How To Become A New Person
These 5 South Florida locals took a leap of faith and changed careers mid-course—to great personal and professional success. Here are their stories, for your inspiration.
Tracey Geffin Dikes
President & Co-owner, Weston Jewelers
After graduating law school from the University of Miami in 1996, I accepted a job in the Dade County State Attorney’s Office. I was a Division Chief handling homicide cases and supervising other attorneys when I took a leave of absence due to pregnancy complications. The Weston Town Center was being built and my husband Ed decided to leave his family business and pursue his dream of opening a high-end jewelry store. I decided to join him and leave law behind. My new career would give me the flexibility to be there for my kids and support Ed in his new endeavor. I went back to school to get my GIA certification and together we started Weston Jewelers in 2001. It’s been 15 wonderful years since I made the transition and we are still going strong. It was the right decision because now when a client says, “I’ll be back for you”, it’s because they were happy with their experience and trust me to guide them with all their future needs.
My most difficult hurdle is probably trying to separate my home life from work and trying to always be in the moment.
Biggest rewards: Some of the biggest rewards are an engagement—being there from the beginning and helping to plan the proposal and then being sent pictures and texts from the ecstatic bride; guiding someone to choose the perfect piece which I know will make the recipient so happy, and attending an event and having people say, “I love your store, I got this piece there. Your staff is amazing.”
Nicole White Quinn
I’ve been designing spaces in my mind since I was a little girl growing up in Jamaica, so becoming a designer was simply in my soul. But my journey was very unconventional. I’m a journalist by training, but secretly started designing homes for friends and family on the weekends, and eventually my business blossomed. I took my first leap in 2008 and I remember driving away from my corporate job that last day and feeling sick to my stomach. What the hell had I done? And guess what? I’d unknowingly leaped right into the recession. Clients disappeared as the economy took a nosedive. I was broke, devastated but undeterred even as I went back to corporate America in 2010 to write for a medical school. Clients slowly started calling again and soon enough, I was back to juggling a full-time job, my design business and, by 2011, becoming a mom. My life was insane, but in a good way. Once again I realized I couldn’t continue at this pace, but this time around it was my clients who said hey, you need to stop playing around and go back to designing full-time. So in 2013 I decided to take one final leap and haven’t looked back since. I haven’t had a slow season since. I honestly think it’s because I was finally ready to embrace this as my true calling and understand that this was my one and only source of income and I had it to give it my all.
The biggest rewards:
My clients’ loyalty. I have a serious client cheerleading squad, who I swear show my website, Instagram and Facebook feeds to everyone they meet.
The biggest hurdle:
Not taking out a line of credit when I was offered one in 2008, pre-recession. I underestimated the value of having cash flow for your business to cushion you during the lean times.
Partner of 305 Design Center
In early 2016, I was ready to take make a career change. For the previous 10 years, I had worked as the Director of Development for two different real estate and hospitality development companies in the Republic of Panama. Over that span of time, I worked on projects where Balinese architecture and design were the themes. I made many trips back and forth and truly came to love and appreciate Bali, its people, culture and artisans. When I decided to step away from the corporate development world, it was a no-brainer that I wanted to maintain the connection I had made with Bali. I felt the best way to do that would be to open a showroom in South Florida to showcase the best Bali has to offer in one-of-a-kind artisan furnishings, housewares, art and decor. That inspiration, along with months of research and business planning, led myself and my business partner to open 305 Design Center, which we hope will be the first of many showrooms.
The biggest rewards: It hasn’t been all rainbows and sunshine, but I’d have to say the interaction with our clientele, their appreciation for our products and service is what is most rewarding. We are doing buying trips for clients where we are now doing complete fit-outs for entire new homes under construction, from indoor to outdoor furnishings and all of the art, sculptures, fountains and even synthetic furniture and pool tiles for all of the outdoor spaces. Many more doors keep opening, and that’s truly what makes it exciting to get up and drive to work every day.
The biggest hurdle: Without a doubt the biggest hurdle was getting the showroom set up and to the point it’s at today. We started out with our showroom half-filled and a moderate selection of goods in June; since June, we’ve brought in an additional five containers of merchandise and both the showroom and our warehouse are now well stocked with our merchandise.
