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Thoughts from a Keynote Artist & Visual Strategist

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  • Writer's pictureJulia Bakay

Becoming a Graphic Recorder

'What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

…my favourite icebreaking question as a child; I just loved how much it told me about people right away.

Now that I’m all grown up, I must admit this is no longer the case. The ‘What do you do’ question no longer answers my underlying questions about hopes, talents, and interests as much as it used to. It’s merely a snippet of one’s journey, one of circumstances, opportunities, action, luck, or the lack of any of the above... Perhaps today’s equivalent question would be 'What would you be if you could be anything?'.

Growing up, I’ve always been fairly obsessed with the topic of finding one’s passion, as a professional daydreamer, ever entertained by ideas of what’s possible. After all, we spend a good third of our lifetime doing what we’ve chosen to do or simply landed on...

Illustration of Peter Pan flying over London

However, when I was 17 and the time had come to choose a path, I still had no clear idea what to become. So, I chose the two subjects I was best at - English and Art, and became a teacher. Everyone seemed to find this subject pairing rather random and, as you can imagine, the faculty was thrilled to create a personal schedule for me…

But I didn't give up on it, and will admit now, simply because I couldn't think of anything more suitable at the time.

Having obtained my BA & MA in my special Visual Communication, English Studies and Education combination, I got to test my skills in one of the greatest high schools in Budapest. It was an amazing time - I really enjoyed teaching and my students loved me. No wonder, as I spent hours preparing fun and effective lesson plans, and I was full of enthusiasm and energy every day.

And quite frankly, I reached my personal peak.

After a few truly joyful semesters teaching at a high school, I was ready to admit that teaching wasn’t to be my path in life. I felt too young and curious to commit to a path without any real career progress or financial sustainability. I heard the good old voice in my head again; ‘What else is possible?’.

On a whim, I took a scholarship and flew to New York to add a Master’s in Organizational Leadership to the collection. Once again, I wasn’t sure why and nor was anyone else.

Life gave me one of those 'blessings in disguise'; a long period of job hunting with rather unfortunate timing - pandemic unemployment, lack of sponsorship, visa restrictions, to name but a few. My optimism and persistence kept me going, which made it even more heart-wrenching.

After a while, I realised that being trapped in the job-hunting arena couldn't be a coincidence. Hard times often turn out to teach and guide us, and can become the midwife of deep self-reflection and new insights. This one seemed to be an opportunity for me to reconnect with my core values and half-forgotten dreams.

The beautiful irony is that here I am a decade later, pursuing a creative profession I never knew existed, finding myself relying on my greatest assets - my...

Visual Communication Skills,

Command of the English language,

and Understanding of Business Operations and Psychology

… all of which I just so happen to have studied for degrees in 😊

Voilà, my story of becoming a Graphic Recorder -or Keynote Artist, as I like to call it. It shows that even if we have no idea what we’re doing, as long as we follow our heart and our curiosity, things end up working out unlike anything we could ever imagine.

I now love what I do, and I hope to offer Visual Support in one form or another for the rest of my working life.


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