She had it all.
Alisha Fernandez Miranda had a happy marriage, healthy children, financial security, great friends and, oh, she was the CEO of I.G. Advisors, a social impact intelligence agency that she founded in 2011, doing good in the world.
Though she felt accomplished, “I was stuck,” said Fernandez Miranda.
She came to the realization over a few cosmos with two of her classmates from Harvard.
Like only girlfriends can, they coaxed the truth out of her.
“Every day was the same, predictable,” she said. “I wanted to be excited when I woke up in the morning, and I wasn’t.”
Having been born and raised in Miami, in 2018 she was living in London, where she felt as if she had missed out on jobs she once fancied pursuing.
These ranged from working in musical theater on Broadway, as well as in art, fitness, food, marine biology and even at Disney World as a princess. She lacked the experience for them, but still, she could dream.
“You could become an intern,” her friends suggested. Forget the fact that she was almost 40 — with her contacts at her alumni associations and LinkedIn, anything was possible.
While it wasn’t easy, it could be done, as Fernandez Miranda reveals in her memoir, “My What If Year” (Zibby Books), which chronicles the journey of a middle-of-life woman who puts her family and professional life on hold to spend a year interning at a wide variety of jobs.
To start, she created a spreadsheet. “I populated the list with my hopes and dreams alongside details of people I pulled off of LinkedIn,” she wrote. “I included former co-workers, passing acquaintances from college, friends’ cousins (and their dads), and exes and their new partners. I was not picky. Anyone who could help me get my foot in the door made it onto the list.”
Next, she determined who would grant her an internship.
Luckily, the connections to Broadway came quickly.
One was mounting a revival of “Assassins,” another was working on “Flying Over Sunset.”
They were willing to take her on as an intern, so she bid her husband, Carlos, her then 8-year-old twins and London goodbye, and flew to New York.
“This was my opportunity, and I wasn’t going to waste it,” she wrote in the memoir. Fernandez Miranda was willing to fetch coffee, clean, sweep and anything else that needed doing.
At first, she felt like an observer, even trying to win over the production stage manager with brownies from Bouchon Bakery, but was snubbed.
“Oh, do you not like chocolate?” Fernandez Miranda asked. “I’ve given up sugar for Lent,” was the reply. “It’s killing me just looking at them.”
But relationships improved, and Fernandez Miranda couldn’t wait to watch “Flying Over Sunset” open.
Then the pandemic hit and the shows that must go on, didn’t. Her last job as a theater intern consisted of organizing dance cups (jock straps for dancers).
Disappointment followed Fernandez Miranda back to London where a scheduled internship at Sotheby’s also fell through due to COVID-19.
She went back to her spreadsheet, hoping to find something digital.
Fitness was on her list of dream jobs and classes were being taught online all over the world, so she pitched Frankie Taylor, the owner of Retroglow Studios, a red-hot dance-fitness studio, to give her a shot.
It meant putting aside her dreams of learning how to teach classes like pole dancing , instead setting up Retroglow with social media, and conducting market research by taking classes from competitors.
With lockdown over, Fernandez Miranda blasted out emails to look for an internship.
First on her list was Harry Blain, one of Britain’s leading art dealers.
He had turned her down for a job when she first graduated , but when it came to an unpaid internship now, he welcomed her.
It didn’t take long before she learned to research the background, location and value of extraordinary, expensive art.
Blain offered her a job at the end of her internship, but she needed to do her fourth and final internship: at Kinloch Lodge, an award-winning hotel and restaurant on Scotland’s Isle of Skye.
There she learned to work in the kitchen and the front desk, “where I did everything wrong at first,” including opening the door on a naked man.
She discovered that a job in restaurants and hospitality was not for her.
What she did walk away with is that the role of CEO that she had temporarily left behind no longer met her needs.
“Maybe I didn’t need to be defined by my achievements or how fast I could get there, but instead what brought me joy and happiness and inspired my passions.”
Today, Fernandez Miranda lives in Edinburgh, a member of the so-called slash generation made up of individuals who juggle multiple careers at the same time.
While she’s no longer CEO at I.G. Advisors, she remains involved as chair of the board, continues to work with Blain and occasionally with Kinloch Lodge, “but never as a waitress,” she said.
Fernandez Miranda is also “pursuing other opportunities that seem interesting, allow me to learn and grow and where I think I might fail,” including writing her first novel. “Clearing out the noise and listening to my voice was key.”