From Ice Cream Developer to Race Car Engineer
Imagine getting paid to eat ice cream all day, to go to the beach or to figure out how to make a race car go even faster.
They sound like fantasies to most of us but for some people, these are their actual jobs.
Take Paul Monaghan, who is the head of car engineering for the Red Bull Racing Formula One team. Or Kirsten Schimoler, whose job it is to come up with new flavors of ice cream for Ben & Jerry’s.
We interviewed both of them and several others who have the world’s coolest jobs. Click ahead to find out how they landed such a cool job and what a “typical” day is like for them!
By: Cindy Perman
Posted 3 March 2011
Race Car Engineer
Paul Monaghan has a desk with a computer just like the rest of us, but instead of splitting his time between there and the conference room, he splits it between there and the racetrack.
He’s the head of car engineering for the Red Bull Racing Formula One team, which means he oversees the build of the car and troubleshoots whenever anything goes wrong. And, of course, there’s a lot of travel involved, given that Formula One races are held all over the world.
How did he get here? He studied mechanical engineering at the University of Hertfordshire in the U.K., got his first job at Aston Martin Honda, spent a decade with McLaren Racing and is now with Red Bull Racing.
His coolest day? “I would say winning the World Championship last year was pretty cool!” Monaghan said. “It makes all the long hours and hard work worth it.”
Ice Cream Developer
Kirsten Schimoler is a product developer/flavor guru for Ben & Jerry’sice cream. It’s a job she’s been training for since she was young.
Her parents were in the restaurant and wine business, and her father had done some product development, something she used to mimic as a child.
“I loved to cook growing up … my brother and I would go into the kitchen and create things, working with a family friend on recipe development in the summers,” she said.
She has a degree in food science from Cornell University and worked at Unilever, doing product development for PF Chang’s home bistro meals. When she saw the ad in the paper (yep, they advertised it in the paper!) she jumped at the chance to return to her native Vermont and work for a company she’d “consumed and admired” since she was five.
To answer your pressing questions: Yes she gets to eat ice cream all day. In fact, some days it’s breakfast. Yes, she takes ice cream home (they get three free pints a day). The reason why she doesn't look like she eats ice cream all day is because the company has a free gym on site and gives them free memberships to a local gym. And yes, they’re currently looking to hire another ice-cream developer!
Alice Shin has a foodie’s dream job: She’s getting paid to eat her way across Asia, accompanied by two professional chefs, then blog about it.
How did she get such a delicious gig? She won a contest from the Pei Wei Asian Diner chain, owned by P.F. Chang’s, to be a “culinary ambassador” for three weeks. Her winning application included submitting a few of her Yelp reviews and a short video.
On a recent day at “the office,” Shin went to a soba shop to film a master making and cutting noodles by hand, tried noodles at several restaurants, visited a Japanese temple and castle, and then returned back to the hotel to edit the video with a cameraman, and blog about her day. (Read about all of her adventures at www.peiweiblog.com.)
The skills necessary for a job like this are “a big appetite, no fear and the ability to capture your experience in a way that’s relatable to the folks at home,” Shin said. “Also, writing like the wind doesn’t hurt either!”
After this gig is up, she goes back to her regular job, which is being a senior advertising copywriter at SapientNitro. Think Peggy from “Mad Men,” “placed in a world of Twitter, Facebook and interactive advertising!” Shin said.
CEO of Funny Web Empire
When most of us look at funny pictures of animals on the Internet, it’s considered wasting time at work. For Ben Huh, who prefers to refer to it as a “mental vacation,” it’s his business model.
He’s the big cheese (like he’s never heard that one before) at Cheezburger Inc., the company behind 40 amusing web sites, including ICanHasCheezburger.com, IHasaHotDog.com, FAILBlog.org, Memebase.com and theDailywh.at.
The first site, ICanHasCheezburger, which features photos of cute cats, with captions in LOLspeak (e.g., “I can has cheezburger”), wasn’t Huh’s idea , but he saw the business value of it and bought the company in 2007. He had to nurture the site and work on turning it into a business. Initially, the business consisted of Huh in his PJs with his dog , watching daytime television and hosting user-submitted photos on ICanHasCheezburger.com. Now, it’s a 40-site empire with 53 employees.
How did he get here? He studied journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and worked as a journalist for a few years before trying his hand a t a tech start-up – just as the dot-com boom went bust. His last job was as a product manager for a touch-screen technology company. None of it felt quite right – it wasn’t until he reconnected with his inner entrepreneur.
