About Alison ยป Career
Read about my journey:

In general:
    Short Bio
    Read the whole story
    See my life in pictures

Specific branches:
    Weight loss
    Changing career
    PCOS and Natural Fertility

Most people thought I was completely mad when they found out that I wanted to leave my job at Microsoft. I was earning really well, had amazing benefits including stock options vesting over many upcoming years, worked in beautiful surroundings and was regularly sent on ridiculously luxurious outings. My job was mentally challenging and, the icing on the cake; I'd been scouted to take part in a talent development programme which placed me in the top 5% of employees.

It was all laid out; a golden career path to glide on to. But I gave it up – initially for a job with a 3-person charity above a Chinese restaurant in London earning less than half the salary. That was the start of a career journey that saw me spend time training in alternative health, before teaching English and moving countries, until following my passions led me to deveoping and building my own business Path Less Trodden, where I now 'work' doing the things I love – writing, inspiring, speaking, creating and coaching.
Why did I do it? Leave my job at Microsoft?
Because I felt flat, frustrated and dead inside. Although the job challenged me mentally and I loved the customer contact, my heart wasn't in it. I wasn't inspired by computer software and knew I never would be.
I heart sank everytime I drove into the 2000-car car park and beeped my way into the brightly-coloured corridors. I remember thinking,
"There has got to me more to life than this!"
I had things that I loved that I wanted to be spending my time doing.
And I knew that if I didn't at least try I'd end up regretful. The thought of getting old and looking back- thinking, "Why didn't I give it a go?" chilled me.
We spend such a large part of our lives at work. In very many ways our jobs define our existence. I believe our work should speak to the whole of us; allow us to express our joy and uniqueness, to use our natural talents, skills and abilities. This belief was hard-won though, as from a very early age I was, like most, taught that work was about being secure, keeping your head down and earning decent money – to be comfortable in life. If you could find it with nice people and in a place that you were somewhat engaged then you were lucky.
So, reaching my 20s, though I didn't know what I wanted to do, I wanted to 'get on' in life, so that's want I did! I went from an office, to a bank, to an oil company (unbelievable considering my values these days!), to a software company, to Microsoft. I was ticking all those boxes above – nice colleagues, comfortable work, fast car, money for holidays, entertainment…it goes on.
Despite all these distractions, deep down I knew that something was wrong. It was about this time that I started reading – books by people who believed work should be much more than a job; that it could be a chance to participate, to give, to do something you loved, to make a difference. That doing this would change your life. Ironically, it was a self-development course at Microsoft that cemented these beliefs. After it I remember reading 'Authentic' by Neil Crofts and 'What Colour is your Parachute' by Richard Nelson Bolles.
I wasn't ready to make the move immediately. I wanted a break to do something completely different, something I loved, to ascertain how I felt when each day was filled with that rather than my 9-5. So, I talked my boss into giving me a sabbatical. I took 3 months – I taught English and Music in Brazil, I travelled to Peru and Australia and then finally I worked with two Ethnomusicologists in Russia. These 3 months were the most amazing of my life. They showed me what it could be like to get up and do something I actually loved every day. They showed me a world of possibilities outside my previous experience. I came alive. I was a different me and I loved it!
When I came back I knew that I couldn't stay in my job and immediately began looking for different work. I wanted to work in the world of music, but getting a job wasn't easy. I believed if I could get an interview I'd get a job – and that finally happened; I got a job with the Association of British Orchestras in London. I was there a little over a year and learnt a lot about the music industry, London and myself! I loved the creative environment, but I felt restricted in an office. It just wasn't me.
There followed a period of illness that forced me to reassess things and I went back to studying – choosing the Alexander Technique – for a while. During that time I was lucky enough to be able to visit Italy and my childhood love of all things Italian came flooding back. I started learning the language and dreaming about the thought of one day living 'La Dolce Vita'.
Sometimes we need to hit rock bottom to realise what we really want and commit to it. After a couple of years of studies another illness hit me – this was the darkest point of my life – I spent almost 6 months in bed and became really depressed. In the depths of this a little voice said, 'If I can just get out of this, I'll get to Italy. That's what I want, that's what life's about. I don't know how, but I'll do it'.
That was the moment I committed to taking the next steps on my journey. I slowly began to recover from the illness, and think about ways in which I could realise my dream. I'd had a severe self-confidence knock, so it took some time to build myself back up, but small steps were the key; I signed up to a certificate to teach English as a Foreign Language and continued with my Italian language. I started to investigate English schools in Italy and find and use any contacts I had.
In 2009, I arrived in Tuscany and started teaching English in a language school. It felt amazing – I had got to the country I'd always wanted to live in. I came alive in the Italian sunshine and countryside, spending all of my free time creating, cycling and exploring. Following my passions in this way opened so many other doors. Pretty soon after arriving, I started Path Less Trodden as a blog – sharing my life in Italy, my then raw food healthy kitchen creations and my views on change. This fed back to me so positively and I knew it was what I wanted to do – writing, sharing my life and connecting with people.
The next few years saw a labour of pure love as I built my business alongside my teaching role. I worked just enough to pay the rent and spent as much time as I could creating and developing my work. I took a coaching course, wrote content for my site, doodled designs for logos, soaked up technological learning, mapped out systems for change and illustrated them, created recipes to share, wrote articles for other people's sites and connected with the people who loved what I was doing.
I gradually reduced my teaching hours and started to coach. After about a year this way I knew I had to dedicate myself fully to Path Less Trodden and I took a very bold step – I left my teaching job and moved to a place that myself and my partner Rob had fallen in love with about an hour and half south of where we were living. Upon moving I had no idea if I'd make enough money to pay the rent, but my instinct told me it was the right thing to do. It was. I took on a coach to help me overcome my fear of selling and my business began to expand in a way that I could only have previously dreamed about.
The following year saw me create, write, coach, teach, share and connect – changing worlds. I created 3 virtual group training programs – all direct responses to what my coaching clients were telling me they were struggling with. I ran 2 live full-day events in London. I took on 6-month mentoring clients and ran intensive 1-1 coaching days for clients in Pisa, in London and at my beautiful home in the Italian countryside. None of my work felt or feels like 'work' – it's an expression of me; a joy, a mission and something that I couldn't imagine being without.
The more I commit to my work being an expression of my uniqueness, the more satisfying, whole and fulfilling my life becomes.
I feel honoured, grateful, useful, creatively fulfilled, joyful, connected and at peace with expressing myself and my path in this way.
And yet I clearly remember, many times on my career path being convinced, "I'm not the sort of person who…leaves a corporate job, moves countries, builds a business, writes down what she thinks, anyone listens to." But here I am – all of those things with such joy and success.
Know that whereever you are on your ideal work continuum, you CAN make a change: You CAN do what you want to do. You are unique, you are talented and there is a place for that you in the world doing what you love. Get clear on what you want, commit to it, start taking small steps and then reach out for support!