“I was miserable. I didn’t even know who I was anymore.”
What work were you doing previously?
I studied industrial design, and then worked in various roles including design research, graphic designer, writer, and more recently as a social media manager.
What are you doing now?
I'm a stop motion artist and maker.
Why did you change?
I didn't really plan to change my career, but I was feeling very unmotivated and lost.
I was miserable. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I didn’t know what I liked or disliked. I didn’t know why I was going to work everyday.
I ended up doing so many jobs, accepting whatever was available at that time, just to explore with the hope that maybe one day I’d stumble upon this one thing that I was meant to do.
But I never did.
I decided to take a break and just focus on doing something that I love regardless of what's it going to be. That thing was ‘taking products apart’. I secretly thought that my new career path would turn out to be product design at the end, but it was something else.
I didn't stop it, I kind of went with the flow, and stumbled into stop-motion.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
It was at my last job as a social media manager.
The company had relocated to another neighbourhood that was really far away from where I lived, and they were expecting me to make the drive everyday about an hour drive through heavy traffic.
This was the point where I thought I can't put all this effort into something that I'm not happy in. I loved the company and what they're doing but it just wasn't a match at all to me – what I like, and I what I want to do with my life.
Spending most of my life in traffic was not going to make this any better!
So I decided to switch to part-time work until I figured out what I wanted to do, and just work on a personal project in the meantime.
How did you choose your new career?
I honestly never chose it, it kind of chose me.
I started a side project where I took products apart, and I dedicated a whole year to it before judging if it worked or not.
I gave it time, and decided that I wouldn’t decide or plan where it would lead. I just let it develop and went with the flow. I secretly thought that I would end up redesigning one of these products since I was a product designer, but I ended up animating them bit by bit.
I had so much fun doing animation that I decided to do more of it.
Are you happy with the change?
I never thought I would be a stop-motion animator, or a maker, having this kind of work life.
I imagined a more flexible work life where I'm in control of my time, but I did not really anticipate all this happening. I just wanted to do something that I really felt was me.
It's something that I really love to do and if I could only do one thing my whole life this would be it.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
I definitely miss working with a lot of other people.
That’s still possible, I just have to be the one that brings in those people.
And I don't miss having a manager that doesn't see that my ideas might be good – that they aren’t just crazy, too-big ideas but are actually doable.
How did you go about making the shift?
It happened very slowly, and I didn't really plan every single detail of it.
I think this is what worked because I didn't limit the path at all. Instead of focusing on elaborate plans, I shifted my focus to taking small steps right now.
So instead of of imagining what kind of company I would have or where I'd be in five years time, I asked myself why I want to do this every single day, and what I want to accomplish instead.
I 'd look at the kind of opportunities I had at any given time and what I could do, even if it was as small as sending my work to a magazine or telling someone about what I do.
Six-months in I was in a position where I needed to earn more money. Companies had started to ask me for small animation jobs and so I thought, why not do it for a living.
How did you develop (or transfer) the skills you needed for your new role?
It's definitely my background in product design that gives me the edge that I have now in being a stop-motion animator.
I’ve used many of the skills I’ve learned from product design in my new career – not just the skills in product design, but also how I thought about approaching a new market that has very little jobs worldwide.
As a product designer you know that people don't really know what they want until you design it, and when you present it to people then a market is created for it.
So even if there were no stop motion jobs it's because people don't really know that they want it yet. When you create and present it to people, they will ask for it.
I started my career with that mindset.
To learn animation I practiced consistently and always reminded myself that done is better than perfect.
I knew that my videos were not really that good but I focused more on finishing rather than making something perfect. Over time my work developed so much.
Documenting my work enabled me to see that my work was developing bit-by-bit, and it kept me motivated to do more.
How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?
Definitely the hardest part was finances.
I started to freelance on the side whilst working my main job, but this didn’t go very well. So as soon as I got an opportunity to make some money doing animations I jumped at it and quit my job.
There was a salary drop, so for almost two years I had to make sacrifices such as going out less, not buying anything, stopping my gym membership. I saved every bit of money I could to invest in my company.
I didn't feel bad about it at the time because I really wanted to explore this new thing I was starting. But I could feel pressure from friends and family when I couldn’t do everything with them anymore due to finances.
At first it was also stressful adapting to a new, more unstable life where you don't have a consistent, guaranteed income coming to you every month.
But I learnt to actually like it, and I'm rarely stressed by the inconsistent income now. I feel very excited that I don't know exactly what's going to happen next. I get excited to see what kind of opportunities will end up in my email.
I use the time inbetween jobs to learn new skills, or to take a rest and prepare for the next big thing that will happen.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
Questioning myself constantly if what I was doing is the right choice or not.
I feel that if I'd surrounded myself with more people that have the same mindset as me from early on I wouldn't have struggled so much.
What help did you get?
My brother gave me a room to work from and create things, so that was a great help.
I also borrowed my friend’s camera for a whole year and a half so I could make my animations without buying expensive equipment.
And I'm sure I’ve had so much help from people that I don't even know who would recommend my work to someone, or share my work online, or write an article about me.
The Marino Institute of Education invited me to speak at a conference and I really appreciate the organiser who trusted me. From that conference I met so many other creatives and I got to see all the possibilities for my career.
What have you learnt in the process?
At the beginning I felt like a bit of an imposter, because I didn’t formally study animation.
To become an animator I thought I needed to know all these different skills, be able to do every single type of animation, and this stopped me at first. I didn't want to do all of the different kinds of animation, I just wanted to do something very specific in animation.
I decided that I can be whatever I want to be, and I don't have to limit myself with a single title. After that decision my work changed so much and I found my own style and unique creative voice.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
Invest your money early on into a passive income stream if this is possible.
I wish that I'd had more savings while I was doing this to feel less stressed during the transition.
There so many ways you can earn money with less effort now. Even if it's little amount it will help with the stress of not having a stable income at the beginning.
If you're at a point where you know what career you want to pursue or the field you’d like to shift into, find out who's in the top of that field and listen to all the podcast interviews that they've done.
Learn about how they made it. You're not going to “make it” in the same exact way that they did, but more importantly learn about their way of thinking instead and how that helped them reach where they are now.
What lessons could you take from Dina's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.