Runnin Free with Devon Sibole

by jon on August 25, 2012

Below is a new interview with a good friend named Devon Sibole for my series on “Follow your Passion.” Devon has a powerful story that she told me one day on a trail run in California. She really epitomizes the message I want to share with this blog series. Enjoy!

Hey Devon, thanks so much for doing an interview on my new series called “Follow your Passion.”  So tell us all a little bit more about what you do at Outside PR & Sports Marketing.

I’m a public relations account manager, working on various outdoor and fitness brands, including DownTek, Pearl Izumi, GU Energy, Hydrapak, Road ID, Ambler, Injinji and AlterG Antigravity Treadmills.  Generally, I’m working with journalists, athletes and clients, helping to create and identify publicity opportunities.  I also spend a healthy chunk of my day writing press releases, pitches and other press materials and planning and prepping for events.

How did you identify this as a potential career path?  What were you doing before you started at this company and why did you make the change?

In 2008, I was working in media planning on a few very high profile clients.  It was a job with merciless hours and zero creativity.  I was unhealthy and uninspired.  But, it was a beautiful paycheck and we were staring down the barrel of a recession.  One particular morning, as I was walking to the office, I stopped to look at the people around me.  Gulping coffee and barking on cell phones, we were all marching ants rushing in droves to our desks or to meetings.  We all had matching suits and matching scowls.  I had a simple realization that made me stop in my tracks: This is MY life.  It wasn’t so much of an “ah-hah!” moment. It was more like a full-bellied SOS scream.  All I wanted to do that day was to go on a trail run and be with people who made me feel alive.  I wanted a job that made me feel unique, interested, challenged and that made a positive impact.  I wanted to be with people who were happy and knew that life was measured in more ways than in paychecks.  

When I reached the office, I felt genuinely relieved.  I trotted into my manager’s office, sat down across from her at her desk and gave my notice.

That same day, as I was signing up for a marathon, I clicked on a link to a company called OutsidePR.  I didn’t know much about public relations, but the company worked with brands I used and prided itself in creativity.  Additionally, the outdoor industry couldn’t have been a more perfect match for a person like me.  Even if I didn’t get this job, I knew there were hundreds of other like-minded companies to stalk until I got an interview.  I applied.

For a solid week, I reveled in unemployment.  I surfed my ass off, drank green tea by the boatload and ran all the trails I could find.  (I live in San Francisco, so that really is a ton of running.)  I squeezed in an interview with OutsidePR, too.  A few days after my interview, I got a call with an offer.

I always hear people talking about the importance of not being afraid to fail.  The idea that sometimes when you follow your passion or make a big change, there is no way of knowing how it will turn out when you start.  How did you handle those thoughts?  Did you have to take some risks along the way and was it hard to make the change knowing you were leaving a secure job?

There is no formula for how to live life, nor any guarantees that if you play all your cards right, things will work out in the end.  I wasn’t afraid of failing, I was afraid of never trying.  I knew there had to be something better out there for me, and I was intent on finding it.

As it turned out, I wasn’t lying during my interview at OutsidePR – I was a quick study and was able to take on more and more in the following months.  I absorbed everything I could, took on as many projects as possible.  I fell head over heels in love with my company and really enjoyed the people with whom I worked.  The industry was exciting and growing by leaps and bounds. I found a mentor.  Then I found another one.  Before I knew it, I had my own mini board of advisors.

I was encouraged to take time every day to work out.  Instead of drinking coffee, I’d take afternoon hikes.  Although my life had taken such a major change, my head had never been more clear.

There’s a quote, stated by the Grand Old Man of Nature, “Leap and the net will appear.” I think you have to have that ambition and courage to take that leap.  The passion part is integral – you need to know the kind of net in which you’d like to land.  Blindly jumping into anything isn’t a smart idea. Preparation and honesty with yourself is integral to any major life change.

How have you felt both personally and professionally since you made the change to pursue work you love?  How did it all turn out for you now that you have been with them for almost 5 years?

Over the past few years, my position has grown and changed in ways I didn’t know were attainable when I first took the job.  Personally, I love what I do because it reflects who I am.  I am proud of the work I do and excited for my work week.  My professional relationships are in many ways personal.  I get to go to a job everyday and work with friends.   We are a strong (and competitive) team that produces some amazing work.  I really do feel like the best is yet to come.

Any advice to readers out there contemplating a career change?

1. Figure out what excites and inspires you.  Immerse yourself in the activities and outlets that get you stoked.  You’ll end up meeting some incredible people who might be able to open a doorway for you.

2. Get a board of advisors that will tell you the truth but won’t try to shield you from failure.  Failure isn’t always a bad thing.  All of my failures have made me be that much smarter about my next decision and much more resilient and resourceful.

3. Join professional organizations in the industries that you are interested in exploring.  I met recruiters, friends and coworkers through the Outdoor Industries Women’s  Organization (www.OIWC.org.)- these connections have played a pivital role in my life and continue to shape my career.

Devon sure has a powerful story. The reason I loved it so much is because she is an amazing person to be around and so authentic. She has such an infectious, fun loving personality and really lives life to the fullest. I really feel that when you have the courage to follow your passion like Devon, not only will you be happier but you can make such an incredible impact on other people. So thanks Devon, for being the person you are. Keep running, leaping and living the way you do. Because you continue to invite others to come alive with their authenticity. And that is a world I want to co-create with you! Have a great week everyone.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

laure osullivan August 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Thanks Devon and Jon. I loved this. I love the outdoors and trail running—although sadly living in Chicago doesnt afford me as many opportunities as I’d like. But youve inspired me to think creatively
how I might explore other ways to bring the outdoors more into my life.

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jon September 1, 2012 at 2:28 pm

I love it!! Thanks Laurel.

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Carole Levy August 27, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Very inspiring series! I love the quote “lead and the net will appear”…

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Jocelyn Courtney August 31, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Loved this! Devon, your story is inspiring, advice is sound, and I can totally relate! And I just checked out OIWC–looks like a fabulous resource. Thanks to you two for sharing!

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jon September 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm

So glad you liked it Jocelyn!!! Devon is pretty awesome.

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