Dear Coach Joan: Career Advice
Sonoma County through the lens of Silicon Valley
Profile #1: Will Bucquoy, photographer
“Photography is not a job. I’m telling stories in a single image and I love it.” – Will Bucquoy.
The photographer doesn’t realize it but I’m seeing him through a lens of my own — a Silicon Valley lens. As a transplant from the South Bay, I have started a series on locals with an eye to what makes toiling here uniquely Sonoma County.
I met Will Bucquoy when I was looking to hire a photographer and he was referred to me as the ‘go to’ guy.
When we got to work, I saw Bucquoy’s professionalism, but even more impressive was his passion. I was curious about his backstory.
Now in his 50s, Bucquoy grew up poor in Oregon. He worked really hard to earn his way and felt lucky when he had the opportunity to attend college. During school he chose the practical major of business and found a well-paying job in the automotive industry to help pay college expenses. One thing led to another. Bucquoy stayed in the automotive field, going from corporate sales, to being a franchisee, to association president and then on the board of directors. What started as job to help him cover college expenses became a 30-plus year career that would allow him to afford a home, raise a family, travel and enjoy the good life. And that good life took him to Santa Rosa in 1989.
But deep inside Bucquoy always knew what his passion was: art. From painting to music, to photography, to performing on stage, the arts captivated him.
Before long a conflict broke out in Bucquoy’s mind. The practical voice in him said, “Stay with your profession. It’s secure. It’s good money. It fuels the life you lead. It takes care of your family.”
Meanwhile the hopeful artistic voice said, “Someday there might be the chance to express my real self, my creative self.”
What finally got Bucquoy to GO FOR IT?
A combination of things happened when he turned 50:
1. A very good friend, also 50, died of a sudden heart attack. Bucquoy said it was a real wake-up call that life was not forever.
2. His kids were getting older and ready to move out of the house.
3. An insatiable desire to fulfill an artistic passion was rising in him.
At this point Bucquoy was working 50 hours a week and at the end of each day he was watching television and reading magazines. He didn’t feel fully alive.
“I wanted to be a role model to my kids. I needed to show them how to live AUTHENTICALLY and how to get as much happiness out of life as possible,” he said.
Bucquoy did not jump into a new career. As a reflective business person he developed a 5-year plan including:
-Benchmarks and timelines.
-Education, with a focus on all aspects of photography.
-A Dual Track Approach, keeping his day job while he trained for his new career.
-Networking in the photography industry.
The 5-year plan may not have included luck, but luck stepped in. The right person at the right time arrived. A good friend introduced Bucquoy to Rolling Stone’s first-ever photographer, Baron Wolman. The mentor generously shared his theory for being a successful photographer. He told Bucquoy the words that have stayed with him since, and have propelled him forward:
“JUST SAY YES TO EVERYTHING. YES opens doors you can’t even imagine!” were Wolman’s magic words.
“Wolman encouraged me to go for every opportunity and every kind of exposure I could get!”
Bucquoy said: “I let go of fear and SAID 100% YES to photography, and that was the key turning point.”
Bucquoy was out there at every community event from Wednesday night Farmer’s Markets to Chamber of Commerce events, to all theater, art performances, any and all local events where he could meet people and photograph.
According to Bucquoy, he’s naturally a shy person, but he said that to be successful in building a photography business you need to develop networking skills. You need to know how to connect with people. The people dimension is vital!
What was the hardest part?
Bucquoy said the hardest part was letting go of the other track.” I had to be ALL IN. And the more people hired me, the more people that wanted to hire me.”
What was the biggest obstacle in making the transition?
Bucquoy said “Fear and making sure I’d have enough to eat in a world where everyone with a cell phone camera thinks they are a photographer. He needed to focus on his operating mantra: JUST SAY YES!
What’s been his most exciting opportunity as a photographer?
Bucquoy said “From rock star musicians to published authors to political leaders, to leaders in the arts, I’ve had extraordinary opportunities to meet fabulous people and had chance moments you can’t buy a ticket to!!”
For those of you who are considering a second career, one thing to realize is that you probably have already developed skills that are transferable to your next career. In Bucquoy’s case key skills included a good work ethic, project management and outstanding customer service skills.
Was Bucquoy sorry he hadn’t started out in the arts?
“Joan, I get up every morning like a little kid, brimming with enthusiasm and excitement! This is clearly the right path for me at the right time. The 30 years in my first career gave me so much to bring to my second career. And I wouldn’t be as skilled or appreciative had I done it any other way.”
Bravo to Bucquoy, an impressive local career success. And you can see more of his work at:
Facebook: WB Photography or Instagram: @Willbucquoy
Readers: Do you have someone with a local career success story you’d like me to cover?
Just write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Will Bucquoy