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Jennifer Rudolph Walsh
New York, NY
I was living my dream, not as I had mapped it in my mind, but as it unfolded in real time, which I’ve discovered is much more effective and satisfying.
I’ll never forget how terrified and unsure I was, standing at that fork in the road. I had worked at the same small literary agency since college and I loved it there; the intimacy of the office and our band of authors made it feel like home from the day I arrived. By the time I turned 30, I bought the agency and renamed it the Writers Shop. I was thrilled by the freedom and independence of owning my own business, and the idea that I could grow and stretch as far as my vision would take me.
And for several years, that’s exactly what we did... grow! Then, an unexpected opportunity came my way to sell the company to The William Morris Agency, the largest and oldest agency in the world.
Down one path was everything I knew and loved and a home I helped create. I couldn’t see the end of that road, but at least I had a good sense of what it would be like in the near future, and I liked that. The other path was completely unknown to me. Not only could I not see the end of the road, but I couldn’t even see past the first step.
On a personal level, the timing was far from ideal: I had two young children at home and a third on the horizon. All I could see was what I could imagine in my head: my distaste for corporate America, the challenges of balancing young children and a new job, and a real concern about losing what was special about our boutique agency.
Professionally, I weighed my desire to stay independent with the need to compete and advocate for my clients on a global level. Sure, I was afraid of change and the unknown, but I was more afraid of not taking the opportunity to play (and win!) on a much bigger stage.
Ultimately, I took the plunge and never looked back. I arrived with my whole team and we reworked the literary department from the inside out. We brought a feeling of close-knit, family style collaboration, and soon that team spirit grew to encompass our new colleagues too. We learned new ways of looking at our work, and we, in turn, shared our smaller, more intimate perspective. Our clients were enveloped in a world of bigger prospects and more options. Everyone, clients and colleagues alike, benefited enormously from the fit.
Within a short period of time, I became the first woman on the board of that century old company and was able to affect change company-wide. I was living my dream, not as I had mapped it in my mind, but as it unfolded in real time, which I’ve discovered is much more effective and satisfying.
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