OmniSpotlight: Tibet Fonteyne
Exactly five years ago I decided to quit my “dream job” in Formula One to go explore South America on a motorcycle. I had spent my time up until that point with a razor sharp focus on getting to, and then making a career out of, Formula One. As a teenager, growing up in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, I had taken my life of adventure for granted and concentrated on doing what I had to to make a career out of my passion for cars and racing. A few years into having done just that, I realised I’d missed the big picture. I would never be happy in a grey office in the middle of England. I had to pull the plug, reset, and make a new plan.
I actually wrote a blog post about the decision at the time. I said: “I had never paid a huge amount of attention to making sure I could replicate the life my parents had because I had lived that life without making any effort whatsoever...now, it has hit home just how hard you have to push against the grain... Once you’re in the rat race that defines life in the West, it’s very difficult to see beyond it. And once you do, you realise you’re in much deeper than you ever thought. This, then, is the start of the Long Way Out.” The trip that followed, “The Long Way Out”, was an incredible adventure. It was a great way to press the reset button.
But The Long Way Out represented much more than that trip, it was an acknowledgment that the road towards creating a different life was only just starting, and would take a while. It was clear I had to do something different, but what? And how do you give in to strong professional ambitions and a desire to work on the cutting edge without shackling yourself to a hamster wheel in the process?
I spent the next four years as a Product Manager at a small company in Cambridge designing an intelligence and investigations platform for counter-terrorism and anti-money laundering. I enjoyed building up my craft, and realised that day to day, I actually enjoyed this far more than Formula One. This was also a job that I could do anywhere where there is a tech sector. But over the years, I grew more and more uneasy. I knew I had only taken the first step. Yet again, it felt like my professional ambition was crushing that young adventurous kid inside of me. It was always a choice, every day. Do I continue pushing at this job that I really enjoy, but only ties me more and more to a specific location on a dark, rainy island? Or do I start from scratch somewhere else? What if I start somewhere else and I feel the same about that place in 4 years time? It ate me up every day and prevented me from sleeping many nights.
Why does it have to be a choice? Why can’t I do a job that pushes me, allows me to progress professionally, allows me to build things that solve big problems with technology, and allows me to figure out where I want to be in the world all at the same time? Well, because that’s a pretty tall order.
But the moment I saw the job at Omnipresent I realised that not only was this the next step on the Long Way Out for me, but the job was about building that part of the staircase for millions of others. I am now working with a group of incredibly motivated, smart people, building an ambitious technological solution to a difficult problem. And I can do it from anywhere; that choice I had to make every day is moot. I don’t know where I will end up, but it doesn’t matter anymore because I can help build up this company knowing that what I am building isn’t crushing anything else I want from life. Instead, what we are building here helps people all around the world create companies, careers and lives in a way that works for them, no matter where they are or what is important to them.
I haven’t completed the Long Way Out. There is a lot left to figure out. But I can experiment and figure that stuff out as I go now, step by step.
I’m sleeping a lot better.