President & CEO of ChildNet
I made the leap because of my maternal grandmother and because of my father. My maternal grandmother was born an illegitimate child in 1898 Spain. The moral taboo of illegitimacy, however, forced her mother to give her up and she went into an orphanage. In 1899, she was adopted by a loving couple who were unable to have children of their own. They immigrated to Cuba, where years later, my grandmother married and had eight children of her own. By the time she died, she had six grandchildren and two great grandchildren. What started as a life in turmoil ended as life surrounded by joy. My father’s life, too, was tumultuous. He was raised in an orphanage in 1920s Cuba. His father had died in a worldwide influenza epidemic. My father was separated from his mother, who in the span of one week went from a a well-to-do housewife one day to a widow the next. A woman, a widow, a foreigner, with three small children and with all her family back in Spain, and with no money, she did the only thing she knew how to do, and she became a live-in servant, but was unable to keep her children with her. She did the best she could do and placed them in an orphanage. Sadly, my father, at 5 years old, was an orphan, separated from his mother and now, too, from his two older sisters. He lived in his orphanage until he was 14, when he ran away to be reunited with his mother and two older sisters. I promised my father, many years later, before he died and as I started my career as a young lawyer, that I would fight for children like him who found themselves in an unimaginable situation. Because of these two different yet oddly similar experiences, I became very involved in child welfare, especially through pro bono legal work. Also, I became involved in child welfare-related state and local boards, which eventually led me to this position. I keep a photo of my father in his orphanage on my desk as a reminder to me, each day, of the responsibility I have, not only to him and to my grandmother, but to every child who finds himself or herself in this system, through no fault of his or her own.
The biggest rewards:
I see children who enter foster care after being abused, abandoned and neglected, and they are at their lowest point. I see them struggling with their emotions and their behaviors. I see, however, through ChildNet’s involvement in their lives, a transformation. It’s the transformation of the child who came into care because his parents didn’t accept his sexual orientation, and who with the help of another of ChildNet’s many wonderful community partners (The Heart Gallery) exhibited his portrait as part of a traveling photographic art exhibit of children in foster care. A retired art teacher, who had grown children and grandchildren of her own, saw the portrait and felt pulled to the picture. When she approached the portrait and read the attached bio, which mentioned that this young man, 16 at the time, hoped to be an artist, the woman called the number; she began to mentor, then foster him, and finally, two weeks before his 18th birthday, adopted him. Today, he is a successful graphic artist and she feels she responded to a calling from God. These are just two of hundreds of transformations. Transformations from hopelessness to success. Transformations from sadness to happiness.
The biggest hurdle:
In my law practice—27 years as a criminal defense attorney—I was responsible for, at times, the life or death of some my clients. In becoming the CEO of ChildNet, I’m still involved in life-or-death issues and, more importantly, the responsibility for the wellbeing of thousands of children in every aspect of their lives. This required me to change my perspective, a perspective I had developed over decades as an attorney. I was able to successfully overcome this initial hurdle of the enormity of the responsibility by realizing that even though I was in a new role, the skills I had honed as an attorney were still extremely beneficial, and in fact, made it possible for me to have success in this role. But more importantly, I overcame the hurdle of allowing myself to feel empathy.
Dr. Dan Barnard, DMA, ASCAP
Associate Dean of Cultural Affairs, Broward College & Director, Bailey Hall
I always wanted to be a music professor. So when I got my first teaching job at a community college in western Nebraska, I thought I was on the road to a long teaching career. After seven years there, I left to complete my doctorate at the University of Kansas and then was immediately hired as a faculty member at Penn State Erie. As part of my duties there, I was asked to direct a high-profile chamber music series. This opened up a world of possibilities for me and quickly became my primary focus, as I found that I had a natural affinity for it. For me, the process of choosing artists for a concert series utilizes the same skills I employ as a composer—in both cases I am thinking about how an audience will respond to my choices. This is a connection I would never have considered if I had not gotten that job. I knew immediately that I wanted to shift my career into full-time arts presenting.
The biggest rewards:
The opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the artistic life of a community is immensely satisfying. My favorite thing in the world is to watch people whose lives have been a changed by that evening’s performance at Bailey Hall.
The biggest hurdle:
The most challenging part of the transition was that search committees always prefer experience over education. I had to work doubly hard to prove that my education would be an asset and that my experience was valid even though it was different than their other candidates. Now, seven years later, I am so happy I fought for what I wanted out of my career because my position at Bailey Hall allows me to do what I truly love.