A mother, a model & a lawyer for the community - Danica Schneeweiss paves her way

Danica Schneeweiss has progressed to become an expert when it comes to putting her hard-learned skills to use. With a degree in English and, African American studies along with a successful law career, Danica has set up quite a work environment for herself. She is a model, writer and professional in management who balances her responsibilities at work whilst educating her children on the topic of identity and finding inner strength. By showcasing books about children of color on her Instagram page, supporting start-ups and addressing personal topics in the form of online journals, Danica displays her urge to give back to communities along with the importance of not losing sight of your personal goals. Her method maximising  her skills and assets led her to start the position as COO at Chromatic Gallery and starting a start-up of her own in Austria. Read more about Danica‘s contemporaneous work in the following interview.

B: Your career from the field of law to writing have been ongoing since your time in the US. How did it all start?

D: Before arriving in Vienna, I was practicing corporate law at an international law firm in New York. I then completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where I obtained my Bachelor's in English with a minor in African American history. After graduating with my law degree at Fordham University (Magna Cum Laude which is reserved for a small number of students at the top of the class), I immediately began working for a corporate law firm in New York. It was also important for me to do pro-bono work at the side, which is why I focused on women based issues and also did lots of work for Sanctuary for Families, which is a domestic violence non-profit in New York. 

B: With such heavy loaded work in New York what brought you to Vienna?

D: Love. I met my Austrian husband at the swearing-in ceremony for attorneys in New York, and we decided to move to Vienna for at least a few years so I could learn German and get to know more about his culture. A year after arriving in Vienna, I started a small company "Talk with Me" that provided English services (resume editing, proofreading cover letters, etc.) for expats and the European community in general. After two very busy years, we moved back to New York.

B: But you didn’t stay in New York for a long time. What made you decide to settle in Vienna for good?

D: Being pregnant with our first child was a difficult thing during that time, at least in the United States. I was working at a start-up, and because the health-care system is so different than in Europe (Obamacare was still being figured out) we decided that starting our family in Austria would be the better choice. I have three kids now and I have finally started getting back to work. Navigating being a mother and working (specifically in Austria where the laws and culture are very different than in the States) has been interesting, to say the least, but I am grateful that I have a supportive husband who allows me the space to figure it all out.

B: So how does your independent writing come in place?

D: Writing has always been an outlet for me, I think I always had it there. Graduating as an English major, I was always faced with reading and writing. I loved to write short stories and poetry, and I still do. But my creative side took a back seat because since back then it didn‘t pay the bills. Now in 2019, I started posting Children’s books on Instagram (@diversekidslit). I realized there was a void in the Austrian market for books for kids of color. I grew up seeing diversity on the daily, and it was important for me to have my kids and their peers have access to this as well. After being featured in an Austrian newspaper I realized how much the positivity that these books bring had spread and will continue this path.

B: As you mentioned you‘ve worked for start-ups and have founded one of your own. Would you say that nowadays the number of start-up companies and entrepreneurs are on the rise? 

D: The answer is definitely „yes“. After coming back from New York, the first thing I thought was „This isn‘t forever. This is only transitional.“ But coming back here for the second time I became more involved with start-ups and advised an Austrian app start-up for almost six months. Vienna is becoming more and more like a start-up capital, similar to Berlin. Being involved with people in the community showed me there was a definite upward move for the start-up culture in Vienna.

B: With such diverse activities at your job plus being a mother of three, how do you unwind? 

D: I‘m a big reader, so when I do have time to unwind, I like to read. But in that sense, I'm also a very active person who enjoys walks in the woods and exploring parks. Earlier this year I started spinning, which is a real release for me and a great option for anyone who likes loud music. In the last three years, it was difficult to find the time to do all of that because my family was my hobby. But this year I made it a priority to reclaim time back for myself. It‘s not easy to do that but it‘s so important for overall health, especially mental health.

B: As a company focused on inspiring young professionals we focus on not only looking the part but feeling the part. What are some words you‘d like to share regarding finding the right path in a professional field?

D: This is for anyone on the verge of a new career or coming up in college; Have space in silence and be okay with not figuring everything out. In this day and age, everyone has got to have everything. But while checking off all the things you want to achieve you miss the point of why you‘re doing it. Everyone seems to want to have everything so quickly and be the first to get to the top of whatever field you are striving for. Slow down. Live in the present. To be the best version of yourself, try to find some time to be with yourself and most importantly to love yourself.

And to all the mothers reading this: You are strong, you are capable and you are enough. Meet yourself where you are at and know that you show up each day for your kids is pretty darn amazing.  

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