San Jose, CA

A serendipitous journey from corporate life to the bread of life

Vic Aquino
photo from Maryanne Florentino

In the Silicon Valley, it’s all about tech-related jobs, great pay and upward mobility. It’s also a place where a lot of dreams go to die, assuming your dream isn’t about climbing the corporate ladder.

Having experienced and befriended many types of working people in San Jose, it was much more common to make new friends than to see and hear of someone leave a well-paying job with nothing else lined up.

For good friend Maryanne Florentino, 27, her corporate trajectory was right on track after graduating from San Jose State with a bachelor's degree in marketing. From a big hardware manufacturing company to a bioscience giant, she not only learned the marketing systems and processes to be successful, but also of the layers of human dynamics in the ebb and flow of corporate life.

All that she learned and heard – get a good job at good company for the rest of your working life so to be successful. It’s what most of us are trained for regardless of the occupation – to be workers in the system.

Sometimes some of us hit a certain realization at some juncture in life. That “a-ha moment.” That epiphany. That wake-up call.

“It makes such a difference to be your authentic self; to be exactly who I am with those I am close to, my family and friends,” shared Florentino. “And if I can be like that all the time where I make my living that is just so unique.”

For someone so young who once thought breaking the six-figure salary barrier was the first sign of real success, it clearly was not. Without a job lined up, Florentino left the big corporate career in early 2021 shortly after receiving a promotion.

“There’s a certain level of income, where after that you don't really need more,” said Florentino after realizing the vicious cycle of chasing money and all that goes with it. “I mean I'm still eating out and enjoying myself and I now have a new job that doesn't just make me happy, it sparks joy.”

Florentino continued, “Yes, I was taught to think that money makes you happy because money can get you X,Y and Z, right? So, for the longest time, money was the barometer of happiness for my work-life, but as I got a little older, I redefined my goals - I found that joy and peace was being around something that inspires you.”

In March 2021, Florentino found Manresa Bread and Manresa Bread found her. As also a passionate baker, it quickly became her work-life home. Perhaps this is a splendid example of that elusive work-life balance some of us still chase.

"This was the first time I actually chose where I wanted to go,” described Florentino on her fortuitous circumstance. “I felt like I manifested it because I had to create this job with Manresa Bread. It was something out of nothing and I’m proud of myself too because this is also the first time I wasn’t referred to a job. I wrote this destiny from scratch.”

Manresa Bread is an artisanal bakery spawned from chef David Kinch’s three-star Michelin restaurant.

Artist-baker Avery Ruzicka runs Manresa Bread. With locations in Los Gatos, Los Altos and Campbell, its bread products evoke the timelessness of the “old-country,” where the religious-like preparations and freshness sets forth a modern and organic comfort to all their offerings.

“If I left my previous company any earlier, the bakery may not have been at a place to need a full-time marketing manager,” reflected Florentino on the serendipity of it all. “The bakery evolved at just the right time when I reached out and it grew to a point where hiring an in-house marketer made sense. I prepared for my interview with a custom presentation of my vision, and it all worked out. It was seriously perfect timing to say the least.”

But how does one reach such a realization without a clear picture of what’s ahead? Most people cannot function that way. They want the perceived security and safety of a constant paycheck regardless where it comes from; versus the greater challenge of situating yourself with people of similar passions.

“It's just so refreshing being around products that actually inspire me being a baker myself,” Florentino said endearingly. “And when I shared with Avery my dream of wanting to explore this passion, she was super-down and I was down and she's like, ‘You know what? Let's do this.’”

There’s a movement among people in Florentino’s generation that starts with achieving true work-life balance, which doesn’t always mean having to be an entrepreneur to control your destiny. It’s a movement from many probable effects:

  • Possibly stemming from the frustration of conforming to typical corporate life
  • Possibly knowing that chasing their dreams will take a different or uncommon approach
  • Possibly knowing that future generations will be saddled with immense debt and taxation
  • Possibly tired of knowing their retirements are falling further and further into their own hands
  • Likely knowing their happiness and well-being is the first thing in their control

Having addressed that first key life pillar with a perfect blend of work and passion, Florentino and her civil engineer husband also subscribe to the mindset of F.I.R.E. - financial independence, retire early. They save and invest well over 50% of their income and recently purchased a single-family home in the Bay Area. This is all unknown territory for many of us.

And as Florentino attests; it starts from an honest happiness mindset with your work life.

"As a tiny fish in a big pond, I previously felt separated from company goals. However at a small business - one that I truly care about - I feel much more of an intrinsic motivation to achieve goals which are my goals too,” said Florentino of their aligned passions for creating good natural food. “I mean no job is perfect and you’re still going to have deadlines and some stress, but let’s just say there’s no politics, it’s very straightforward, it’s super transparent and it’s just really awesome!”

The black and white differences from a job and a career become clearer from Florentino as she breaks into various other aspects of personal well-being and how clarity first comes from achieving true work-life balance and building your life out from there.

Work-life balance is that infamous term we hear but in practice is harder to execute. Usually people at companies have that long-entrenched respect or discipline or sometimes even fear of the hierarchy which can be stifling, where sometimes an inkling of off-beat creativity or uncommon ideas gets side-eyed looks from people who have long-been conditioned in that framework.

“When I hear, ‘sounds good, I trust you, let’s do it!,’ said Florentino as Manresa Bread’s marketing manager. “That in itself is very fulfilling. I don't have to go through layers of approval to create something new to see its impact instantly. So, everything I do is with genuine intent to do right by this brand and get the bakery where we want to go.”

The difference is obviously night-and-day from a standard corporate life to a passionate life.

“In the end, it’s not just about the food. It’s also about being in an industry that cultivates memories and experiences,” Florentino says with a big smile. “People like breaking bread together and it’s all about the connections at the end of the day. All of it. That’s why I do it. That’s why I love it.”

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A 50+ year San Jose-native focusing on social awareness, social good, social impact and the hidden gems and treasures of the area. Freelance journalist & sports contributor to SB Nation & SF 49ers (@VicD_SJ on Twitter).

San Jose, CA

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