don’t exist. You’re having a lot of calls about movies that might never happen or are very far away. I think in this time where everything feels so far away and uncertain, I needed things that felt less conceptual and more concrete. I’d been making ice cream in a hobby way before, and during the pandemic, I became obsessed with it. I stayed up all night reading historical books on fat content and became a scientist for the first time ever, even though I got a D in every science class. I love that at night I think about what I want to make, in the morning I make it, and at the end of the day, I give it to somebody and they like it. That concreteness is everything I had been missing.

Worldwide, search interest this year for should i quit my job and how to try something new hit the highest level in Google Search history.

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Independent Consultant, Singer Songwriter

Health Policy Consultant

Independent Consultant, Singer Songwriter

Kayla Ringelheim, 32

New York, NY

I was working in a corporate environment, my body hurt from sitting at a desk all day, and I wasn’t working with grassroots organizers at all. As an independent consultant, I have the flexibility to do both policy change and grassroots work, while building more rest and space into my day. I’m evolving how I show up as a person with immense privilege in service of collective movements. And not to feel too grandiose about it, but I was intrigued about what reclaiming my role as an artist can do and will do for my ability to do collective movement work as well.
Illustration of a hand writing music notes
Image of Professional Dancer / Manager


MBA Student

Professional Dancer / Manager

MBA Student

Tara Sheena, 32

Austin, TX

I felt really complicated about leaving my career in general, but I also felt like it was a necessity because there weren’t a ton of safety nets in place for me. I don’t think I’ve dealt with the fact that I’ll probably never dance professionally, tour, or perform again. These are things I’m used to doing and have built my life around. I’m still in that transition, and once I’ve moved through this phase, I think I’ll enjoy having a different relationship to my art. I don’t have to do it as my career anymore. That’s the flip side of that coin—I can have it be something in my life that makes me happy and something I can tap into when I need it, not something I need to create value or to create a career space for myself.
Illustration of ballet shoes and a hand with a pen

Started My Gold Standard, financial-literacy business

Stella Gold, 30

San Francisco, CA

A couple of years ago, Stella Gold was working sixty to eighty hours a week at a financial-planning startup. They were overworked and underpaid, and once the pandemic hit, they saw how scary it can be to have all of your financial “eggs” in just one job. “That was why I embraced the path of entrepreneurship,” Gold says, “to have more agency over my life and my world.” In 2021, Gold launched My Gold Standard, a financial-literacy and wellness business. Their approach to financial wellness is “trauma-informed,” meaning they keep clients’ personal experiences and mental health top of mind. They ask clients questions about their economic environment growing up, or any self-limiting beliefs they might have around money. Then Gold develops a “wealth road map” that shows “here’s where you want to go, here’s how I’m going to support you getting there, and here’s what you need to do to get there.”
A woman stands in her living room, looking at her phone.A woman sitting at her desk with two monitors

Started UrbGarden, landscaping and events company

Tanzia Karim, 32

Austin, TX

Gardening is in Tanzia Karim’s blood. Throughout her life, she’s traveled to Bangladesh, where her family is from, and tended to “fields and fields of mustard greens and different veggies and collard greens” in her grandmother’s village. So Karim wanted to start a revolution through sustainable gardening, moving communities away from relying on grocery corporations. “I wanted to make gardening approachable and accessible,” she says. Karim started UrbGarden in spring 2021 in Austin by hosting plant-centered educational events, bringing along tomatoes or zucchinis in self-sustaining pots. Now, Karim goes to people’s homes to set up their first gardens and teach them everything they need to know to bring their bounty to harvest—all you need is “a dinky twenty-five-foot square patio” to get started. Plus, she donates 15 percent of the proceeds to nonprofits that help feed underserved communities.
A woman waters plants.
“That was why I embraced the path of entrepreneurship, to have more agency over my life and my world.”
A woman sits in a garden.
Image of Optometrist Office Administrator


Software Engineer

Optometrist Office Administrator

Software Engineer

Clariza Mayo, 28

Queens, NY

My office closed due to COVID, and I was doing mostly auditing, going through all the insurance claims. I noticed I was starting to really like that part of my job—I was up until 4 a.m., and I didn’t even notice. My roommate was like, “I think you’d like data science.” I would say that impostor syndrome was a big battle. I would say whoever is changing their career should try and surround themselves with people who are supportive of their change. My old job, it just felt like I was going to work. Now, doing this, it’s really hitting that point where I’m happy with what I’m doing. I’m being challenged and am actually learning. The salary difference is almost triple what I used to make, so I’m able to now help my mom and my sister.
Illustration of a hand on a keyboard.
Image of Started Acclinate, Digital Health Company

Started Acclinate, Digital Health Company

Del Smith, 45

Birmingham, AL

Del Smith was a professor and dean of a business school when he decided to give up tenure to pursue his dream of starting a company to address disparities in clinical trials. After his mother died of tuberculosis and his biological father died of cancer, Smith saw a need for getting more people of color into pharmaceutical trials, where they often make up less than 10 percent of participants. He started Acclinate on the side, in 2019, but eventually realized he’d have to commit to build the business. The company addresses the issue through spreading awareness, building engagement, and using technology to connect pharmaceutical companies with participants. “My personal finances were screaming, ‘Maybe not now,’ but I had faith that we were going to figure out a solution,” he said. “At some point, you have to make a leap. Where you don’t want to be is in the middle.” His jump paid off: business is up 350 percent over 2020, and this year he started paying himself a salary.
Illustration of hands holding pill bottles and a syringe

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Carlos Chavarría


Born and raised in Madrid, Spain, Carlos Chavarría’s recent series Façade was shortlisted for various awards, including the Book Dummy Award, the Landskrona Foto Dummy Book Award, and the Fiebre Dummy Award. Now based in San Francisco, California, Chavarría splits his time combining his personal work with editorial assignments for magazines like Apartamento, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal Magazine, among others.

Mary Inhea Kang


Mary Inhea Kang is a South Korean American photographer driven by a desire to understand and document the identities we construct for ourselves, which affect how we build our world. Through her work, she explores the tensions and limits between individualism and collectivism. Mary is currently based in Austin and New York City.

Kim Raff


Kim Raff is a freelance documentary, editorial, and reportage photographer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, ProPublica, PBS NewsHour, Bloomberg, Associated Press, NPR, NBC News, The Guardian US, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and more.

Camilo Huinca


Born and raised in Santiago,Chile, Camilo Huinca has divided his career between graphic design, painting, and illustration. The main motivation behind his work is “to be able to generate a communication method based on simplicity and synthesis, with few tools and colors.”