Look Beyond the Beaten Path
Recently, Millman found herself at a career crossroads: She was offered the position of CEO at Sterling, where she’d served as President for years. For many, it would have been the logical next step, but she wasn’t sure it was the right one for her.
“It was a really exciting opportunity, and one that I know I would have enjoyed—but it would have meant putting my own artistic and creative aspirations aside. It took me four months to decide to turn down the job. It was the hardest decision I have ever made,” she says.
The decision ultimately aligns with one of Millman’s core beliefs about careers: Financial and creative fulfilment aren’t mutually exclusive. Seeking the proper balance of both is key.
Plus, “if anything takes you four months to decide, you probably don’t want it,” she says.
Difficult choices aren’t the only element of Millman’s career that have led her off the beaten path—she’s also had the opportunity to travel to some of the most obscure corners of the country for her work.
“Travel has really impacted my career. As much as I am a homebody, I love seeing new places,” she says, adding that she’s always prepared for a spur-of-the-moment trip or opportunity. “I have a bag that's always packed with the day-to-day things that I need when I travel. I keep everything that I need in that bag—all my toiletries, technology, cords... all of the things that make me feel comfortable when I'm not home. All I need to do is pack the clothes that I'm going to wear,” she says.
The Lowest Moments Can Reap the Highest Rewards
When Millman talks about the early rejections and hurdles, it’s easy to dismiss her protestations as humility. But, she insists, at one point in her career, she actually thought she might be “the most hated woman in design.” The low blow occurred when she read a piece in a blog called “Speak Up” criticizing the work she’d done for a major brand, as well as for a major film franchise.
Instead of folding when she faced criticism, she decided to actively join the conversation.
She connected with the blog’s founder, Armin Vit, and began contributing to the site, persuading the design community about the merits of her work. Millman and Vit went on to form a long-term professional relationship. Today, she’s the godmother of his oldest daughter.
“I look back on it now and think, ‘I’m so glad that happened,’” Millman says. “Almost every major [accomplishment of mine]—the kernels and the seeds—came out of that experience. Ultimately, that turned into one of the most profound, life-affirming, life-changing things. So, sometimes the worst moment of your life can be a catalyst for the best life you could possibly imagine."