I always found it curious that in science, we value unique, creative thinkers, but we teach scientists to progress in a formulaic manner that rarely takes each person’s individual strengths into account. Surprisingly, when we break the mold, we are often rewarded for it. This cycle of learning to survive using conventional wisdom but being rewarded for a unique path outside of it seems to be an unspoken key to success. I am honored to be awarded the 2020 Women in Cell Biology Junior Award for Excellence in Research and am thrilled to share some of the unconventional guiding principles that brought me to where I am in this rich scientific landscape. The game changers in the early phase of my career were informal mentors, open scientific communication, and persistence in pursuing difficult scientific questions.