Professional SpotlightSpotlight

As food lovers, we try to consume as many food articles and books we can get our hands on. We are big fans of Anne McBride’s writing, and we were very excited for the opportunity to talk with her about her career in the food industry and as a writer. Having grown up with grandparents who were farmers and gourmet home-cooks, Anne has been exposed to the pleasures of cooking and how food brings people together. Being surrounded by food throughout her childhood made Anne comfortable when it came time for her to cook.

We love that Anne is a constant learner and serious about her work. Not only is she working toward a PhD in Food Studies from New York University, but she is also an adjunct professor there. Additionally, Anne is the Director of Experimental Cuisine Collective and is the Culinary Program and Editorial Director for the Strategic Initiatives Group at The Culinary Institute of America. In her spare time, she writes articles and books about food. To say we are impressed would be an understatement! Read on to learn more about Anne’s career, what each job entails, and the skills she believes you need as a food writer.

Name: Anne E. McBride
Education: B.A. from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Follow: annemcbride.net / @annemcbride

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth?”

Anne E. McBride: Making the most of all the open doors you face when you are young and at the beginning your career. Not being afraid to take risks. Not over planning the next 10 to 15 years (regardless of which age you are!).

CJ: What did you major in at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette? How did you determine what to study?

AM: I majored in print journalism, with a minor in history. As soon as I decided to go to college (only a small percentage of the population goes, in Switzerland) I never considered another major. I wanted to write.

CJ: What did your post-college journey look like?

AM: I got a job as an editorial assistant at a book publishing company working on cookbooks and travel books (I had blind-emailed them my resume and they called me a couple of weeks later) and stayed there three and a half years. It was a small company and I worked really hard so I was quickly promoted and by the end was running the editorial side, but still had a huge amount to learn. I did a quick stint in restaurant PR, then in communications at the Institute of Culinary Education for two years full time, followed by another five years as a freelancer for them. About three and a half years ago I started working for the Culinary Institute of America.

CJ: What sparked your passion for food and cooking?

AM: I grew up in a very food-focused environment but was not aware of it until time came to look for a job. My maternal grandfather in Switzerland was a farmer and we spent nearly every weekend on the farm (my very first job was picking grapes in his vineyards); he also loved restaurants and took us along whenever we were there. My paternal grandmother in France is a gourmet home-cook who plied us in foie gras, calf livers, heads-on shrimp, homemade mayonnaise, and the likes whenever we’d visit. My mother is a very adventurous cook, and my father loves great food. All this stressed, in a subconscious manner, the importance that food has in creating bounds among people, in this case my family and whoever shared our table, and how much both pleasure and culture can be communicated through food. And always seeing so much cooking around me made me comfortable cooking myself when time came.

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CJ: You are currently working toward your PhD in Food Studies at New York University. What drew you to this program?

AM: I had been looking at a variety of PhD programs, mostly in sociology, for a couple of years, but then I started working more and more around food and meeting people who told me to check out NYU. I sat in on a few classes and there was no question that I had found a home. I wanted to put rigor around my study of (and work around) food, get credentialed for my academic study of it, and commit to food as my career. 

CJ: You are also an adjunct professor at New York University, where you teach classes that include Food in the Arts: Experimental Cuisine, Food Issues in Contemporary Society, and Food Studies and Nutrition Communication Workshop. What have you enjoyed most about teaching, and though others are learning from you in your classes, what have you learned from your teaching experiences?

AM: I love being around the students the most and learn so much from them. It’s so rewarding and inspirational to see former students attaining high-level positions in the food world and achieving great things, whether in their careers or in their personal lives. It keeps me motivated and forces me to constantly see the food world from their fresh perspective, and from a scholarly perspective ensures that I am always up to date on the latest material. I like my classes to be a place of exchange—of course it’s not an entirely equal one since I grade them, but nonetheless I think that the experience is richer for everyone if they feel that they can express their opinions and ask any question they’d like.

CJ: You are the Director of Experimental Cuisine Collective, an interdisciplinary group of more than 2,500 scientists, chefs, media, scholars, and food enthusiasts that examines the connections between food and science. This sounds very interesting! What does your role as Director entail?

