When her company moved her position to Japan in 1999, Goldman Sachs technologist Jessica Wickham jumped at the chance to live abroad.
But while it was a thrill to live overseas, Wickham found that working for a US-based investment bank in Asia meant extra-long workdays. "You're not only doing your day job, but at night you're on conference calls," she told CNBC. So she started looking for a way to unwind during her limited free time.
She remembered seeing an exhibit back home in New York City, featuring traditional Japanese joinery – the technique of joining two pieces of material. The exquisite craftsmanship had stuck with her for years afterward, and Wickham decided to try her hand at it. "It was a way to connect to Japan and to do something with my hands," she explained. She found a local study group devoted to joinery and began attending their meetings on the weekends. Immediately, she felt connected to the materials and the craft. "It really kept me sane," she said.
After 9/11, Wickham's position at Goldman Sachs was moved back to New York, but she wasn't ready to leave Japan. So she resigned and stayed in Japan, studying joinery until her work visa expired a year later.
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