Six San Diego millennials making their mark

San Diego is full of millennials doing remarkable work in startups and other jobs while also making time for philanthropy and side passions. We asked some of them how they got where they are, what they aspire to in their careers, and how this generation is poised to remake the workplace. Here’s what they had to say; answers have been edited for length and clarity:

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Age: 28

Home turf: Golden Hill

Years on the job: 2

Claim to fame: Goldenberg exemplifies a generation unwilling to be slaves to their jobs. By day, the former academic is a life sciences sales rep for Thermo Fisher Scientific. On the side, she’s an accomplished beer maker who won Stone Brewing Co.’s 2015 homebrew competition earlier this summer with a Belgian golden strong ale based on the flavors of carrot cake. The first woman to win the contest, Goldenberg also started the 2-year-old San Diego Suds Sorority all-women homebrew club. But she has no plans to pursue a career in beer, saying, “I don’t want my hobby to ever feel like work or a job.”

Big break: “Making the decision to leave the lab and academia to pursue a career where I can help others achieve their research goals.”

Sign you’d made it: “I’m still on my way!”

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On your career bucket list: “Instead of checking off bucket list items, I don’t want to have a set path to where my career takes me. My work is very dynamic and always keeps me learning, growing and on my toes. I’m not sure where it will bring me!”

Tech you can’t live without: iPhone6 and LinkedIn, “but in general I am more of a notebook and pen person when it comes to keeping up with to-do lists.”

Millennials are changing work by: Making unconventional career choices and not being afraid to take risks early.

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Age: 27

Home turf: Santa Monica, but grew up in Temecula, and family now lives in Carlsbad

Years on the job: 2.5

Claim to fame: If you’ve seen Blake Lively or Lupita Nyong’o sporting a fedora, chances are it’s a Leone creation. The Temecula native and University of San Diego grad decamped to Los Angeles in 2013 to open her eponymous business and this year landed on Forbes’ list of 30 under 30. Leone’s modern millinery has graced the pages of fashion magazines, newspapers and blogs, and led The Hollywood Reporter to call her “the need-to-know hat designer for Coachella.” Next up: a handbag line.

Big break: “I had very early support from a fashion editor also originally from San Diego who mentored me and got my designs in front of a lot of people that I wouldn’t otherwise have access to. The week after she made some instrumental introductions, I quit my nanny job and started pursuing the business full time.”

Sign you’d made it: “I feel fulfilled reaching goals I set in front of myself, but there are always ways to develop and grow. As the business develops, the dreams and goals get bigger and I am driven to keep progressing. I don’t foresee a point when that need for progression will ever change.

On your career bucket list: Opening up a flagship retail location

Tech you can’t live without: iPhone and Instagram

Millennials are changing work by: Daring to create a world they fit in instead of trying to fit into a world created for them. We’ve grown up with a mentality that anything is possible and have experienced firsthand our peers disrupting massive industries through innovation. You don’t have to follow a historically accepted trajectory to be successful in a field. We make our own hours, literally and figuratively.

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Age: 24

Home turf: Beaverton, Ore.

Years on the job: 4

Claim to fame: In April, the San Diego State University alum and students there won a national entrepreneurship contest for a portable thresher they developed for Ethiopian farmers. Abraham is working to partner with a San Diego nonprofit to create a

micro-loan program that would let Ethiopian women buy the threshers to resell. W.E. Do Good plans to make threshers in the country and has hired four locals to oversee the factory, help with distribution and manage government relationships. Abraham is

living in Oregon but expects to visit Ethiopia again in December.

Big break: “When my team and I won the Values and Ventures Business Plan Competition at Texas Christian University. We beat out 49 schools and received a first-place award of $100,000 in cash and in-kind support.”

Sign you’d made it: “Winning the business plan competition and knowing the amount of individuals we will be able to help.”

On your career bucket list: “Being able to greatly reduce poverty levels in Ethiopia and other underdeveloped countries.”

Tech you can’t live without: iPhone and Gmail

Millennials are changing work by: “Expanding their vision to go further than the borders they live in, and providing products or services on more of a global scale.”

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Age: 30

Home turf: Pacific Beach

Years on the job: 4

Claim to fame: Like Pura Vida, SOLO Eyewear has done well by doing good. Amaraneni’s San Diego startup funnels proceeds from sales of its recycled bamboo sunglasses to pay for prescription eyeglasses and eye surgeries for disadvantaged people around the world, helping more than 11,000 to date.

Big break: “(It) was a gradual process that began with deciding to study entrepreneurship and immerse myself in that world. Two years later, I developed the idea for SOLO Eyewear. By that time, I had developed the confidence to turn that dream into a reality and launched the company.”

Sign you’d made it: “I did have a pretty cool moment when I was featured in Time magazine between Bill Clinton and Bill Gates. My parents ate that up.”

On your career bucket list: “Grow SOLO into a global brand. Teach entrepreneurship. Give a TED talk. Meet Oprah.”

Tech you can’t live without: iPhone and TurboScan

Millennials are changing work by: “Redefining it. They are challenging the norms, prioritizing making a difference in the world, and viewing work as a means to live a more fulfilling life.”

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Age: 28

Home turf: La Jolla

Years on the job: 5

Age: 26

Home turf: Pacific Beach

Years on the job: 5

Claim to fame: Griffin Thall (left) and Paul Goodman turned a post-graduation surf trip to Costa Rica five years ago into a business importing and selling handmade waxed string bracelets in sea foam, salmon and other vibrant colors. Since then, the La Jolla business, whose name means “pure life” in Spanish, has donated close to $600,000 from bracelet sales to charities around the world.

Big break(Thall): “In the first year, Lauren Conrad blogged about us over 12 times.”

Sign you’d made it: “ ‘Good Morning America,’ ‘Ellen,’ Robert Downey Jr., Sports Illustrated, and Victoria’s Secret wearing or featuring our bracelets.”

On your career bucket list: “Creating a Pura Vida apparel line sold in all major U.S. retailers.”

Tech you can’t live without: iPhone6+ and Instagram

Millennials are changing work by: “Becoming more mobile and tech-savvy.”

Big break (Goodman): “(In Costa Rica,) met two local artisans on the beach hand-making bracelets. Brought them back and started Pura Vida Bracelets. We now employ 80-plus in Costa Rica, (are in) 2,500 retails stores and process more than 1,000 online orders a day.”

Sign you’d made it: “I saw David Beckham and Rhianna wearing our bracelets.”

On your career bucket list: “To sell and buy more than five companies.”

Tech you can’t live without: iPhone6 and Jirafe, for “live, up-to-the-minute sales data and analytics dashboard.”

Millennials are changing work by: “Always being plugged in.”

Michelle V. Rafter is a freelance writer covering jobs and employment issues. •

Originally published at on March 4, 2015.

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