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The Corporate Ladder: Climbing Versus Building, by @MarenKate

Posted by Jonathan Greechan on 2012-11-27

In a post from her blog "Escaping the 9-5", Maren Kate, founder of Zirtual, describes how she decided to go from climbing the corporate ladder to building her own. After becoming fed up with jumping through hoops and the looming thought of the often inescapable glass-ceiling, Maren decided to take the plunge and found her own company.                          

Reposted below is Maren’s story as well as a bit of encouragement for those considering leaving the corporate world behind. Our favorite piece of advice: “if you’re unhappy with your current employment situation, hop off the ladder and build your own.”


The Corporate Ladder: Climbing Versus Building

“Years ago I realized, in passing, that when people talked about “the corporate ladder”, or “glass ceilings” (in reference to women in business) they were discussing metaphorical obstacles I would never be able to overcome.

I didn’t have the patience to work for others, even in my “corporate” days (when I slaved away in a variety of bar tending positions) I had a short fuse for authority figures that didn’t live up to my expectations of upper management (I wanted to be employed by the Howard Roark of bars).
I also realized that gulping the b.s. women at times have to face in the corporate world, especially when scaling the upper rungs, would be intolerable. So I resigned myself to blogging, writing and trying more creative paths to freedom and success—then, I found entrepreneurship.

My saving grace. No matter how many times people say “Geez, it must be so hard to build a company” I can only think—as compared to what? Starting Zirtual has been, hands down, the most challenging period of my life. But it’s also been the most fulfilling. It’s certainly not as hard as spending 25 years at a job you can be fired from, or being foiled at every turn by incompetent upper management. It’s like comparing the pain of death by one thousand rusty nails to the pain one feels when working out.

My generation has to thank the generation before, and the generation before them, for this opportunity—we’ve been enlightened, more or less, by observing the job woes of our parent’s generation and the near-caste like structure of our grandparent’s work lives.

So if you’re unhappy with your current employment situation, hop off the ladder and build your own. You will start with a one-runged contraption and can gradually build something as high as you want. Great part is when you build your own ladder, you can choose to simply forego installing glass ceilings—so it’s pretty much as high as you wish to fly.

How hard is building your own ladder. Very hard. But, hopping off the comfort of your current ladder is possibly harder. Not everyone is cut out for it, but some people are… and those people get to enjoy lives of delicious freedom prepared by years of salaciously hard work.

The question you must ask is: what is freedom worth to you?
2 years? 5 years? 10 years of hard, hard work… to me that’s a walk in the park, compared to the alternative.”


Zirtual, a service that connects busy people with virtual assistants dedicated to making your life better, is a Graduate of the Silicon Valley Founder Institute. Follow Maren Kate on Twitter at @marenkate, and Zirtual at @zirtual.

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