Dual careers: Q & A with Shacini Mustachi – Registered Nurse (USA) and Model

By Garisha Herath

1. Shacini, please give us an overview about what you do.

On one hand – I’m a qualified, practicing Registered Nurse, where I got my license in the USA.  On the other hand, I’m a model. This was completely unplanned and initially started as more of a hobby which later progressed into something a little more serious.

2. How has managing work as a nurse and model been for you? 

It is very enriching.
I enjoy the work I get to do as a nurse because I have always been passionate about science and helping people. But it also has its challenges because of the nature of the job.
Being a model has been somewhat like an escape from the stress that sometimes being a nurse can bring and gives me the perfect balance in life.

3. What made you pursue a career in fashion and medicine?

I have been drawn to both fashion and medicine since I was a child. I had no clue that I would make a career out of either at the time.

I initially went to college to study biology because I loved science and medicine, but I had not set my mind to exactly what career path I would pursue. The thought of working in a hospital always intrigued me since it ticked the boxes of working in science and medicine while helping people. I accepted an entry level job once I graduated from college, and the work I did inspired me to pursue a career in nursing.

As for fashion- I grew up watching my mom, grandmother, aunts and grandaunts- all strong beautiful women elegantly dressed, adorned in beautiful jewelry. They have been a huge inspiration in my life and like them, fashion for me is a way to be creative and a way I could express myself.

While I had the confidence to wear what I wanted I don’t think I ever thought I had the confidence to be a model. Like most of us, I was insecure about the way I looked, or was overly critical of myself. It took a lot of work growing out of these fears and insecurities since my first modeling gig where I was pushed by one of best friends to go for a casting of a US fashion company. Its still a little surreal when I look back to the days where I would flip through fashion magazines as a kid at my dentist’s office, seeing Yasmeen Gauri and think “wow imagine being like her!”

I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that I would one day be confident enough to be doing what I do! 

4. There is a certain stigma around career-centric women and women who want to pursue multiple careers. What would you say to younger generations who might feel pressured by these societal norms? 

For a long time in my life I felt pressured by these societal norms – and especially becoming a model or going in to fashion because I felt that is something many people expected from me. 

“Oh, a pretty girl, that’s what you’re going to be…” I fought that idea for a long time and I think in the beginning, one of the reasons behind me pursuing my career in the medical field was to fight these societal norms and to prove that I’m much more than just a pretty face. 

 It was starting to work at the hospital that gave me a new perspective on life. I was working around people at the end stages of their life; you see a lot of grief and regret and you begin to think about what life is and what you want from your life instead. It was like a reality check for me. It made me realize that my time on this planet is so limited and my existence had to mean something to me and the people that I love – NOT to please society or worry about stigma and follow some arbitrary societal rules. 

This was a turning point in my life – it helped me break free from so many of my insecurities and really pursue my dreams. I went back to school to become a nurse when I was 27 – I started modeling at 25 and now I am much happier, more comfortable with myself and who I am becoming. 

 In short, what I would like to convey to younger generations is that they should live the life they dream about. I know this is very idealistic, and I am by no means an expert in life – but we all have it in us to become the person we dream of and how you use your time on this planet is ultimately in your hands.  


5. Being a nurse or a model is not easy, so I can only imagine how hard it would be to juggle both careers at once. How do you do it by managing time and career responsibilities? Do they ever overlap, and how do you solve such issues? 

When I started modeling, I was working in a hospital where I worked 12-hour shifts 3-4 days a week, and I was always on my feet, constantly juggling between classes and work. While I really loved the work I was doing it was very physically and emotionally overwhelming and exhausting. 

Modeling was just a creative outlet for me more than a career. Its something I loved doing that helped balance me out. Realizing I need this balance was what made me work at trying to fit it more in to my life. 

 It was not easy, and there have been plenty of times that I have failed. I am definitely not qualified enough to give you time management advice because these are things I am still working on, but the only thing I  can say through my experience is that when you do things you are passionate about you can always find a way – it takes trial and error but eventually you will find what works for you. You don’t have to be perfect but knowing what you need and figuring out a plan to make it happen will make a difference. 

6. Have you ever felt overwhelmed with your work, and if so, how do you manage it? 

Yes, I do, I’m a very emotional person so as much as I love my profession being a nurse can be very overwhelming for me. This is something I struggle with and like I said before having a creative outlet has been something that has helped me balance my life.

We are more than our jobs and having something that reminds me of that helps me take a step back and evaluate my feelings and address the situation better. 

Having a support system of people you love I think is also very important. We aren’t in this alone! 

7. Women are often criticised, especially for our career choices. Family, and even friends, sometimes tend to label us as “workaholics” or being too driven, too “masculine”. This is severely demotivating for passionate young girls, and may deter them from pursuing their dreams and reaching their full potential. What would you say to such girls? 

