Career Pivoting Like a Pro

This past February 19th I had the honor to speak at the AIGA LA Event — Your Next Career Act- Creative Career Pivots. And even though I was very nervous to speak in public, I was even more nervous that my water would break on stage, since I was 38 weeks pregnant.

I was very excited to have the opportunity to speak to colleagues about change and adaptation, especially going through pregnancy. So, I decided to take a look at my professional life, analyze how change has come into it, and share where it has gotten me. Here a bit of my story.

I am the kind of person that adapts very well with change. I like it. It motivates me. I have a very competitive nature, therefore, change for me is a way to prove that I can do it. My struggle with change comes from making the decision to do it. Like most creatives, I wait until the last minute…until I feel the pressure and anxiety building up and then I have no other option but to jump. This is probably not the most healthy technique, but it has got me to pretty awesome places.

My career started with the crash of the world market in 2008.

I graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Mass Communication/Advertising and shortly after got my first job in the field. However, on February 23rd, 2009 I got laid off (on my birthday btw). So, I grabbed my Dell along with my self-taught design skills and expedited my entry into Miami Ad School.

Between South Beach and the digital world

Miami Ad School was my first encounter with real design, real competition and a whole lot of eclectic characters from all over the world. After my first year, my financial aid was cut in half and I was forced once again to make a change. At this point, the dreams of Oglivy Sao Paolo or Saatchi & Saatchi London internships felt like they were slipping away. Given my financial barriers I had to look local, and through a great deal of hustle and resourcefulness, managed to get an internship at Sapient Nitro Miami, a full digital agency. At that time, digital was an area I had no experience in. Again, I found myself jumping…fake it till you make it. After 3 months, I got offered a full-time freelance contract (making banners mostly). The pressure was on and the money was tight, so after talking with my Dad 300 times about what was best for me, I took the job and left ad school.

Sapient is were really I grew up. As a person and as a creative. I was able to make an impact on brands like Dodge, Chrysler, Holland America, 21st Century Fox, Nokia, and Sauza Tequila. I learned about storytelling, the importance of a good design pitch deck, what realistic budgets were, and the intricacies of grids and ratios. I worked in 4 different cities all over North America and made friends that would change my life. I had a successful run at Sapient Nitro, but then I hit a ceiling.

My growth suddenly stopped, and letting my work speak for me was not enough anymore. It was time for a change, but of course, I would drag it out until I had to.


My personal life and career collided when I got pregnant with my first daughter. I worked hard to prove that I could be a lead creative and a good mother, while also trying to keep my love for the agency life. I worked on the launch of the Holland America Cruise Line website up until 4 days to my due date. After giving birth, she would take naps in the baby carrier during brainstorming sessions. She learned how to walk in the conference rooms.

Parenthood makes you so productive with time. That is something the industry doesn’t quite get and sometimes we get silently punished for it.

Your time is accounted for, so you want to make sure you maximize your productivity when you are in the office. You no longer send funny memes or go for 2-hour lunches. Yet, the fact that you come in early and leave early to be with your kids makes you look like you’re slacking.

After pushing myself to the limit for a while with the 1-hour commute and breast pumping in the office’s forgotten rooms, one day Nicole Gallardo, my partner back in Miami, called me out of the blue and told me about this agency she had started. She landed a big cruise line client and needed someone that knew the cruising industry. I would work from home, lead that account plus work with several other big clients, and be able to let my daughter sleep in her crib during nap time.

This change was the one that I feel garnered the most risk, but that paid off the most.

It allowed me to build something from the ground up with someone that I truly cared about, for brands I was excited about, and with a team that valued me. All while working on a more flexible schedule, from home to fulfill my other job of being a parent. Also, I never realized how much knowledge I acquired over the years that no one cared to ask for until I started working at Gallardo Labs.

Good to know

Putting together this speech forced me to take a really deep look into how my creative career has pivoted. In doing so, I have l learned three very valuable things:

1. Change makes you discover yourself.

2. If you are like me, fearful of making life’s big decisions — surround yourself with risk-takers.

3. Be a good person to everyone. You never know who is going to offer you a life-changing opportunity next.

As I am writing this I am 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant and 2 centimeters dilated with my second child, so now I’m just waiting for my next big pivot. Stay Tuned.

Originally published by Sonia Acosta at on March 5, 2020.



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