Maren Kate Donovan, CEO of Zirtual
Courtesy of Maren Kate Donovan
By Maren Kate Donovan
May 4, 2015

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: Describe one make or break moment in your career–how did you navigate it? is written by Maren Kate Donovan, CEO of Zirtual.

Leaving family, friends, and relics behind for a new job in a foreign city can be unnerving. But when the decision to leave can redefine your future for the better, you have to face that fear head-on, bite the bullet, and make the move. This is exactly what I had to do when I chose to leave my life behind in Reno, Nevada and start a career San Francisco.

The opportunity came about by chance in the summer of 2010. While visiting my grandmother in Florida I read an article about a startup incubator called the Founder Institute located in Palo Alto. In short, a startup incubator helps the founders of new startups learn the ropes of Silicon Valley. Despite having very minimal entrepreneur experience, I decided to apply. It wasn’t long before I received an email that said I was essentially on the waiting list.

I was devastated. When I told my grandmother what happened all she could say was “shame on them.” I had been running my own micro-businesses since I was a teenager—wasn’t I the exact demographic they were looking to train? So, I took my grandmother’s advice and responded with an email asking specifically why they denied my acceptance. Well, I guess I got their attention— a few days later I received a letter congratulating me on my acceptance into the program. I was both excited and terrified. However, this new opportunity also meant I was forced to leave behind my life in Reno. Despite the initial hardships, the decision to move to San Francisco ended up being one of the most important moments in my career. And the rest—as they say—is history.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: Describe one make or break moment in your career–how did you navigate it?

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Why I gave up everything to start a career in Singapore by Perry Yeatman, CEO of Perry Yeatman Global Partners.

Why I choose to put my children before my work by Lauren Stiller Rikleen, president of Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership.

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