I understand that specially in South Asian culture for women, it is very hard to go against the grain and hard to break out of those patriarchal systems. However, as hard as it is – proving what you can do by doing it, is far better than waiting until someone gives you permission to do it. 

The people who care for you will support you in this will be a driving force in your life.

I know for a fact I could not have gotten to where I am without immense amounts of love and support from my family and friends, it is important to recognize who wants to see you succeed and surround yourself with them. Then the voices of anyone who says you can’t do it won’t even matter. 

8. I am speaking on behalf of most women: a majority of the girls I know are compelled to follow career paths already mapped out for them, and are sometimes forced to be immersed in fields they are not interested in. A dual career seems like an exciting proposition, but most are terrified to step into dual career roles, especially if jobs are from two opposing fields. How would you advise them? 

I don’t think I can give any advice on this but I can tell you what inspired me. My mother was supposed to become a piano teacher and I watched her work her way to the top of one of the biggest financial companies in the country. She single handedly supported our family and ensured my sister and I were able to get a good education and become anything we wanted to be. I am so lucky because she was the reason I was able to fearlessly put myself out there and follow my dreams. Watching her break out of the path that was mapped for her and take on life has been a huge drive in my life. 

9. Is it necessary to have academic qualifications in both fields if one plans on becoming a dual career woman?   

The process of gaining qualifications is important and it helps to gain a different perspective on life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pursue different careers just because you don’t have paper qualifications.  You can still learn and perfect your craft in various other ways and master what you do, although you’re not degree-qualified. Besides, this system of going to a school to learn doesn’t work out for everybody; some people learn better when not in school. If you’re passionate about something, you’ll learn everything about it, one way or the other.

10. In your opinion, why does having two careers better than one?

I think everything you do adds to your life and experience in this world. Every time I go to work, I have something new to learn and to add to my knowledge and experiences. I think by having different careers, you see different sides of yourself.  By growing these different skills I think, you become a well-rounded person; it helps to prepare yourself to take on anything life throws at you.

11. Would you change anything about your career choices? 

I don’t think I would ever change what I’m doing because I worked so hard to be where I am today. At school, I was put in a limited state of thinking. I wasn’t an A grade student, and teachers would always bully me, saying things like ‘oh, you’re pretty, you will get married and have a good life….” and I hated that so much. 

I made a promise to myself to prove them wrong so I worked very hard and ended up getting great results surprising myself as well. I then took up science for A/Ls and I got a scholarship to go to America. I had no idea I was even capable of doing this! 

Once I graduated making the choice to go back to school and change my career was extremely difficult.  

When I first applied to the nursing program I got rejected because I didn’t have all the right prerequisite classes from my bio degree. I was devastated but I was determined to succeed.  I decided to speak to the dean and I asked her if I would be considered if I get an A in every prerequisite class to which she agreed. 

I worked so hard get accepted into the nursing program and become a licensed nurse in the US I won’t change that for anything.  

12. Why do you think individuals should be economically and financially independent, especially girls? 

A 100% yes – girls and all individuals should be financially independent. We can’t function in the world today without it. 

Growing up, one thing my mom would always say is that you have to be independent, stand on your own two feet and never depend on anyone to hand you anything and that is something I live by and encourage anyone to work towards. 

13. Do you think it’s ever too late to start something new, academically or career-wise?

It is never too late! I went back to school and it was the best decision I have made. 

There were people in their 40s in my nursing program who came back to start over. There were also Mid-career switches from individuals who were accountants, HR managers, and many more. Each of them said they weren’t happy with their lives and wanted to change that, to me that was very inspiring and helped me know I had made the right choice and that age means nothing. 

Speaking as a nurse and biologist I would actually advise you to keep doing little things that help you learn new skills and challenge your brain. This is very important for cognitive health and aging 

14. What would you say is the best advice you received when merging two career paths? 

I wouldn’t say this is advice on merging two career paths but one piece of advice I have gotten that I think of a lot is what my granduncle told me before I left to collage. “Keep the vision of what want in front of you it’s okay to and wander off sometimes, as long as you remember what you want and keep going for it.” 

15. What further advice you would give to the younger audience who’s planning to pursue multiple careers? 

You are not defined by one thing you do or by one profession, you are so much more than that. People have so many sides to them and I think it’s a mistake not to take full advantage of your life and what you are capable of. 

It is frightening at first, but that’s part of growing up. You will figure it out. 

16. To conclude our little chat would you say, regardless of age, women can do it all?

YES! 

I grew up in a household full of women and I have had very strong female role models in my life. I have grown up seeing and knowing women can do it all. 

 

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