AM: This is a volunteer-based organization (our meetings have always been free, since we launched in 2007, since we want to make knowledge as accessible as possible) and it’s really just three of us, so it entails doing nearly everything from finding presenters and working with them on the content and format of their presentations to updating the website and communicating to our members to running errands and picking up whatever we need for meetings. We have presentations on a nearly monthly basis, with the goal of using food to better understand science and science to better understand food. Our speakers and our audience are equally diverse and the content is thorough and serious, so I always encourage presenters to speak at a fairly high level but take questions as they go to clarify what’s needed, which makes for very thought-provoking and engaging discussions.

CJ: You are the Culinary Program and Editorial Director for the Strategic Initiatives Group at The Culinary Institute of America where you work on program development for industry leadership conferences. How do you go about organizing and developing these professional forums, which have included Worlds of Flavor and reThink Food.

AM: The process starts by identifying the theme or areas of focus for each program for that year, brainstorming what this means in terms of potential conference sessions, how it relates to the current concerns and interests of the food industry (all the programs I work on are for industry only), and who would be great presenters for it. Then over several months all of that gets developed further. I reach out to potential presenters, work on the specifics of their contents once they are confirmed, craft the overall program and tweak it as needed. I look for fresh perspectives, whether it’s getting experienced presenters to talk about their expertise in new contexts or finding new angles to cover a well-known subject. I spend a lot of time attending other conferences to add to my understanding of issues and cuisines and to meet new potential talent, and also a lot of time at my desk emailing people. And do a lot of research by reading books and articles on the topics of the programs I work on. It’s a combination of macro, more intellectual elements and micro details and logistics. It’s a very demanding job and because my whole life informs what I do in that role, I don’t get to clock out very often, but I wouldn’t trade any of it and a huge reward is that I get to work with amazing people from all over the world.

CJ: You regularly write on topics related to professional and experimental cooking, and have contributed to Food Arts, Gastronomica, the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, and Food Cultures of the World. You write for your blog, Pots and Plumes, and you were the editor and writer of the Institute of Culinary Education’s tri-annual publication, The Main Course, for seven years, and the director of the school’s Center for Food Media between 2008 and 2011. Additionally, you have co-authored many books including Payard Cookies, Chocolate Epiphany: Exceptional Cookies, Cakes and Confections for Everyone, Bite Size: Elegant Recipes for Entertaining, Les Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections to Make at Home, and Culinary Careers: How to Get Your Dream Job in Food. What is your writing process when it comes to articles and co-authoring cookbooks and books?

AM: For articles in particular, it’s all about wanting to share a great story. I don’t have much time to pitch so don’t write articles nearly as regularly as I’d like to, but the good thing is that I get to only focus on the stories I really want to tell. So it often starts with something in a conversation that strikes me or something I observe when traveling for example. Then I do tons of interviews and research, ending up with way too many notes, and I struggle through it all until an article I’m happy with emerges, which is often the second version of a piece rather than the very first one I write.

For books, it starts by developing a concept with the chef I’m working with or thinking of working with, shopping a proposal, and then once the book is under contract work with them on translating “chef knowledge” into home-cook knowledge. My job is to ask all of the questions that someone at home with no experience would have when looking at their raw recipes and write them up in a way that makes complete sense when you are alone in front of an open cookbook. For that I spend time in the kitchen with chefs but mostly a lot of time alone at my computer. Michael Ruhlman, the food writer, once said that your body has to be capable of being a writer, so being able to sit for countless hours, and that has always stuck with me. I can definitely sit at a computer for 18 to 20 hours a day, which is a very useful skill to have while on deadline for a book!

CJ: What top three skills do you need as a food writer?

AM: Curiosity is huge, it what keeps you asking the right questions—both the fun and the serious type of questions. It’s the base of good researching and reporting, and what ensures hopefully that you keep digging into a story and into a subject. Curiosity also is the opposite of jadedness, which is important to me. Connected to curiosity is food knowledge, or perhaps better stated as a proper understanding of the world you cover. I don’t mean that you necessarily have to have cooked in a professional kitchen, but you need to understand the world that you cover, including its business structure, whether you are covering chefs, artisans, farmers, or corporations. You need to know ingredients, cooking techniques, flavors, etc. You don’t need to be a policy or labor expert but you need to understand the current issues of the food system and know where to go look for answers.

