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Michelle Danya

Entrepreneur

I don’t need to negotiate with HR to match a male colleague’s pay -- I set my own, prosperous, rates, doing what I love.

When I was 26, my mom was dying. I had just begun to get on my feet at a new position that would train me as a web developer. I had moved from D.C. to Philadelphia to a beautiful townhouse a ten minute walk from the office. Two weeks into the job, I found out my mother was terminal - it turned out she had a large tumor pressing on her windpipe. It was stage 4 lung cancer. We didn’t know whether she had a week or months to live.

I quit the position to spend what ended up being the last five months of my mother’s life with her. It was a whirlwind of procedures, distressing interactions with relatives, and close calls. close On the second day at the hospice, the nurses almost let my mother suffocate. During another visit, my aunt caught my mother’s head before she hit the ground. After much deliberation, we brought my mom home to where she had spent the last 25 years of her life.

Since I was caring for my mother full-time, I needed a job that was remote. Luckily a friend of a friend on Facebook posted a position she was leaving: writing people’s online dating profiles. The best part was, it was virtual. I could do everything from home.

I honed skills I didn’t think would be useful, such as styling intriguing email headers so that messages on dating sites would be opened. But it turns out what I was actually honing was deeper: my creativity and ability to tell a story. You need both when you’re trying to sell someone online in 12 sentences.

For the next year I worked at this large company, writing for CEOs to the 23 year old who ran the mermaid ride at Disneyland. The company valued efficiency and effectiveness, but it often came at the cost of authenticity. Writers would churn out profiles by reading a write-up of an interview the account manager conducted, without ever speaking to the client themselves. We also had a variety of template profiles we could use, if we needed to - but the templates were cheesy, and I was embarrassed to use them.

I wanted something different for clients, something authentic. I also wanted to interview clients myself, because my favorite part of this business is showcasing the best in someone to world. As for myself, I didn’t want to work at a company I wasn’t happy at. Having my mother taken from me early drove home the point I need, and deserve to be, happy right now. But no one would make me happy. I had to do that myself.

And so I established my own dating company, Dating by Danya. Running my own company allows me to authentically engage with clients, understand them, and fashion a profile that creates a true snapshot of who they are. Establishing my own business has also been a way to escape the paradigm of fighting for head of the conference table. I’m relieved I don’t have to fight a system designed against me.

And I don’t need to negotiate with HR to match a male colleague’s pay -- I set my own, prosperous, rates, doing what I love.

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