How I went from rejected to Google to a startup founder mingling with royalty
A few months ago, I opened an email that was hard to believe. It was an invitation to meet with founders of some of Europe’s most successful companies. Investors managing some of the largest funds in the Nordics and the Prince of Sweden would be there.
My startup, Coachendo, was named as one of the most promising businesses in Sweden. I could hardly believe it. That invitation marked the culmination of a lifetime of working hard and a long battle to find my path.
At that dinner I was asked why I started Coachendo.
I gave a generic reply that I used to give anyone who asked about my motivation. But, I want to stop giving the same answer and I want to share my experience. That’s because I am convinced that my journey will spark hope in people.
I am a woman and an immigrant who was brought up by a single parent and I never had access to privileged networks. My neighbours were not business founders, but middle-class and hard working parents.
My story starts in my teens. It was back then when I discovered that I had different opinions, hobbies and patterns of thinking compared to my peers. At the end of most discussions, my classmates (and teachers) would say, “but you’re different”. It was not easy to hear that you are different again and again.
The word different and it’s meaning dominated much of my time. So I looked it up in the dictionary and I defined it as:
“being different means everyone is in one place and I am at a distance from them. They are together and have a sense of belonging. It is something I don’t have.”
Some mornings when I was about to leave my home, I thought “here’s another day with being different, be strong now”.
Then one day, my teacher said “we have to think outside the box”…the shock of that… there is a box?! While others wanted to get out of it, I wanted to break into it, inhabit it, map its edges and understand what it felt like. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want to change myself, but I had the urge to know how different I was.
So I named all the attributes I could think of. I added numbers to them, weighing them and putting them on a scale to later determine how much I deviated. I was 16 years old at the time. While you might think I was young for this, it was one of the things I liked to do; to dive deeper into my thinking.
Years later, I had 3 degrees, in physics, economics and organisational behaviour. I mastered 6 languages and had work experience. I was excited and thought the world was wide open for me. That was not the case.
No matter how hard I tried, no one wanted to hire me, even though I was applying to entry level roles.
The recruiters would tell me that I was overqualified or under-qualified. Ambitious or not ambitious enough. I knew some tools but not the right tools. The list was endless. Meanwhile everyone — exactly everyone — in my class landed jobs except for me. Instead, I faced hundreds of rejections. That’s why I felt like there was some universal truth that only I wasn’t aware of.
One of the good things about my upbringing is that I learned to handle rejections and use them to grow my inner self. So I sent an application to a CEO job in a top energy firm. Weird as it might sound but I wanted their rejection.
I never received it, but I got it with their silence. That silent rejection was like a warm blanket in a cold winter.
Then came the unwanted mail. I had earned more than the limit to be eligible for the income conditioned student loan. That was because they counted the income from the summer months. To be frank, I had worked throughout my education but that was not for a surplus income. The student loan was only 750 euro and my rent was 500 euros.
Now, I had a bill in my hand of around 19 thousand euros and no job. Life felt very unfair and I didn’t know what to do.
I was in trouble; in debt, rejected and sinking into self doubt. So my mother, a single parent of four, gave me a startup sum to kick off my life in London.
Things changed the day I landed in the UK. I went straight from the airport to my first interview to my first job. I went from one job to another, hitting global and national sales records. I introduced new processes and led global and local initiatives. In this time I met people that are out of this world.
Later I got a job at Google and I started getting rewarded for my contributions.
I became one of the top 3 highest performers at Marin Software. Later I was also rewarded as the highest performer at Google in the Nordics. Then Northern Europe and later on EMEA level. At Apsis, I was recognised as one of the most valuable employees 6 months after starting my work there. Later I took an education at Stanford University. There I was nominated, from both peers and professors, to five intellectual awards and was rewarded one.
But no matter how much success I saw, the feeling that it could disappear any day was still there. I also learned that getting into a job is one thing, surviving in companies is a different journey.
In my jobs I heard many stories to the extent that I forgot about my own path. Instead I thought of their pains, gains and experiences. I saw people get promotions while others who achieved more were kept outside the light.
The saddest thing is that I saw people that had enormous talent, but were capped by company politics. Why do we all have to play this pointless game?
It’s funny how revelation comes in ways you cannot imagine. It was when my, at the time 4 year old daughter, insisted on wearing ballerinas in December. With much back and forth, I wanted a quick resolution. So I said “ if you don’t put your shoes on, I will take your favorite toy and throw it away”. I watched her go to her room feeling devastated, regretful and I felt like a terrible parent. Then she came back with a bag and said “here are all my favorite toys, throw them away. Now, I will put on my ballerinas’’. I was in awe of her. Of course she got all her toys and wore the ballerinas. But that event made me study child psychology and parenting.
With that, it all became clear.
I learned that the best parents are the coaching parents. Then I zoomed out to find out that the best managers are the coaching ones. The best companies are coach led and almost every successful people we know of has this support.
My biggest revelation was that I found out that coaching unlocks difference. It can neutralize it.
I also came to find that we are all different but that not everyone can be it, live it or express it. The reasons were clear!
We live in constant auto-mode. We have the same routines, same paths to success, everyone needs to believe in the same thing to be right. We have been told to follow rules we didn’t create and live in a world of constant noise. All that has a dormant effect on our own thinking capacity. We don’t get time to think and a coach unlocks thinking nicely.
Innovators throughout history all had their differences out there on the table. They expressed themselves well, where masters at building relationships and influential power. They learned to navigate fast moving workplaces and industries. All that with the help of their secret friend, the coach.
It turns out that coaching can bring about a moment of illumination. It can be to an extent that gives you a 360 view of yourself.
I thought wow, what if you could watch yourself as you watch a movie, then the answers would be easy. Don’t open that door, answer that call, say this, not that and so on.
Companies are aware of this impact and that’s why they offer it to their employees. But more than 90% of that goes to Senior to C-level employees. That little percent that doesn’t get access represents more than 90% of the organisation. This group of deprived employees is actually the talent group that holds the keys to success. That is not fair.
Why don’t we all have access?
It was time to roll up my sleeves and start closing this gap, to democratise and modernise this industry. Resign, plan and take command(!). SoI left the corporate world, the big salaries and amazing titles because it was time to change the world. I had a big mission and for that you need an amazing team.
I contacted my co-founder Filippa, whom I had met at Google and asked her to start a business with me. She said yes, let’s do it.
At first, it wasn’t all clear how it would work out, but after some deep research it all made sense. I told Filippa “this is it, we are building an AI driven coach that works like a compass to career navigation”. She was on it!
I spent 2 years without an income, leaning on my husband and taking all our savings . Because I want to see the day when my children grow up in a society where everyone gets a chance. A society where everyone has access. Having a small tool in our hand will make a world of difference. As selfish as this might sound, I want to help people who remind me of me because you deserve it and because I deserved it. That’s the spark that inspired me, and I hope it inspires you.
To make an exclusive service available to everyone because everyone deserves a chance!
We went from 2 founders to 4 in a heartbeat. Everyone with a background from Google and startups.
When we started the company we were surprised that talent from all over the world wanted to work with us. All exceptional people from self taught to Harvard and MIT grads. From startups, scale-ups to Google. They were ready to leave lucrative careers or start theirs with us. It is amazing what talented people are willing to do when they are passionate about a change!
There are many of us around the world driven to make this change. We are a group of people that are crazy about bringing more equilibrium to the world. We want to foster a more creative life where we are awake thinking. A life where we make conscious decisions about our careers and life in general.
If this is you, join us. If this is you, contact me to get access. If this is you let me know what you want to overcome.
We need to see the day when everyone gets a chance. Let’s talk.