Sarah Liu is a ‘slashie’. She refuses to define herself by a job title or place of work, nor show up to the same place Monday to Friday to do the one task.
Instead, having recently quit a full-time branding position at a beauty company, she’s actively pursuing and promoting a career that has multiple facets and features.
“It’s about flexibility,” she explains. “It’s not having one job, nine to five, five days a week. It’s about seeing possibilities above and beyond that and saying it’s ok to reject the status quo, that that’s how change and disruption actually occurs.”
And she wants more women like her to own the ‘slashie’ title, pursing multiple layers of work that provide the foundations for an interesting and varied career. Her plan is to facilitate opportunities to do just that by developing her new business, Gemini3.
On Monday, her team of six will set up shop in the offices of Viacom International Media Networks in Sydney’s Darlinghurst for the year to build Gemini3’s job sharing platform, The Dream Job – office space she won through the Rexona Clinical Women’s Agenda Pitch Off late in 2014. Liu hopes to use the platform to nomalise job sharing by offering a matching service, education, and building a community supporting the lifestyle.
But being a slashie, Liu’s got plenty more going on this year. She’s further developing her networking group Little Girl Big Dream, promoting her book 500 Words of Wisdom in Asia and will be hosting and featuring in numerous events.
Liu says the ‘slashie’ career idea started before full-time work. She realised the possibility of such a lifestyle while completing an exchange at Tokyo University.
“It was the ‘normality’ around me at the time. There were people who spoke five languages. There was someone who had graduated from Harvard at 23. Others who were part time ski coaches in Colorado.”
That new ‘normal’ provided a turning point. Liu says it was in Tokyo that she was encouraged to never say ‘no’ and where she learnt the never-ending importance of education. “That set me up with the mindset to create my own career,” she says.
Liu later moved from her home in Auckland New Zealand to Sydney for work where she found herself continually dissatisfied by corporate life. “I had opportunities, but what I wanted to do was to create. I thought, is this it? Do I accept what people give me to do? Do I accept the status quo? Or are there opportunities and possibilities beyond that.”
While she has worked for employers, and says she may even work for somebody else again, Liu believes creating your own business – or in her case businesses – is the best way to embrace flexibility and security. Even if that means working12 hour days, seven days a week.
“I’m always replaceable in a corporate,” she says. “But with my businesses, that can’t be replaced. It allows me to really extend myself.”
However, she warns that starting a business shouldn’t be done as an escape. “A key question budding entrepreneurs need to ask themselves is, ‘Are you using your business idea as an escape from a corporate job you hate, or is it an idea that you’re really passionate about pursuing?'” she says.
“The idea of escaping wasn’t the case for me. I would have easily stayed with my job and pursued that, and I could go back to a corporate job, but I wanted to try something different.”
The short facts on Sarah Liu’s story:
Grew up. Auckland, New Zealand
Qualifications. Media/Communications and psychology
High school ambition. To be a news anchor
Who and what do you lead? The ‘who’ is the community at Little Girl Big Dream, and that is a reflection of young women in business. Leading young women in business to empower them to dream and equip them to achieve. The ‘what’ I lead is championing the agenda about equipping the pipeline. It’s also about influencing and championing individual perspectives on evolving ways of working.
How do you manage your wellbeing? I try and eat well. Having a partner who is into fitness really helps. He’s a lawyer, but also a personal trainer and guitarist (another slashie). If you have someone in your life like that then leverage off them.
An average day in the life.. It varies from day to day. I wake, start work and keep working until the moment I go back to sleep! I’m never really offline. I don’t see it as ‘working’. It’s about having ideas, exploring things, reading, learning, that’s all part of work. It’s consuming knowledge and being connected to people. In the morning, I usually go through my emails. Over the last few months, instead of writing a ‘to do list’, I’ve been picking out three things I absolutely will get done today. And I structure my day around that.
Advice to your 18-year-old self. The sky is the limit so go for it. You’re so young and people are going to give you advice about what you can and can’t do. Don’t be arrogant, be receptive, but believe in the power of your dreams and bite off more than you can chew.
Sarah Liu’s story is the 4th of our 100 Stories Project, in which we’re asking women about a turning point that’s shifted her leadership career. Telling 100 stories from January 1 2015, the project showcases the diverse range of leadership careers available, as well as some of the brilliant achievements and fascinating career paths of women. It also demonstrates how planned and unexpected forks in the road can take you places you never thought possible.
Other women featured in this series include:
Kate Morris: Why I gave up law to become an online entrepreneur
Jacque Comery: Leading a team of 12 on an Antarctic base
Lindy Stephens: The IT boss shifting the power base for women