Reading is Deedi Brown’s ’16 MBA superpower. Last year, she read 120 books — dystopian fiction, memoirs, Malcolm Gladwell-type nonfiction and everything in between. She organized international book giveaways and met authors at local bookstores. She also documented all her thoughts and feelings about each book on her colorful, beautifully curated Instagram and blog.
Brown makes time to read while running on the treadmill, sitting on the subway and walking down the busy streets of New York City, but it’s not her full-time job.
Brown is a senior content manager at Ellevest, a financial planning company that’s working to close the gender money gap. Brown primarily manages Ellevest’s online magazine, develops and monitors search engine optimization (SEO) strategy and creates financial content for the company’s newsletter. Now, it’s her dream job, but Brown only discovered her passion for digital marketing while pursuing an MBA at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management.
The classes that Brown found the most value in were the hardest ones. Too many students focus on their GPA, but it’s less about that and more about filling the holes in your skillset, she says. “If I could go back and do it again, I would take even harder classes.”
A lot of the classes she took as an undergrad student at Binghamton University laid out the foundation for what she learned during her MBA. The MBA classes placed a greater emphasis on working with real companies and applying teamwork and interpersonal communication skills.
Brown’s ability to seemingly stretch time and seize the day extends far beyond reading. While pursuing her MBA at Whitman, she was also the communications chair for Whitman Women in Business, a lead ambassador for the Whitman Graduate Program and an e-board member for the Whitman Consulting Club. “If you’re going to take something like that on, you have to be prepared for it, and you have to know that it’s going to be important,” Brown says.
Brown also simultaneously completed a number of online certifications, from Google Analytics to one of Simplilearn’s, focused on digital marketing. It wasn’t easy, but discipline has always been one of Brown’s strengths, and getting involved on campus helped beat some of the imposter syndrome she was feeling.
To keep up with her packed agenda, Brown would finish all her homework early — usually one week ahead of schedule. She refers to it as maintaining an Emergency Fund of Time. “Hard work is important, but not at the expense of the quality of your work,” Brown says. She’s able to balance so many things, both currently at work and when she was in grad school, because she’s genuinely passionate about what she takes on.
“There’s a lot of pressure on our generation to monetize everything that you do, to always be side hustling, but I would encourage people to protect one thing from that pressure,” Brown shares. For her, that one thing is books. She could work in publishing but doesn’t want to turn reading books into something she has to do. Once that happens, it risks smudging the boundaries of work-life balance, Brown says.
The same philosophy extends to her blog, even though she applies much of the knowledge from her marketing background when publishing content for and maintaining the website.
“For anyone, having a blog, even if you don’t show it to anybody, is going to be helpful for you in your career,” Brown shares. It doesn’t have to be public, but it provides the opportunity to practice and hone written communication. And it’s also a built-in reservoir of writing samples, which can be brought to interviews or used as templates.
“I look at what I’m passionate about, and I look at these things I create when my heart is in it,” Brown says. “I have these skills, and I use them in my spare time. It allows my own self to come out in my projects.”
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