Abby Engle in front of Atomic Data sign

“The personal is becoming universal” - how Abby Engle is combining art and business to forge a different path.

March 02, 2020 Scott Evangelist

Many of us have been taught that we should have one career and that the jobs we have within that form our identity. For some, that works, but for others, it can take years to unlearn and embrace the different parts of life that make us who we are.

Abby Engle, artist and administrative assistant at Minnesota based IT firm, Atomic Data, is exploring just that. Originally from Willmar, Minnesota, Abby earned her BFA at Minneapolis College of Art and Design and quickly built a career as an artist, creating larger oil and acrylic paintings.

After some time creating art and producing successful shows in local galleries, Abby began to reflect on her path forward. “I began to think “what do I want from my art?” I got to a point where I decided I wanted to be an artist, and I also wanted financial freedom,” she says.

Abby joined the Atomic Data team in 2019, keen to learn more about the world of IT and to develop her business skills. She has found a new type of fulfillment in working with people each day and has realized she can express her creativity in a different way by helping others be successful.

Jim Wolford, CEO of Atomic Data, is proud of the growing diversity at his firm, with more than 40% of his 205 strong team being women or underrepresented minorities. “The IT industry has long been a Caucasian boys club. We’re on a mission to change that through our unique training programs, hiring practices, and philanthropic giving. At the end of the day we provide opportunities, do the right thing, but also provide better service for our clients,” said Jim Wolford.

Working alongside other strong women has made a tangible difference to Abby’s sense of belonging and confidence. “When you trust the people you work alongside, it’s different. I love that I work with a team of remarkable women – we like to think that we run the ship!”

“Now I think: what am I giving to my art, and what is my art giving to me?”

This new life structure has given Abby the chance to more deeply explore her art. “Art is personal and emotional for me,” says Abby. “I love the idea that the personal is becoming universal; that an audience has an expectation of receiving something and that they’re willing to engage. At each of my shows, I receive feedback which can often surprise me in the best possible way, because people are seeing and feeling aspects of my art that I hadn’t anticipated.” 

Abby says she now sees art as healing, and almost ritualistic. Recently, it has helped her to explore her family history (both of her parents are adopted) and her own identity within that. She is hoping to secure grants that will allow her to return back to Pennsylvania to develop a new project that will explore this further.

Yet, managing art and a full-time job isn’t easy. “The biggest challenge is finding the time. I have found that I have to schedule and budget my time and have realized that if I want to create art, I simply have got to do the work.”

Self-care has become essential to Abby. “ I love both my role at Atomic and my art, but it’s impossible to work 24/7, so I actively tell myself that I’m not being lazy if I’m not working. I need that space for myself so I can then have the energy to create,” she says. 

All of this work has meant that over time, Abby’s relationship with her art has evolved. “Now I think: what am I giving to my art, and what is my art giving to me?”

Republished with permission from Passion Collective.