From Academia to Coaching Remote Workers — Why I Made The Jump!

Alessandro Montalto PhD
5 min readAug 6, 2020


My Story In A Nutshell

Mine is the story of a guy who wanted to belong to a research team that he could call family.

I longed for stability, namely a set of immutable conditions. Stability was my comfort zone. My approach to whatever choice I made aimed to create that stability that never came and that is impossible to obtain since life constantly evolves and changes.

I spent so much energy trying to create a utopian lifestyle! So much so, that I had a severe burnout and depression.

What helped me was my curiosity! I started my inner journey when I started my PhD and I deepened it to deal with an overwhelming feeling of meaninglessness.

I learnt that I was avoiding processing my painful experiences. When I studied to become a certified life coach, I realized how much being able to look straight into the eyes of the pain can make me (us) free.

Now, I look at life with different eyes: I know that balance needs to be nurtured on a daily basis. It’s a dynamic, ever evolving state of mind. I went through a lot in the last 7 years and I realized that being able to process pain is such a powerful process that everybody should be able to experience it.

It enables a person to be more fulfilled, to experience a deeper sense of belonging and to gather the courage to do whatever she wants to do and be whoever she wants to be.

Why I Made The Jump

There are several reasons that made me realize that Academia wasn’t for me. I already talked about the dark side of Academia and what it meant to me. I can summarize that post by saying that I let Academia drain my energy. I identified myself with the image of the researcher way too much. Thus, I descended towards the dark pit of depression when the frustration of not seeing any of my work to improve people’s life became overwhelming.

That’s why I decided to leave Academia: to find a more profound and down-to-earth way to help other people. It still wasn’t an easy decision. I felt torn between who I always dreamed to be and where I was really headed, read who I was really becoming. I needed to come to terms with reality. That’s a lesson I learnt the hard way: fighting against reality is useless and draining.

I realized that the closer to a principal investigator (PI) I wanted to become, the more of a politician I needed to be, constantly dealing with funding, conferences and a ton of articles to write with less and less time to study and really getting an in-depth knowledge of a topic.

That wasn’t the life I wanted for myself. I felt more and more disconnected from other people and sorry to not have the emotional and mental energy to be there for my friends and family.

I needed to take action even though the decision would be painful and highly unbalancing. I braced myself and I jumped! I talked to my supervisor, explaining him why I wanted to quit and that mine was a definitive decision. He replied by showing compassion and actually sharing my same struggles. From that day on, I met more researchers who share my same doubts about Academia and how the research life style negatively affects their lives.

Advice For Younger Researchers

During my last webinar, hosted by Ontology OF Value, Natalia asked me what would be a piece of advice for young researchers based on my experience. What I can say is

  • keep having an open mind. Talk to other researchers and professors to get to know their life style and check whether you think it’s for you
  • don’t give up your passions! A person is shaped by her experiences. It’s not only about hard skills, but more often than not getting a job and feeling fulfillment is about how you use your soft skills like communication and teamwork. Usually, a PhD is a solo project where you learn how do be very proactive, looking for problems and solutions. This attitude can be a drawback when you work for a company.

Where I Landed After The Jump

I was living in Sydney at the time I decided to leave Academia and not having a job meant that I either found another employer within three months or I needed to go back to Europe. I was devastated and confused, not the ideal conditions to apply for a job. With a broken heart, I said goodbye to Australia and I came back to Europe devoting my life to what I really love: connecting, sharing, and helping. Thus, I decided to get a certification in life coaching.

I now envision my life as a promoter and a facilitator of change and improvement. The reasons behind my new career path are the same that led me to pursue an academic career. What changed is the context in which I can now express myself.

That’s why, after 15+ years of working remotely, I now help other fellow remote workers and companies create the most burnout-free and fulfilling remote work experience by sharing my own life journey in combination with CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) coaching tools. Furthermore, I freelance as a marketing consultant to help companies engage with their clients in a more human and team-oriented fashion.

Remote workers is a broad niche and a lot of PhD’s fall into it as well. Working for a company, holding a PhD and working remotely can be very challenging. No matter whether you are a manager, a CEO or an employee, whenever you struggle with communicating with the team, productivity, work-life balance, setting boundaries and being able to take some deserved rest, you can contact me. I am here to help you!

Don’t hesitate to reach out, even if it’s just for the first assessment session. It’s fine if you won’t want to talk to me any more, but at least, by the end of the session, you’ll know what your strengths are and what you should work on to improve your life. Either your future will be in Academia or outside, don’t want until burnout hits you, otherwise it will take much longer and a much bigger effort to get out of it.

Reach out and start a preventive exploratory process to avoid (worsening?) a possible burnout. Make the first move by taking this test and if you score more than 60, please send me a message and let’s talk about it.

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Alessandro Montalto PhD

I mentor people to develop the required soft skills to become successful remote workers —