Geronimo’s Winding Path
I was attending an event several years ago where I met Geronimo Carlo Ramos III. Geronimo, 30, a Bay Area resident, moved through the space effortlessly making others feel seen and welcomed. With a B.S. in Business Administration from USC Marshall School of Business and a focus in Social Entrepreneurship and Design Thinking, it may not be surprising that he currently holds titles like Digital Product Designer, Chef/Cook and Content Creator. What follows is his winding path.
In two-three sentences how would you describe what you do most days/weeks?
I spend a third of my days consulting mission-driven startups and organizations on their user experience and user interface design strategies. I spend another third cooking for local pop-up restaurants, festivals, and catering events. And I spend the last third creating food and life design content on social media - where I launched my YouTube channel in November.
What did you want to be when you were eight?
When I was eight years old, I wanted to be a lawyer and a chef. One of my grandfathers inspired me to be a lawyer because he was an attorney in the Philippines. I was inspired to be a chef by watching a lot of the Food Network with my grandmother growing up.
What did you learn about work that you learned from your family?
My nuclear family taught me to work hard, keep my head down, and choose a stable career with good benefits. However, my step-grandfather taught me to be more risk-taking and to dip my toes into entrepreneurship. I remember him telling me that there are not enough Filipinos in our community taking more significant risks or challenging the status quo.
What professional experiences/employers had the greatest impact on you?
In 2019, I joined Nava PBC, a digital services consulting firm for federal and state agencies. Working at Nava was my first foray into civic tech, which was exciting for me due to my background in social impact and UX/UI design. What better way to create systems change than to work on the system itself? During my time there, I experienced what it was like to work with a genuinely values-aligned organization and team. I felt supported by my teammates personally and professionally, and I could be my authentic self and be well received. Moreover, I also learned what it was like working with an organization with well-defined people operations, robust design systems and processes, and selecting government projects based on values alignment. Nava PBC was the most human-centered organization I have worked for to date.
What is something about your career journey that people might not expect?
During the pandemic, I realized that working as a full-time Product (UX/UI) Designer in tech wasn’t fulfilling me or giving me the energy I thought it would. Even though I was working with social mission-driven organizations that were changing the world and climbing up the ladder as design manager, I found myself emotionally drained. After the workday ended, I had little energy to work on side projects or focus on personal matters. I found myself creating more energy when working with my hands, cooking, creating and facilitating educational content, and being back in the world, versus staring at a screen for 8-hours a day. I began working with local food popup restaurants, became a prep/line cook, and worked as a Sous Chef at the Albany Resort in the Bahamas to feed around 3,000 people for the Hero World Challenge golf tournament hosted by Tiger Woods.
Why did you pivot?
As I entered my 30s, I realized that I didn't want the next decade of my life to look like the last decade. In my 20s, I was constantly hustling and striving for the next thing - taking hits in my health, energy, and relationships. My vision is to engage in more activities that bring me joy and put lightning in my veins, trusting that I have the necessary skills, knowledge, and relationships to succeed in whatever I pursue. If I could do this well in my career as a digital product designer, the skills I've developed combined with my passion will help me on my culinary and content creator path.
What skills were portable from what you had been doing previously and what was brand new to you?
The most portable skills were systems thinking, leadership, and craft. I equate being a Sous Chef to being a team/design lead, where I’m both managing the team's outcomes and being hands-on. Based on the experience and menu my team is looking to provide guests, I must think methodically about what ingredients, preparation, and stations I need to set up so that when service time comes, it's an operational success. I need to understand the strengths of my cooks or designers, what motivates them, and how to manage various personalities under highly stressful conditions. Lastly, it is critical to be well-skilled in my craft so that I’m able to coach my team or jump into cooking/designing when there is a gap.
A new skill for me to develop was resource management under tight timelines in a high-pressure environment. As a sous chef, I was responsible for the inventory and management of supplies. When there were hiccups during heavy prep or service time, I’d have to creatively problem-solve to remedy situations, such as stretching components to have enough food or negotiating with other kitchens to borrow equipment or ingredients. With a desk job, I could "circle back" when I’d need to think through a problem. In the kitchen world, I’d have to problem-solve on the spot and delegate to protect my physical and mental energy for the most critical tasks.
What was the hardest part about making a career pivot?
The hardest part about making a career pivot was the fear of judgment from friends and family. I found it essential to develop an unshakable self-belief in my decisions because the critiques from your loved ones can often cloud your self-conviction. Meditating on my vision and surrounding myself with a supportive community made all the difference during these challenging times.
What were the most important lessons you’ve picked up along the way?
- Visualize the process: Get detailed on seeing/feeling the process and end outcome. Too often, we aspire for a result without thinking deeply about the actions and strategies we must take to achieve AND maintain that result. Ask yourself: is this the process and lifestyle I want to maintain?
- Know your core values: Keeping this handy will help you decide if specific opportunities or people are aligned and if you are practicing integrity with yourself.
- Success is getting what you want, but fulfillment is living what you’re made for: Find the meaning and purpose behind your daily actions and beliefs. Using alignment over attainment is generally a better recipe for sustainable happiness and joy.
What would you say to others who are doubting their ability to make a change in their career/vocation?
First, identify the fear that is creating that doubt in your ability. Give it a name and then work backward with bite-sized action steps to gradually eliminate that fear. Gather data, speak with people who have walked down that path, join communities and declare your intention, and create a small experiment to test if you even like it. The only way to remove that self-doubt is to take action steps, and the more bite-sized they are, the more you can start creating momentum to overcome that fear.
Where did you get the confidence and support to make such a change?
Growing up, I witnessed how my family struggled with money and worked hard to ensure that my sister and I could have the best opportunities to succeed. I took it upon myself to change this narrative and realized that to change our circumstances, I had to do things differently. My self-conviction caused me to seek out people and communities that aimed to challenge the status quo for their communities. During my last year of undergrad, I joined a leadership organization called StartingBloc that valued connection, community, and courageous leadership. There I met incredible people on different journeys in their career paths with an underlying value of making the world a better place. The unique journeys of the people I met in StartingBloc showed me that there was no one path to make a considerable impact and find fulfillment. I went from the nonprofit sector to technology startups to civic tech to the culinary world - all with the support, connections, and lessons I've learned from the people in StartingBloc. Having a community of people who believed in me made all the difference.
What was the hardest thing you had to overcome in your professional life?
It was actively seeking and responding to negative feedback. I used to use "fake it ‘til you make it" to boost my self-confidence, but over time, I realized that it wasn't a sustainable way to boost self-esteem. I learned that the only way to improve was to seek feedback, reflect on it, and take action. But even more critical, identifying whom to take feedback from and weighing its value.
What, if anything, are you hoping happens next in your professional life?
I'm looking to create a community of people with shared values. My mission in life is to feed the people and planet goodness through nourishing food, content, and design. I've always found energy growing and developing as a human being with a group of values-aligned people. I want to create products, services, events, and initiatives with this organically grown community.
What social media links, if any, might you like to share in the piece?
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/geronimocramos/
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/geronimocramos/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/geronimocramos
Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/@geronimocramos