We had the good fortune of connecting with Ilana Wayne and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ilana, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk taking is crucial. I don’t like that “risk” is something we’ve labeled as negative. Taking risks is beautiful. It’s where you learn the most about yourself. We cannot expect to grow while remaining in our comfort zone. Growing is supposed to be uncomfortable and so is making mistakes, or even failing; it is the only way to change your perspective, and in turn, change your outcome.
I was lucky enough to be raised by two amazing risk takers. My parents are both engineers and have built their careers on the mentality of taking the path less traveled. My dad was the first to receive a PhD in Geosynthetics. He saw an opportunity in a growing field and took a huge risk by choosing to specialize in a subject that no one had specialized in before. My mom is strong and passionate and had dreams beyond the traditional corporate engineering world. So she took a huge risk, with very little financial backing, and decided to start her own inspection company. She wanted to work for herself and was willing to do whatever it took. Her business grew to be very successful, and I see that as a direct result of the risk she took and the passion and motivation she had to make it work.
When I graduated from the University of Texas in 2020, I was determined to pursue a career in fashion, but the pandemic had other plans. I took this universal sign to re-evaluate my skills and passions. While I loved fashion, and still do, part of me knew the traditional path laid out by the industry was not going to work for me. So I pivoted, which is just a nicer way of saying I took a huge risk. I took what I was good at, which was using my eye for design to help brands create an aesthetic social/web presence, and I started finding clients who needed me. Freelancing is scary, you don’t always know where your next paycheck is coming from and you tend to make some sacrifices regarding work-life balance. But I took that risk, because I knew that what I would learn as a result would be invaluable. And it was.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My first gig post-grad was essentially just working as a freelance graphic designer. An old college roommate of mine reached out asking if I knew of any graphic designers, and at the time I was really trying to see how I could pivot into a different industry with the skills I acquired in fashion design school. I was great with Adobe Suite, was a Canva pro, had a great eye for design, so I thought “you know what, I could probably be a graphic designer”. So we started working together on this rebranding campaign for the company she was working with and I was handed flyers, specs and webpages, and was told to redesign them. I wasn’t obsessed with the product but I was obsessed with the idea of rebranding a company and having a chance to reintroduce a company’s look, voice and product to the world. I ran with that passion and started working as a freelance consultant taking on rebranding projects and providing strategy as well as designs. I grew my client base and loved the flexibility it gave me to continue side passions, such as my love for painting and cooking.
While I was freelancing, I also took on a fellowship with a CPG start-up, who at the time, was in the beginning stages of developing their product. I was obsessed with the company, people, and product. I didn’t know where I could be of assistance to them, but knew I wanted to be a part of it. Eventually my responsibilities grew and I transitioned into a full time position with them as Marketing Coordinator. Going from wanting to be a fashion designer to running marketing ops for a start up was a huge leap, and to a lot of my friends and family I think it might have been a huge shock, considering how fast it seemed my passions and life path switched gears. However, to me this position makes complete sense. I am lucky enough to be the one strategizing on how our brand voice and how our image and social media will set us apart and connect with the audiences and families we are trying to touch. It’s genuinely the most creative role I’ve ever been in because I have to constantly ask myself to think even farther outside the box. Because our team is remote, it allows me the freedom to build out my own schedule, work on passion projects, travel, and still have time to dedicate to personal development.
One of the biggest lessons I learned throughout this experience is to just say yes to everything when you are starting out. I wasn’t a graphic designer, but I saw that I had the skills needed to be one and I ran with that. I didn’t really need to participate in a fellowship alongside my freelance design work, but I felt a pull towards that team and I could see that their passion was something I wanted to be a part of, so I took the opportunity, not knowing where it would lead. I think that this all goes back to how important it is to take risks. Trusting that following your intuition will lead to success is really the first step. I am so grateful that I was forced to pivot and re-evaluate my passions so early on. It’s something I know I will have to do constantly but I am grateful to have gotten in the habit of doing so very early in my life.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If I were showing my best friend around Atlanta, I’d definitely have to take her to all my favorite restaurants. The list is too long to share in entirety, but some of my TOP favorites are O-ku, Rumi’s Kitchen, Beetlecat, and Storico. As for drinks and hanging out, my favorite thing to do is walk the beltline and drink along the way. Ladybird and Estrella are my favorites. Lastly, one of my favorite things to do in Atlanta is to visit the SCAD fashion exhibit. It is constantly changing and never disappoints! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I still have so much to learn and am continuously growing, but I would not be half the person I am, or made it half as far as I have, without the help of my family and friends. My parents, while not creatives themselves, have always supported my career path. I know how rare that is and I will always feel extremely lucky to have been able to experience that support growing up. In addition, I am beyond lucky to have a close knit group of creatives, and best friends, who are always supporting me and providing genuine feedback on my work. And lastly, in the past year I have been connected with a couple influential and successful entrepreneurs and leaders. These people saw something in me and took a risk on me. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunities those risks afforded me.