Ella Chan

You can’t keep Ella down

Ella Chan could be called “unsinkable,” like Molly Brown. You can reorganize her out of a job, or throw a pandemic at her, but you can’t keep her down. She has rebooted herself several times and is still at it.

Ella started her career fresh out of college with an information tech support job at a large corporation in San Francisco’s financial district. She was a whiz with computers and a natural at pleasing internal customers. She delivered great service with a can-do attitude and a fresh, fun approach that was in sharp contrast to the buttoned-down style that characterized others in her department.

After five years at that first company, she got an attractive offer to join the IT department of a company with a reputation for being much more informal and less stuffy than the one she had been working for, so she jumped on it. She stayed there for 10 years and thrived. But the company hit a rough patch, reorganized and laid off several hundred employees, including Ella.

Ella with two of her bunnyvalentines

She accepted a severance package on a Friday, and on Monday bounced up and started a job in the IT department of a big Silicon Valley tech firm. After three years there, another restructuring storm hit. Ella moved on and landed a job at a hot startup, also in the technology business.

“That was the worst year of my career,” she said. “Toxic, disrespectful boss treated me like dirt. Actually, not just me. She gave her younger, more impressionable employees the idea that it was OK to treat colleagues that way. The perks were outrageous. They served three to five meals per day and we never needed to carry a wallet. After 5, the top shelf liquor flowed. I haven’t decided if I was lucky or cursed that I don’t drink.”

Then Ella started getting sick with old ailments. “I think my asthma turned into anxiety, but I didn’t believe anything like unpleasant work experiences could affect my physical wellbeing. I was stubborn enough to argue with my doctors. How could emotions, which you can’t see and are not physical, make me feel sick?”

So Ella took some time off and spent more time with her son, Austin. “We had adopted a bunny, and he’s so therapeutic that I volunteered to foster a family of bunnies,” Ella said. “Another amazing experience but awful for my health. I got shingles and couldn’t move without pain for a few months.”

Going after her passion

But bills needed paying, so off Ella went. By then she was a pro at interviewing and it didn’t take her long to land a contract at a bank. “They liked me enough to give me a job with benefits,” she said. “But I couldn’t heal. The pesky problems came back again. Within a couple of years I went on disability leave. Someone like me can’t learn to chill. I stewed over what comes next. I told myself, no more tech.

“I’ve often heard that we should find our passion and go after it. My passion had filled the house with bunny fur and bunny poop, so three years ago, I started www.mybunnyvalentine.com,  because who doesn’t love bunnies, right? Again, I went at it, hard. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and the business is now profitable with funds to spare for my favorite charity, www.SaveABunny.org.  Our own PuppyCat (don’t ask me how a rabbit got that name) came from there. His Facebook page is quite popular!

“That’s the easy part of my reboot story. Somewhere along the way, sadly, our marriage fell apart. I’m not good at telling that part of the story. I still don’t understand how anything can fail if I tried hard enough.

“So I gave up on my tech career, started my own business, moved out on my own with Austin, took my business into Broadway Plaza (outdoor shopping center), hired my first two employees, and was planning a cool Easter event with glow-in-the-dark eggs!

“Then pandemic, shutdown, potential and real customers sheltering in place. One more big bump in the road. But I will crank it back up when I can. My business keeps me sane, and working on it is more rewarding than any other job I’ve ever had. MyBunnyValentine’s Instagram account is the most fun.

“But you know what they call a business that’s not banking? A hobby. My logic is that I can’t fail if I don’t quit.”

That’s the unsinkable Ella Chan.