Faces of Shift with Miya Hirabayashi

The great thing about shared workspaces is that there is a mutualistic relationship that exists. Yes, the space itself helps its members grow and become more productive. But it’s the members that make the space that much better. A prime example is Ms. Miya Hirabayashi. Miya, aka Boss Lady, makes even Beyonce look like a slacker. Yeah, I just said that. With her very own (very successful) creative freelancing career, Miya has proven that you can rekindle your artistic flame and make it your livelihood. Here’s how she did it.

Mama Miya, drop a hot one on us. Tell us what you do. 

I am a creative gun for hire. I love assembling teams of talented people (or working with talented teams) to get things done. I’ve branded and launched snack food companies, guided large fashion brands through rebrands, and helped smaller companies brand themselves for growth. I love to be super hands-on with all facets of the design and strategy process, from concept to execution.

Miya wasn’t always making brands cooler, prettier and more complete. She had a different path to pave…

I came into this career in a really roundabout way. I was always super artsy and creative as a kid, but I never really gave any thought to being creative as a career. I was also really passionate about social justice, and felt like that was more of a “career” than being an artist. So out of college, I joined Teach for America and then started a PhD in Education Policy at Columbia. I was interested in statistical methods for suggesting causality with large datasets. Because you can’t randomly assign things like race or socioeconomic status, you can’t say that x causes y without tweaking your methods (correlation doesn’t equal causality, as we numbers nerds like to say). I really enjoyed thinking about the problem of using data to figure out how to affect change with policy. I loved the programming and problem-solving aspects of my studies, but I always felt this pull to do other creative things.

Finally, on a whim, I looked up graphic design programs in the area, and Parsons was having an information session the following night. I went, I applied, and the rest, as they say, is history.

She’s inspired by her job every day. But how can all that exterior inspiration translate into something more internal? She shares how…

Everything about my job inspires me. I love the opportunity to work on a lot of different projects with different people; I love the fact that my job is basically to notice things—trends, colors, juxtapositions of things, textures—and then recombine them to make something new and awesome. It’s a really great way to live, to be compelled to notice things around you and take inspiration from your surroundings.
I am working with an agency right now that is really awesome. The principal prioritizes hiring great people, so her team is really incredible to work with. They’re all driven, really creative, and super smart. I never want to be the smartest or best person in the room, because there’s no opportunity for growth in that scenario. (That said, I always try to be the hardest-working because who wants to follow a leader who won’t pull her weight?) With this agency, I’ve learned so much about the power of great teams under a dynamic leader.

And finally, we asked Miya where she’s off to next. And what words she can leave us with.

My biggest trip coming up is moving back to the SF Bay Area with my family this summer. I’m from there and have been trying to get back since I moved to New York almost 14 years ago. I feel really fortunate that the opportunity to go back opened up, and I can’t wait to be closer to my family.

I’m also going to NYC a few times this month—mostly for work, but I’m also running the Brooklyn ½ marathon at the end of the month, which is one of my favorite races to run.  

In terms of words of wisdom or inspiration, I would say that it’s never too late to follow a path that you know you should be on. I’m really grateful for my past experiences because I think having honed analytic abilities makes me a better designer, but I knew deep down that I should have been doing what I’m doing now. Back then it felt like a huge derailment to quit my PhD and go back to school, but in the grand scheme of things, it was a blip on my career trajectory. 


Want to hire Miya for a project? Visit her at www.heymiya.com.

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