It’s a question of respecting your subjects and also of treating food like a proper beat. And last, you need good writing skills. It sounds idiotic to even mention, but the downside of food being such a familiar, and a popular, topic is that many people feel very comfortable writing about it, and perhaps not everyone should.

CJ: Your book, Culinary Careers, is an incredibly useful read. In it you provide exclusive interviews with people in the food world. What advice would you personally give to a young person hoping to set themselves up for success in the culinary world?

AM: Always remember that it’s a small world, so work hard, don’t burn bridges, and you’ll create a solid network for yourself. You could do lots of things that will make you richer than working in the culinary world. But not many will make you happier or will let you work with better people.

CJ: With everything you have going on, how do you stay organized and manage your time?

AM: My life is run by Google Calendar and my notepad, which has a good old-fashioned to-do list I can cross off as I go. I’m also, for better or for worse, a workaholic, so I just work all the time, which is probably not the healthiest time management or organizational principle but it works for me!

CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

AM: I’m trying to carve a little more time for relaxation and time away from my desk. There’s always another email to write (and no matter how hard I try I can’t keep up with the insane volume of my inbox), or more recipes to edit, or more work to do on my dissertation. So going kayaking for a few hours on a Saturday is actually good for my mental health and my productivity, not lost work hours.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

AM: Don’t stress about things out of your control. Take all the risks you can while you can.

Images by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When we were growing up, we loved reading (okay, we still do!). One book in particular that was formative in our youth was Girltalk: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You by Carol Weston. When you’re growing up and feel confused and sometimes lost, a book like this is impactful, especially with topics such as health, friendship, love, and family. You can imagine our excitement and disbelief when we walked into an Upper West Side bookstore to find Carol doing a reading of her latest book, Ava and Taco Cat. Carol writes novels and has been the “Dear Carol” advice columnist at Girls’ Life Magazine since 1994. It goes without saying that it’s a privilege to Spotlight her on Carpe Juvenis.

Carol’s journey is an exciting one – having spent a good amount of time abroad studying languages and culture, Carol decided to major in French/Spanish Comparative Literature from Yale University. Not only that, but she also earned her graduate degree in Spanish from Middlebury. Carol grew up with journalist parents, so she was constantly surrounded by words. She got her start with a Seventeen Magazine contest, and her career continues to be wildly successful. With more than a dozen published books, Carol shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Keep an eye out for Ava XOX and The Speed of Life, being released in February 1 and September 2, 2016, respectively.

We learned so much from this incredible children’s book writer, and we’re excited to share her words of wisdom with you. Read on to learn about how she fell in love with storytelling, how she stays up to date with the trends of being a younger teenager, and what her writing process looks like.

Name: Carol Weston
Education: B.A. in French/Spanish Comparative Literature from Yale; M.A. in Spanish from Middlebury
Follow: carolweston.com@carol_weston WriterCarolWeston  / YouTube

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Carol Weston: Seizing your youth is about making sure you’re not wasting your time. Wasting your youth would involve buying a bunch of celebrity magazines and watching Reality TV while eating Doritos and wondering why you’re not happy. Seizing your youth is staying aware that you’re young and strong and that you want to have fun, sure, but it’s also good to think big picture and begin to figure out where you want to go and start putting yourself on that path. Seizing your youth may also mean: travel! You can go away for a summer, semester, or year much more cheaply and easily now than when you are older.

CJ: You majored in French/Spanish Comparative Literature from Yale. How did you decide what to major in?

CW: I did a very cool thing in 12th grade. I went on SYA — School Year Abroad. I was a public school kid in suburban New York, and I liked French and suddenly I was living with a French family in Rennes. By the time I started college, I was a total francophile.

