A Journey to Celebrate: Finding Your Spark

In honor of Women's History Month, we are celebrating the stories of inspiring women from our "big" community, who have used their voice and visibility to create change.

In this week's blog post we are hosting Shannon Eliot, a big Co-Creator, sharing her journey to find her spark.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been encouraged by parents, teachers, mentors, and those with more life experience to “follow my passion.”

Do what you love, they said! Money and success will follow, they said!

While I will always be grateful for the enthusiastic cheerleading, such advice has actually caused me a fair bit of anxiety over the years in the quest to find THE perfect career fit.  

The truth is that I have always had many passions. How do I choose just one? And more importantly, what if I choose the WRONG one when it comes to my career? Am I missing my life purpose? And my goodness, what is life without purpose?

(You can see how quickly this can spiral downwards.)

As an undergraduate at UCSD, I studied everything under the sun: biology, physics, chemistry, literature, history, statistics, political science, and music. (I even took a class on the history of the Beatles.) I fully prepared myself for medical school, then changed my mind after graduation. In business school at Berkeley, nearly a decade later, I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up as I eagerly threw myself into coursework on strategy, finance, operations, leadership, public speaking, and negotiation. 

I loved them all, but there was one class in particular that gave me a warm fuzzy A-ha moment: Introduction to Design Thinking.

I’ve always been passionate about the idea of innovation, but saw it as something others did. I didn’t know how to be groundbreaking. Living in the Bay Area, my idea of innovation was to invent a fancy new app that would eventually be sold for millions of dollars, and since I wasn’t a coder, that was out. I saluted the magical chosen ones for their trailblazing ways from afar. 

But with design thinking, I learned that innovation can actually be an incredibly structured process that not only empowers but actively encourages anyone and everyone to participate. In fact, I felt that it was one of the most equitable and inclusive practices I’ve ever experienced, including nearly a decade of work in the nonprofit sector. As I excitedly progressed through the course, all I could ask myself was, “Where has this been all my life?”

Now, as a consultant for BIG, I feel beyond lucky to have found my purpose: helping clients discover and harness their untapped potential while creating a newfound sense of connectedness within teams.

For the first time in my life, I feel that my wide range of professional and educational experiences are seen as valued assets rather than liabilities that some close-minded individuals might be quick to label as “unfocused.” An innate curiosity and desire to continuously learn is not just a core tenet of the design thinking field, but it is at the very core of who I am. For me, every new client means a new learning experience and new relationships, for which I will never stop being excited or grateful. 

As the character 22 in Pixar’s Soul would say, I have finally found my spark.

Leave a Comment