Career 180 Tip
Make a switch from a position of strength if you can. If it’s done out of desperation or fear, it will not be planned well. Think about the sum total of all your goals: income needs, career objectives, upward mobility, leisure time—whatever your priorities are, make it about your entire life and not solely about your career path.
While “follow your passion” is advice often given to those seeking career success, “follow your heart” is the mantra that has served Erik Contzius, owner of New Rochelle-based web design and development shop Make Tech Better. Contzius’ first career was all about his passion for Judaism and music. For 18 years, Contzius was a seminarian and cantor—first at synagogues in Nebraska and Pennsylvania before joining Temple Israel of New Rochelle in 2002. Being in the clergy was a role that captured Contzius’ dual love for Jewish music and serving his congregation.
His position in the pulpit also allowed Contzius, who received a Masters of Sacred Music from the Hebrew Union College, to utilize his people skills and it gave him a rewarding stature in the community.
“It was a privilege to be viewed as an integral part of the community, to be there with families during their most special moments, and to be among the congregation all the time,” he says. But being with the congregation “all the time” got to be too literal: In addition to his regular hours, he was in demand for bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, funerals, and other events, and it was becoming a strain on his wife, Monica, and his son (from a previous marriage), Jacob, now 13, who lived with them on weekends.
“When Jacob stayed with us, I was always working,” Contzius explains. “In addition, some of the stresses of being a clergy person, especially when aiding people through tragedy and loss, continually reminded me of the importance of embracing life.”
So, seeking a better work-family balance, Contzius hung up his temple robes in 2013 and decided to embrace another, seemingly incongruous, role: website designer/developer. “I’ve been a big fan of technology my whole life,” explains Contzius, who got his start when cantorial colleagues were impressed by the website he built to share some of his musical compositions.
Today, the firm—which Contzius runs with his wife, an experienced technology exec—provides web solutions for a variety of Westchester small businesses.
With his career 180 completed just recently, Contzius is still getting accustomed to some of the acute differences in his new line of work. “Being a business owner concerned with technology can be a solitary experience,” Contzius says.
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Letting go of daily singing and performing opportunities has been another big adjustment for Contzius, who keeps his musical side engaged by singing with local barbershop chorus The Westchester Chordsmen.