#DefineExperience is our bimonthly campaign where we interview interesting and successful people about their experience. We ask them not only about their professional experience but also about a more personal side of things.
It’s a pleasure to introduce to you our ninth interviewee – Nia, who was an intern in the European Parliament but shifted her career and became a PR specialist.
1. Hey Nia, what’s your story?
I was born in Bulgaria and when I graduated from school I moved to the UK to get my Bachelors degree in “Law with Politics”. After graduating, I received the opportunity to work in the European Parliament in Brussels, which I perceived as my biggest life accomplishment up to that point. I spent 2 years there. During that time, I was exposed to various interesting processes happening in light of the controversial role of the EU in recent days. It was also there where I realized that the political, bureaucratic professional path was not mine.
I came back to Bulgaria in 2014 and found myself in a very positive, productive and inspiring environment in the heart of the startup habitat in Sofia, in the face of betahaus. This gave me the energy and belief that there actually is a possibility for young people in Bulgaria, as long as it’s perceived.
I became part of the team that organizes the biggest street festival in Sofia – “Sofia Breathes”. Afterwards, I started working with Club-Mate Bulgaria (the Holy Mother of hackers’ drinks) and freelancing in social media.
During my time in the European Parliament, I started showing a profound interest in social media and began managing several political accounts, outside of my daily duties. I also started teaching Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on how to build their social presence online. At that time I didn’t know that this would be exactly what I wanted to do.
Last year I founded my own company – FRANK strategics – boutique Strategy & Creative аgency. We do PR, crisis solution, creative, social media, advertising, event management, and many more things.
Quite a turnout for a person who went to a law school and was beginning to pursue a career in the governmental sector. All of my past experiences combined got me to where I am right now, doing what I do.
I can run a project, and a whole company, because of the character that these events have shaped me. Without them, I wouldn’t be here. Even if I had a degree in marketing, media studies, law or else. I’ve had a turbulent ride up until now. I am grateful for it, though. No one day is the same and surprises peek at every corner. I proceed with curiosity, bravery, and eagerness to learn. I can’t wait to see what’s more to come!
2. Nia, please define experience.
Experience are the little building blocks that create the image and shape of you. The more experiences you have, the more complex person you become. Thrive on everything that is happening to you – whether it’s good or bad. It has a purpose which may not be immediately visible, but you will collect the fruit later on.
3. What do you consider as your most significant accomplishment in your career so far? What about outside of your career?
Getting a job after graduation, and it being at an institution like the European Parliament, was the biggest success of my early 20s. I remember walking to work the first days, listening to A$AP Rocky and feeling like I’m the coolest person I know… :))
Currently, I would definitely say that the biggest accomplishment in my career is beginning the project with the agency – having the balls to do it and actually doing it well. This gives me the strength and courage to take on even bigger projects. It’s funny how once you leave your comfort zone the possibilities become endless, and your hunger for challenges becomes enduring.
Outside of my career, the most significant accomplishment is taking the decision to come back to my home country, and pursue a life and career here. Bulgaria is a country where young people are always told that there is no place for them, that they won’t succeed, that the country is in ruins and all hope is lost. I believe this isn’t true. I see many possibilities in Bulgaria – an EU country that is far behind its Western European allies. Although it’s behind in development, it’s still in the EU, which means sooner or later it needs to follow up with its neighbors. There are many things that will be introduced here – from services, through products, business philosophies, etc.
Therefore the important question here is: Who will be the people introducing them? I prefer to be one of them 🙂
4. Do you think failure is part of the experience? What was your biggest failure?
I don’t really consider failures in their ordinary meaning. Everything you do can have a positive or a negative turnout. Or something in between, of course. “Failure” is part of the experience as long as you identify the lessons to be learned and apply them afterwards. Therefore failure is as valuable as success.
My biggest negative turnout in life was not getting accepted into the MA degree, at the university I wanted at the time. I was preparing my application for 2 years. But again I wouldn’t call this a failure as this situation made me rethink what I wanted to do with my life and took me where I am today.
5. What lifehack tips would you give to your 18-year-old self?
I think it’s really important as a young person to avoid putting any barriers to your imagination and possibilities. When you’re 18 and everyone is putting pressure on you to make these really serious decisions about your future, you can lose your focus by trying to please others and meet expectations. Surely, your family means well, but the life is yours.
Take advice into consideration, but make the choices yourself – and be responsible for them afterwards. Also, spend time exploring and meeting people, as they shape you even more than the education you receive.
Don’t take relationships too seriously, and try to get out of your comfort zone every day.
6. Would you do something differently if you had the chance?
The things I’ve done have brought me to where I am. And I’m in a really good place right now. If I was to go back with the mind I have now, I would probably do things differently as the difference between 18-year-old Nia, and the Nia of today is the experience that has shaped me. Therefore, if I did things differently, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I often find myself reviewing past experiences and decisions. But I do that so I can take out the lessons and do things differently in the future when I find myself in a similar situation.
7. This is not from the questions list, but can you tell us more about quitting your job at the European Parliament in Brussels and returning to Bulgaria to build your own strategics firm?
Glad you asked. In the spring of 2014, I came back to Bulgaria for a month to campaign for the European elections. At that point, I was already living outside of Bulgaria for 5 years. I was really detached with the country – I had barely any friends left and only came back for a few days to see my mother. That spring I had the opportunity to explore Sofia – it started with the very active arts & cultural community, where I met many creative and inspiring young people. A week into my stay in Sofia, a friend took me to Betahaus.
I had no idea what coworking spaces were back then, and no idea we had these in Sofia. I remember walking through the hallways of betahaus and listening to my friend explaining what this was, and who these people are, (startups, entrepreneurs) and I remember feeling so excited, amazed and inspired at the same time! I believe this is the turning point where I could no longer be the same. I could no longer be ignorant as to what an awesome place Sofia can be, and how big the opportunities here could be! Meanwhile, I didn’t find the job at the European Parliament exciting nor inspiring. It was very interesting the first year when I got to learn how this ‘’European machine’’ works – learn all the processes, see the structure etc.
During the second year, I realized the passivity of my role – sitting at the desk, filing files in every day. A job that anyone could do. What was my personal contribution? Could there be any, really? That night at betahaus opened my eyes and I realized that I, just like Sofia, have options to do and be something meaningful.
I finished the campaign and went back to Brussels to take my stuff. The following two years I engaged in many various activities which shaped my preferences, ideologies and also showed me what I’m actually good at, at this point in my life. And that’s how indirectly the decision to quit my job led me to start my own project. Frankly, the best decision ever.
We want to thank Nia for sharing her story with us. It’s always very inspiring to learn about someone’s lessons and achievements.
If you enjoyed reading our ninth #DefineExperience interview, then stay tuned, because there’s more to come. Moreover, if you’d like to be part of our #DefineExperience project by doing an interview yourself or recommending someone to get interviewed, then write to us.