Alas, Huh doesn’t spend all day looking at submissions of funny photos like he did in the early days. Now, he has a team of people to do that. Contrary to what you might think, it’s hard work making sure they live up to their motto: To make everyone happy for five minutes a day.
But ok, yeah. It’s still fun. “I like to describe our business as party in the front, business in the back – it’s a reverse mullet!” Huh said. “It’s a big, giant lab for humor.”
Denise Duffield-Thomas set a goal: To travel around the world with her husband Mark. So when a friend sent her a story about an Irish tourism company looking for a couple to travel around the world testing honeymoon destinations for six months, she knew she had to apply. And sure enough, she and husband , Mark , won, beating out 30,000 other applicants.
Their “job” is to test out honeymoon destinations, then make videos, upload photos, and blog about their day. It’s been the experience of a lifetime: They had a wedding ceremony with the Masai tribe in Kenya, snorkel ed for turtles in Australia, and rode camels in Jordan.
You have to be pretty versatile for a job like this: One day they are waited on hand - and - foot in a private villa .. the next day, they're off on a camping trip through the desert, Thomas said. And, while every marriage has its strains, they’ve had a few unique ones, like 5 a.m. interviews and swimming with sharks!
Great news: Runaway Bride and Groom, the company that hired them, is now looking for another couple to be the new honeymoon testers. Register at RunawayBrideandGroom.com.
By: Cindy Perman
Posted 3 Mar 2011
If you think some of these dream job contests don’t constitute real jobs – you haven’t met Ben Southall. Ben won the “Best Job in the World” nearly two years ago, which was a job as an “island caretaker” in Queensland, Australia, where he would basically go to the beach, snorkel, dive and see everything there was to see, and then blog about it.
It was a six-month gig , but Southall was so successful, he’s now a full-time “tourism ambassador” for Queensland. Last year, he went on a global media tour, traveling around the world to talk about his experience. Now, he’s back in Queensland, going on adventures and blogging about them.
What’s a typical day like for Southall? Well, somedays “typical” means he’s snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef ; other days, it means escorting a group of students through the countryside or speaking before 2,000 people at a conference. But “caretaker” isn't just for show: Southall said some days he even has to clean the pool!
By: Cindy Perman
Posted 3 Mar 2011
Professional T-Shirt Wearer
Kids will often beg their parents to stay home, prompting responses like, “Well, honey, Daddy doesn’t get paid to sit around on the couch, so Daddy has to go to work.”
Well, Carl and Amy Martin found a way to make that all one in the same: They created their own business as “The Billboard Family,” and the whole family (including kids Layne, Kaitlyn and baby Alex) gets paid to wear a company’s T-shirt for the day, whether they’re at home or out. Then, they blog, do Facebook and Twitter updates and create YouTube videos to talk to their online community about the company they’re wearing and its products. They even had a company sponsor the recent birth of their daughter, Alex!
Dad Carl said he actually got the idea after hearing about Jason Sadler, the guy who started a mini-T-shirt wearing empire called “I Wear Your Shirt.”
The kids love it: They not only get excited when the new T-shirts are delivered, they’re also getting into helping out with the production of the daily photos and videos. And they’re very good at suggesting poses. One downside: Getting the kids to keep their shirts clean!
Joe Caffrey is trained in broadcast production , but he doesn’t report to an office or a studio. He reports to different locations around the world for each assignment, taking videos for his clients.
Sometimes it’s Madison Square Garden in New York, sometimes it’s Istanbul, Turkey. As a result, he basically wanders into a different “office” every day -- and while some of his “co-workers” are the same, like his fellow freelancers, they might also include the occasional famous person like the Dalai Lama or Chris Rock!
He does a lot of work for Carnegie Hall, which is how he landed in Istanbul. They do a global student-sharing program and he’s part of the team that shoots the concerts and transmits them around the world. Sometimes these videos are just for the client’s records, such as the Dalai Lama’s speeches in Madison Square Garden, or corporate parties. Other times, it turns into something else – like the Chris Rock concert, where the footage was used for his HBO special.
And while others faced layoffs during the recession, Caffrey benefited from companies being tight on money and wanting to use freelancers. He had gone freelance shortly before the recession so he was in the perfect spot. “I was already in on the ground floor of the bad economy!” Caffrey quips.
Among his favorite “days at the office” are the time he directed video coverage of the “Flight of the Concords” when they did a live show at Radio City Music Hall in New York, and working with a famous tabla drummer in India. As they walked through the streets together, the crowd parted!
All in a day in the life of a freelance videographer.
Check out our previous installment of Coolest Jobs: