Brian was born in Columbia, SC and grew up with his mom, dad, and older brother. The frustrations of a “not so typical” childhood created a mean streak that kept Brian in and out of trouble as a youth. Brian’s perspectives on life changed drastically when he was shot in the arm during a drive-by shooting. He realized how fragile life really is. He confided, “From then on, nothing was the same. That situation really set the foundation for what I did next.”
Brian and I connected at the Public Hotel in Chicago. The ambiance was perfect for two young professionals with a taste for the finer things. Brian is currently an Account Executive for Microsoft, but his journey to the top of the corporate ladder was no walk in the park. Academically, he’s been laying the foundation for high achievement since High School. Brian started by becoming the 2003 Valedictorian of Columbia High School class and earning Coca-Cola Scholarship, awarded to only the top 50 students in the country. Leaving high school Brian had his heart set on the Ivy League. He was accepted to Yale, but chose Hampton because of the full scholarship he was awarded. At Hampton, the academic successes continued. Brian majored in advertising and finished with a 4.03 GPA, which earned him the HU President’s Cup in 2007 and named him the International Scholar of the Year for Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He accredited his achievements in the classroom to an uncanny auditory memory. “I can almost remember anything that I hear, so I never skipped a class” he said. Most recently, Microsoft named Brian a member of the Gold Club for high production in the office. In order to know where you want to go, you have to know where you don’t want to be. I bring to you a glimpse inside the mind of a consummate high achiever in this week’s #ShineHard conversation.
What is your passion and when did you know?
Brian: What really drives me is psychology. I like social psychology or the political psychology. It’s all about putting the puzzle together and figuring things out. That can be applicable to almost any situation. Psychology is one of the most interesting things because it’s something you’ll probably never figure all the way out. It’s a natural fit for advertising because every brand wants to make an identity and needs to help their audience understand what that identity is.
Who did you look up to growing up?
Brian: I would really have to say my mom. The reason why I say that is, everybody has their own issues and problems, but what’s beautiful about her is that she never complained. She never let our situation be an excuse as to why you can’t do something. Her situation was not ideal, but I’ve always admired her character. A kind attitude and unselfishness. I strive to immolate that.
How did you get started with Microsoft?
Brian: Originally, I didn’t see Microsoft as a player for me. They had one informational on campus and I stayed in contact with the guy. I sent him my resume and I guess based on my GPA I was able to get my foot in the door. I got called in for an interview for what I didn’t even know was a huge piece of advertising, “Search Advertising.” My first job was selling and servicing the search advertising on a platform called, “Live Search.” This is now called “Bing,” but there was no marketing behind it. At the time, we owned like 5% market share and Google owns like, 80-85%.
Tell me more about your role and department..?
Brian: My role now is Account Executive. As a company, we own Skype, GroupMe, Xbox, MSN, Windows 8. The faction I work in is Advertising and Online. To get to the nuts and bolts of what I love about advertising, it’s the innovation. Most things haven’t been done before, so if you can do it technologically, you have the opportunity to create a really new, unique experience. To describe what I do in one sentence, I monetize the internet. I am the reason why the internet is free. You use every site, they’re making money off you and you don’t even know it. The reason websites are free is because they’re making money based on advertisements. The whole things is to raise awareness or drive e-commerce.
What inspires you to succeed?
Brian: I’m in a constant competition with my former self. I refuse to think my best accomplishments are behind me. The self motivation factor for me is huge. I can’t imagine a day where all my best accomplishments are in the past.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your career thus far?
Brian: The biggest challenge that I’ve had is something that people don’t really think about in life, but in Corporate America it’s absolutely true. I started things early and you get to a point where you see ageism. My manager might be 15 years older than me, my peers can be 10 years older. With that the level of immediate respect, it takes them a lot to humble themselves and say, “OK me and this kid are doing the exact same thing or he might be further than me.” Sometimes it feels like, “Oh he can wait. He has enough on his plate already.” It’s that, “just be happy with what you got” type of thing.
What frustrates you the most about today’s culture?
Brian: People who want their head patted for every single accomplishment. Oh, and people that complain without looking for a solution.
What’s the #1 factor to your success?
Brian: It’s not about what you say to people, it’s about how you make them feel. You have to understand that there’s a certain magnetism to doing business with people or someone giving you that job. Going back to the psychology piece, part of my success is being able to make people feel comfortable. The second part is being a perfectionist. Going to work everyday like you’re interviewing for that next job.
What’s your end goal professionally?
Brian: I absolutely love Corporate America, so I will invest more time into climbing the corporate ladder, but I also plan to be an entrepreneur of some sort. It makes no sense to live in America and not try your hand at entrepreneurship. I have an idea for a restaurant venture that I’ll roll out when the time is right.
What advice would you give to the young professionals trying to move up in the corporate world?
Brian: Learn the art of humility. It’s easy to see the person on top and think you’re supposed to be right there with them. Everybody crawled before they walked, maybe you didn’t see that part! Whatever your passion is, if you really want to get into it, be OK with starting at the bottom. The second piece, growth is not a linear line. It’s more like a stock market ticker. Don’t let age or some number determine your success or discourage your progress.
Johnny: Absolutely, and never compare your beginning to somebody else’s middle! BJ, may our best accomplishments forever live in the future! Glad to have you as part of the #ShineHardFamily!
Interested in learning more or connecting with Brian?