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Meet Maggie Michella

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maggie Michella.

Maggie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia. I have been traveling around the United States from Florida, Texas, New York and Los Angeles. It all started when I arrived in Florida, a 16-year-old girl filled with curiosity; starting university. Not knowing what to do, I changed my major from finance, marketing, and eventually advertising (doing something I am truly passionate about). I went to a strict school where we didn’t have access to social media, magazines, and the outside world. Trying to break the rules without getting into trouble, I found ways around it and worked with my limits instead. My parents didn’t really understand what I was doing, but they always had my back. When I won several awards for my work, that was what truly mattered, to make them proud. Being constrained in such crazy ways somehow drove me to find amazing creatives, friends, and families.

After I graduated, I got my first internship and moved to Texas. Searching for more, I ended up flying to New York with no job, friend, and no place to stay. I still remember the first Airbnb I was staying at under the subway rails in Brooklyn, with its tilted wooden floors. I have to say that it was difficult to adjust myself to the real ‘tough’ world after being sheltered for quite some time. Interviews after interviews, I started freelancing and took a full-time job that truly made me happy. I got to meet amazing creatives, worked with Bob Weir from the Grateful Dead and more amazing artists. I got to do the things I didn’t know existed. Job after job, I learned that I still have so much to learn. It was a hard decision, but I decided to go back to school.

Even though it felt like I moved backward, I learned the cliche saying of “you gotta move backward to move forward” to be true. Looking back, an Indonesian immigrant who arrived 8 years ago, I cannot say that I am the same person. I kept using the word “learn” as I am writing this, but I realized that you can never overuse the word because I will never stop learning. Most importantly, I learned that no matter where you came from, it has nothing to do with where you’re going.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has been everything but a smooth road. Being an immigrant who needed a visa to stay, I felt like I had to work twice as hard. I learned how to adapt to new cultures and adopt new families wherever I go. I will never get to where I am today without them.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am an art director in advertising. I don’t like limiting myself to the advertising industry because there is so much more to explore. I do not think anything special sets me apart from others, but I work really hard. I wish I could say it comes naturally and that I knew what I always wanted to do. However, it took me years and failures to learned what I like and didn’t like and what I want to pursue.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I don’t think I could ever name them all. My parents, families, and closest friends. I moved a lot and didn’t get to truly connect with a lot of people I’ve met. I could name a few here: Hannah Pharo, Jonathan Yaputra, Jeremy Jap, Pauline Charisma, Suansee Tan, Eric Chang, Ramone Muñoz, Ely Kim, Irene Wiryanto, Priscilla Chong, and more – these are the family I never knew I needed, but very lucky to have. Jessica Cambeiro was my first boss, and I had to say she taught me what leadership truly meant. Last but not least, I have to give credit to George Widodo, someone who has supported me before I even believed in myself.

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