Meet Aqua Zumaraite
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Hi there 👋 A very warm welcome to the first edition of this brand-new series I'm creating.
I'm calling it: “in your own words” - where generalists from all over the globe, with all kinds of squiggly backgrounds and twists and turns, share their experience. I hope this series sparks inspiration, draws on collective wisdom and insight, and ultimately, ignites hope for what's possible for you
Today, I'd like to introduce you to Aqua Zumaraite. Aqua leads Operations & Partnerships at Flexa Careers. A proud generalist, it's been a delight getting to now Aqua in the community (& helping her celebrate her wins!)
Let's get to it 🤸♀️
Tell us, in your own words, your generalist story
From packing a few suitcases at 18 and moving countries by myself, to a place with no friends and no family, to living in multiple countries and cities, meeting so many interesting people, who've had incredible influence on my life it has been a wild journey! Looking back at it all now, I wouldn't change a thing.
Every specialist job I took led me to gaining so many brilliant skills and growing as a generalist, without me even knowing it! As I was changing careers like socks, thinking “I just haven't found the right specialty”, I was actually slowly developing as a generalist.
Every skill I learnt in various departments and functions, every person who mentored me and every, what felt like at the time, massive fail was redirecting me to where I am now - thriving in a generalist role.
As for what the future holds for me - I honestly have no idea, and for the first time in a while, I am okay with that! I don't feel the pressure of finding where I "fit in" anymore because as it turns out, I fit into many areas.
How has being a generalist worked in your favour?
I finally passed the 1 year mark in one role. Before I knew I was a generalist, I stuck it out in specialist roles. I had never worked in one role for more than 11 months. Don't ask me why 11, I'm not sure, but the pattern was always the same. The first 2 months I am extremely excited. The next 4 I am extremely focused, implementing (or trying to implement) a lot of changes. The next 5.. I feel stuck. I feel like I am being constrained, getting stuck into monotony and no matter what I do or what I try to change or do more of, it just all feels the same and I loose interest.
Since starting a role where I get praised for being a generalist, rather than misunderstood, I have finally spent over a year in my current role and I am the happiest I have ever been - genuinely no two days are the same!
Which role / job has been your favourite and why?
Definitely my current role. A role that was actually created for me. After interviewing for two different roles with the company, I received the call that changed my career and, well, brought me here.
“We don’t think you’re suitable for the roles we are hiring for… However, we would love for you to join our team anyway as we think you’d be great at a generalist role”.
That was the first time I hear the term generalist, and it has completely changed my whole perception of who I am since
Now, I get to fully embrace being a generalist and to work alongside some of the most brilliant people I've ever met! Working in startups in general has been such a breath of fresh air, but working in a startup with two incredible generalists as mentors has been invaluable.
What moments / decisions have made outsized differences to your life?
I think the breaking point that led me in the generalist direction was quitting my job during Covid to try and do something online myself. I wouldn't necesarily recommend this to anyone, but I am the type of person that takes the leap first - and then figures the rest out. I was miserable in my job and I just thought to myself, “surely I am capable of doing/creating something online”.
I put myself in a situation where I had no other choice but to succeed. So I quit. Right there and then. (Thankfully) this lead to me running some successful online businesses and from this grew the desire to work in startups, with likeminded people.
I initially joined a tech startup as their first ever employee. I helped launch the business and had my first truly generalist role (even though I hadn't yet figured out that's what it was). Fast forward a year later I landed my dream role at my current company where I found two absolutely incredible generalist mentors who have been a dream to work with.
How have you honed in on your generalist skillset?
Not being afraid to fail. Being a generalist means you never stop learning. Ever. And a lot of the times, we learn by trial and error. So not being afraid to fail, I think is key to being to becoming a great generalist.
Tell us about strategies you've undertaken to up-skill
100% finding other generalists. It is so underrated and I think one of the main reasons Generalist World is an absolute gold mine. Connecting with other generalists, learning from them, picking their brains can have such an impact on your own development and realising the full potential of being a generalist.
What's the hardest thing / biggest challenge you've faced because of your generalist nature?
For years working in specialist roles and hitting that 8-11 month mark where you just feel like you need change and you need it now. Feeling so unfulfilled and unhappy in a job due to the structure of a specialist role and feeling so lost, thinking that you once again chose the wrong specialty and that you are the problem.
What do you wish the world knew about being a generalist?
1. It is OK to not want to be a specialist
2. Generalists can see your company in a way others cant, they truly have a 360 degree view of what's happening and which departments should be working together and on what projects and we are specialists in connecting those dots/departments
3. Generalists can burn out very easily due to the responsibility load and the way their brain works. We can't switch off as easily as we feel responsible for multiple departments/ areas/ projects at a time
4. You can hire a load of specialists or a load of generalists, but together, generalists and specialists can take your company to the next level
🔥 Quick-fire round
Recommend a book:
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Recommend a podcast / movie:
The Anxious Achiever
Recommend an inspiring person to follow:
I have quite a few inspiring people in my life but sadly they are not very active on socials! One of the most influential generalists in my life at the moment, however is Molly Johnson-Jones, who I get to work alongside everyday
Stay tuned for our next “in your own words” story - we have a bunch in the works at the moment! 💛
As always, I'm cheering for you!!