A bit about Bathen before we begin: I did not know Bathen prior to this interview. I wanted to interview her after having read a post on Facebook written by her husband and shared by a mutual friend. In the very moving post, he wrote about her recent professional transition from Purchasing Manager in High-tech to a Nail Designer. Bathen herself is truly charming, beautiful inside and out and very professional! Batchen lives with her husband Oded (who runs a legendary after-school program in Binyamina) in Karkur.
More about Batchen’s business here: www.facebook.com/bathen.nail.design
Bathen, first of all thank you for agreeing to this interview. As I told you, the idea to interview you came from your husband’s post on Facebook. I’d love to hear the story from you.
This story has been told many times. People were shocked by the decision. I do not know if you can really call it a decision or more a direction that my life took.
For many years I worked in the field of hi-tech. Even while I was studying. I have a BA in Business Administration and knew that I was going to work in logistics or purchasing. That is my field. Early on, I found work in the field and learned the ropes there. Simultaneously I continued on to a Graduate Degree in logistics management. I began to advance at work and became Manager of Purchasing. I was always very career oriented, and I knew that that was what I would be doing.
About a year and a half ago, the company that I worked for went through a lot of changes, and suddenly I found myself without a job, totally out of the blue. The timing was very unusual. Because that my husband works with kids throughout the school year and for most of the summer holiday, he only has holiday twice a year, at Passover and the last two weeks in August. That is when we usually go abroad on holiday. We were on holiday in Portugal and on the last day of the vacation, he proposed to me (smiling big). So I went back to the office that following Sunday, excited and happy, and that was the day they told me I was fired!
In retrospect, the timing really was a blessing. It gave me the time to plan the wedding without any stress and made everything fun and relaxing. During this time, I wasn’t looking for a new job, but decided to take the time to think what I wanted to do next. After the wedding I started to go to job interviews. After every interview I returned home and told Oded that I was having a hard time with the thought of again having to work so hard to prove myself and basically having to do it all, all over again in a new place. The work is very demanding and never leaves you, especially when you’re in charge. So on one hand I felt I could not go back to that, but on the other hand I felt I could not go back to a lower position that wasn’t management. I kept going to interviews, but every time there was something not right. In the middle of all this we started thinking about starting a family and I had many thoughts of how that would work as well. Oded encouraged me to take my time and not stress about it.
One day I was at my nail designer’s and I told her I did not know what to do. She said that maybe I should try out nail design. My first reaction was “No way”! But still I continued to think about it. It is something that I could do from home, I could start small, at my own pace and besides I could always go back to work in my previous field.
I began to think about it and look into options. I found out that the unemployment office was offering a course on nail building and design. So I decided to take it and already the middle of the course it was clear to me that that was what I was going to do. Or at least try …. I saw that I was doing well and had a good understanding of the field, that I had a chance to succeed. At home, I made the study into a clinic and that is how it began. That was last October.
So how was it in the beginning?
At first, I was mainly having an image problem; Nail-design is not considered a very prestigious profession in Israel. In other countries, it’s different. At first, when I was asked what I do, I kind of apologized and said that I have a master’s degree. Today it is less important to me. What I’ve done in the past does not define me. This change of mind-set makes it easier for me now. I am Batchen, and what I do is my job and not who I am. On that same note, I really enjoy what I do. I was always very creative and it is only now that I feel that I have a way to express it, at work and beyond, with things like knitting. Today, when I tell who I am and what I do, when people ask me specific questions and I answer unexpected answers, they realize that I really know my stuff and that there is so much more to it than what they originally thought.
What did you do to prepare?
Once I decided that this is what I wanted, I told myself that I had to learn every aspect of the of the field. I went to a big conference in Berlin in November to study, learn and understand the new technologies that are out there. I think it is important to be learning all the time, about the materials, the methods, and all the new developments. In Berlin I was exposed to a completely different world; to women all over the world who do amazing things! There is so many things that I can do and I think about that a lot, although I know that I have to start from the bottom.
I made a business plan, goals. I decided from the beginning that I wanted to do everything to do with nails and make the most to evolve in the field. I signed up for all the necessary insurances before opening the business. It is important for me that everything is in order. We also made an effort to cut down our expenses at home in order to prepare well.
Once I made the decision, that this is what I want to do, the rest of the process felt very natural to me. I am part of a (closed) Facebook group, where I can consult professionally with colleagues. Apart from that, I try to keep updated on all new material and read a lot.
How was the transition from being an employee to being self-employed?
Very hard! I do not think I could do it alone. Making a transition like this takes a lot of courage. Giving up on a high salary and starting again from scratch. If they had not fired me, I’d probably still be working there. To this day, I would be working like crazy for someone else. I worked for the company for 7 years. I worked very hard, gave it my all, I was really into it and then someone came and said “goodbye”! So there are a lot of fears in regards to being self-employed. Will I succeed? What does others think? What will I do if I do not succeed? How do I contribute to our family economically? There is a lot of uncertainty and fear.
There are other difficulties as well, like recruiting new customers. There are many expenses that are not taken into account at first; Insurance, courses, materials. On the other hand, there is a lot of hope. I get positive feedback from clients and it does so much and strengthens me (shows me a feedback from a customer). It gives me the strength to continue.
In terms of the goals I set for myself, I’m good. I have more clients than I expected at this stage but still need more. I believe it will work and catch on.
How did your surroundings, and especially your mother, react to the change?
(Laughs) Let’s say that at first she did not really respond, but now she understands it. First of all, she sees my peace of mind, that I am satisfied with what I do and that I am my own master. I used to be very stressed and now I’m much more relaxed. I was really at the crossroad of asking “What do I want?”. Do I want a career where I as well as others could say that I was COO and …. I was looking for a little more meaning in my life. Not to return from work every night at eight or nine, without any power for anything. I never cooked. I was never home to enjoy time with my husband. We had to schedule time to be together. So you start to think about whether you really want to live like this? Apart from the prestige of the job, and the pride of my mother, of course, what’s in it for me? Is that’s the point, or is the main thing to live life and enjoy it? To have time for family and friends, to entertain. I was not that I was missing it until I found out that there even is such a thing ….
After you reach that place of relaxation and enjoyment, you see that there are things beyond the office and emails.
Ultimately it depends on many other things. If I didn’t have a husband that was supporting me a hundred percent, maybe I wouldn’t be in this place. Today I see that Oded himself is a great example of someone who does what he loves and is successful doing it. That he put himself there and does everything that he truly loves.
I think that if you are focused and going towards your goal than everything else works out. Today I am more relaxed and going along with things. There are things you can plan some things you cannot. To get the best out of any situation in life, you should look at the positive side of things, and everything else will be easier as well.
Yes, there are always doubts and fears. Did I do the right thing? Maybe not! Economically we would surely be somewhere else right now if I would have continued to work with what I did …. On the other hand, I never really enjoyed the money and understand that you can enjoy life with a lot less. So we traveled a lot abroad, and we did a lot of things, but right now I have decided that I want to live! To look on the bright side, make a decision and go with it. In the end we have to stop and think “What is most important and true to me?” And then just do it.