Ale Brown: Taking Initiative is the Key to Success

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Ale Brown-small(4)
 Alejandra Brown

Graduated: 2014 EMBA

Current Job: Vice President, Strategy  at SFCG


Where are you currently working and what path did you take to get there?

I just graduated from the EMBA program, on June 10th so I am a newly minted MBA Alumni. I am currently working for a CRM and Digital Marketing Consulting company in Austin, TX named SFCG. I am the only Canadian employee and since they don’t have offices in Vancouver, I work from home and I go down to Austin every 4-6 weeks.

I started working at SFCG in January and I am the newest member of their executive team, ensuring that our corporate strategy is in line with our growth plans and taking care of all of our strategic customers and consulting engagements to ensure that SFCG grows as one of the most respected CRM and Digital Marketing consulting firms in North America.

What is the most valuable skill you learned during your time in the MBA program?

I learned that with the appropriate skills, appropriate planning and foresight, and true follow through you can choose whatever path you want to take and be very successful at whatever you want to do.

Did you have a career change after your MBA, if so how was your transitioning experience?

I had a career change during the last semester of the MBA. I was working for Johnson & Johnson and they let me know that my position in Vancouver would be eliminated and if I wanted to stay with the company I would have to move to Pennsylvania. I love Vancouver too much to give it up so the decision was quite easy for me. After they let me go, I discussed this with SFCG (who at the time was a consulting firm that I had hired to work on some projects for J&J) and they offered me right away to join them so I accepted the new challenge.

Now I am in the process of starting my own management consulting firm along with one of my EMBA team members. After working for big corporations and small firms I truly believe I’m ready to go on my own and make my skills available to a greater variety of companies that can use some help either growing in a planned and methodical manner (to increase their chances of success) or companies that need help becoming more efficient with their processes.

Did you have your “a-ha” moment to start a company when you were in school or after graduating? Tell us about your business and the path you took to achieve your goals.

I had my a-ha moment after I started working for SFCG (after I was let go from J&J). The skills that I got from the EMBA program gave me the confidence to decide to start my own company. A few years ago I would not have known where to even start and now I have been able to put a business plan together with realistic and achievable goals, I know how to start developing my brand in order to convey the right message to prospective customers so that they know what kind of services I offer and what they can expect from me. I feel very confident that I am going on the right path to achieve success in this new endeavour, which is something that I didn’t have before starting the EMBA program. Because I am just starting, I haven’t faced any hurdles, just the fear of the unknown that far from discouraging me, makes me more excited about trying the entrepreneurial experience.

 Describe some of the hurdles you faced after graduating?

The main hurdle that I have experienced after graduating is that I miss my cohort terribly. After 20 months of being with this amazing group of people every other weekend, the routine truly becomes part of your life and not to have that on regular basis has been hard. They have become my best friends and like a family to me and if I had an issue or a dilemma, I knew that coming Friday, I would be able to discuss it with them and I trusted they would give me the soundest advice since they understood where I was coming from. The camaraderie and fun is also something I miss

How do you achieve work/life balance? 

While I completed the EMBA I had a very demanding full time job at J&J and I was also raising a 4 and a 7 year old (2 and 5 when I started the program). It was not easy, I will not lie but I was able to compartmentalize every facet of my life and tried to be in the moment and play 100% the role that I needed to play on any given moment. When I worked I was fully working and I would not look into my homework or my readings at school. When I got home, I would close my laptop and would put away my phone and would spend time with my husband and the kids. After the kids went to bed, my school work began and everyone knew that they were not allowed to interrupt me. It helped that my husband was very supportive and the kids knew that they could have my full attention when it was “Mommy time” but they also knew that they had to cooperate with me going to bed fast and would get only one bedtime story because they knew that I had homework to do after they went to bed. It was a lot of work for me, for my husband and even the kids but after an adjustment period we made it work. And I can honestly say that these 20 months have been the most fun, rewarding and unforgettable of all my life because I was able to learn how far I could go if I really wanted to and how much I was able to give and receive from everybody around me.

What do you believe are the most important skills one needs as they enter the workforce?

The most important skill I look into when hiring someone that is just entering the workforce is initiative. I enjoy working with people that are not sitting and waiting to be told what to do, how to shape their job or how to make the organization they work for better. When someone takes that brave step to say “I think I can have an impact by doing this because of these reasons” I become their greatest advocate. I have found, in some cases, young people that use their inexperience as a shield not to take a step forward and it is very disappointing to me because even when someone is just new to the workforce, they can have imagination and they can be able to change things if they think that’s the right thing to do. Not having initiative does not allow you to showcase leadership and without leadership your career is not going to go anywhere.

What’s the single best piece of career advice you can give to soon-to-be grads?

Enjoy the experience while it is taking place. Sometimes it feels daunting and it feels like an uphill battle but everyday you learn something new from your professors, from your cohort and most importantly, from yourself. Trust that all the information that you are being given is going to make sense at some point and that you will be changed forever because of this. Your thinking, your problem-solving approach and your overall management of yourself and others are going to change dramatically and you will be better because of this.