And just like that, I became part of an article on women who shifted careers to pursue their passion, as told by Cosmo.ph :). I never saw this coming, but I’m grateful for the chance to be an inspiration to other girls as well. You’ll never know when your own journey can spark joy, somewhere down the road.
Written by Ms. Cheekie Albay
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Name: Lai de Guzman
Previous Occupation: Marketing professional for an IT company
How long have you wanted to be a photographer?
As a child, I’ve always felt like I had artistic and creative inclinations, but I didn’t always know what I wanted to become. I was just having fun. I didn’t always know that photography would become a language that I could speak. But it did matter that we had a simple family camera, a point-and-shoot model, which I was allowed to carry when we had events. It kept me interested in photos, and at that time, I guess that was enough.
In college, I took a business course at the Ateneo de Manila University John Gokongwei School of Management, but whenever I took electives, I always chose those that revolved around my interests, which were creativity and art and design. One of these electives was photography.
Why didn’t you pursue a career in photography sooner?
Honestly, I didn’t know how to proceed, especially without my own camera to begin with. I didn’t have a peg on pursuing a career in the creative field nor in starting a business. Some friends and cousins lent me their cameras when they weren’t using it, and thanks to them, I was somehow able to see and imagine things differently.
In 2009, I was a chance passenger at a photography apprenticeship program. It didn’t matter much to me whether I got accepted or not because I was only accompanying a friend. But there, I met people who were shooting full-time, and through their dedication and commitment, their generosity in time and lessons, the impossible seemed possible. Sometimes, we really just need people to look up to. And so I took the plunge after two years of being a weekend warrior.
What made you decide to leave your previous job and pursue photography?
Actually, I just got carried away. I hammered in work five days per week at a corporate job, and my weeknights were spent either editing photos or at training. Then I worked on the shoots on Saturdays and Sundays. I was beginning to feel like there were two versions of me. One that went to Makati, and another that went to the shoots. I was MIA from family and friends due to busyness. Eventually, I took a leap of faith. I was so curious about how things would be if I went full-time instead of having photography as something I did only on the side.
Describe a typical day at your previous job and describe a typical day at your current job.
In my previous job, I worked in Makati for several years. My day started and ended with the MRT. In the middle of it, I’d be in a cube, making calls, setting up appointments, or inquiring about services with potential suppliers. I also had admin functions and took orders for our company’s ecommerce stores. I was happy to have design workload for both print and web use.
In my current job, I’m happy to say that I get to start and end the day in prayer. I still wake up early for quiet time, where I get to talk to the Lord and organize my day, be grateful for the previous days, and offer the days yet to come. Typically, I push myself to go for fitness stuff in the morning, too, to make sure that I’m strong and agile for the events that I will be shooting. If I’m not editing at my desk, the rest of the day, I’m usually at a shoot serving clients and their families. I still take calls, set up appointments, and inquire about services with potential suppliers like I used to. The discipline has helped me manage my time and business as I embrace both the creative and entrepreneurial sides.
Every now and then I get a chance to go to my “workplace” via multiple modes of transport—car, Uber, boats, and airplanes included. Not bad, right?
What challenges did you go through in your transition?
I had too much free time. I wasn’t used to having so much time on my hands. I’m a busybody; I’m the kind of person who looks for things to do when I’m not doing anything. But eventually, I understood that rest is a part of the game. I just needed to find a balance among work, play, and rest.
Then, there were the upgrades and maintenance. A photographer’s battle gear, camera lenses, and lighting equipment need care, too. Every so often, we needed to upgrade our gear investments. We get paid for our craft and our services but we also know that it is responsible to plow back a certain amount to our gear so that we can go further in providing better quality photos.
I also struggled with direction. After making a decision to shift careers, I had to close old doors and open new ones. For a time, I didn’t know what shoots to pursue. But as the teams I worked with continued to study and upgrade skills and photograph new subjects, clients started to come.
What convinced you to stay on this path?
Dapat kilig ka! If you don’t like what you’re doing, it is easy to leave. But if you love what you do, you won’t entertain thoughts of proceeding elsewhere, unless of course the Lord changes your season. There are challenges, but the good outweighs the bad.
Knowing I was making people happy also helped. At a shoot, though we make the work seem light, it’s hard. However, the people we’ve served have been so generous in being encouraging to us. That keeps us motivated. Plus, it’s nice to help people through something you know you’re good at. If you’re differently-skilled, or differently-wired compared to your peers, that’s okay. Just look around and discover that there are people you can serve.
From the start, I’ve been a recipient of other people’s generosity. Someone gave me a chance, and I became more than I used to imagine. I’m still a work in progress, but it’s nice to pay things forward by giving jobs to others as well.
What lessons have you learned since deciding to pursue your passion?
Make do with what you have. Be resourceful. There’s always something new you can learn and improve on. A little courage goes a long, long way. Don’t forget to have fun. Always be grateful to people, and to the Lord.
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If you want to read more about inspiring women, I’m inviting you to read the full article on Cosmo.ph (Meet 4 Women Who Switched Careers To Pursue Their Dream Job). Enjoy!
Photo Credits: Derrick and Darlene Lim, Nikoy de Guzman