Yale had a renowned French department, and I enjoyed reading Rabelais, Racine, Rostand, Moliere, Zola, Flaubert, Stendhal.… But I also thought it would be fun to learn Spanish. I took an introductory course and then went to Spain the summer after freshman year with a backpack and not enough money. Fortunately, I found lodging as a mother’s helper. I spoke only Spanish that summer because I didn’t know any Americans and wasn’t on a program. I also fell in love with a Spaniard. To answer your question, it’s not that I decided to major in comp lit. It just became clear that taking six courses in two departments made sense for me.

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CJ: You attended Middlebury to earn your Masters in Spanish. What led to your decision to go graduate school?

CW: The aforementioned Spanish boyfriend and my love for Spain and Spanish! I applied to Middlebury because of its well-deserved reputation as a language school. Then in grad school, I fell in love with Rob Ackerman of Columbus, Ohio, who was in Madrid on a junior year abroad from Middlebury. He and I spent nine months abroad before we even met each other’s American friends and families. It was a very romantic way to start our life together. Our first Thanksgiving was in Portugal!

CJ: Where does your love of storytelling come from?

CW: Confession: I wasn’t a big reader when I was a little kid. I did love reaching Archie Comics and Aesop’s Fables. But I was scared of great big books, and at bedtime, I always wrote in my own diaries. For me, it’s not just a love of storytelling, there’s also a love of the written word. I remember learning the word “I” when I was younger, one big stick, two little sticks, yet so much power. Wow.

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CJ: How did you know you wanted to be an author?

CW: I grew up with journalist parents who truly cared about words. We were all word nerds – in a good way. My dad worked on documentaries and my mom was the garden editor of House & Garden Magazine. But she yearned to write something that would stay on the shelves for longer than one month. Her dream was to write a novel. Well, I inherited the dream, but also the nightmare of not seeming to be able to do it. I had a great running start on my career with Girltalk, which came out in 12 languages, and I wrote half a dozen more non-fiction books. But I was frustrated because I’d set out to Write a Novel, not be a big sister / helpful aunt.

Finally I had to give myself some advice: give fiction a try! I took a course at the Y and got some therapy. And I wrote a few novels. Yay! But they kept getting rejected. Boo! After all, as I’ve told hundreds of fifth graders, it’s not as though the world was waiting for me to reach my personal goal. Fortunately, I kept revising and revising and also kept sharing the novel with librarians and smart friends – I love helpful feedback – and I did not to give up. Maybe it was lucky I got all those early rejections because my first novel ended up being published by Knopf.

CJ: You have been the “Dear Carol” advice columnist at Girls’ Life Magazine since 1994. How do you stay up to date with the trends of being a younger teenager?

CW: My daughters were little kids when I got this job, so I used to worry about how I would relate to big scary teenagers. Now my kids are in their twenties, and I have to keep up with  younger kids. But it’s not hard for two reasons.

Number one: the heart of a girl hasn’t changed that much. In a hundred years girls will still be writing advice columnists about the person that they like or their fights with their sister or how to talk to their mom. Some concerns are timeless.

Number two: girls write me lots of letters, so I have a gradual ongoing education. When I need to learn more, I do a little research. I also employ college-age interns for a few days here and there, and they keep me up to date.

CJ: Twelve of your 14 books are novels for kids and specifically written with girls in mind. Why books for kids and young women?

CW: It’s very satisfying to help girls – you lend a hand, and next thing you know, they’re on the other shore – from confusion to confidence! It feels really good to make a difference. And issues like child obesity, which I am tackling in my next novel, believe it or not, can be raised and talked about. When you talk to kids about good habits, sometimes they really haven’t heard any of it before. I like that I can provide sensible information that can be life- changing. I also like turning children into readers. My favorite fan letters are when I hear from kids who tell me they didn’t like to read until they read my book.

CJ: When writing books for kids, what things do you take into consideration? How do you approach the word usage and language?

CW: I don’t think too much about word usage when I write. I really just sit down and focus on telling the story. People ask me “How many drafts do you write? Four? Five?” but the truth is, it’s more like twenty. First you write. Later you edit.

Ava and Pip
Ava and Taco Cat

 

CJ: You have two new novels coming out in 2016.

CW: I do! It’s really exciting. One is AVA XOX and it’s the third novel about a fifth-grade protagonist who has a diary and wants to be a children’s book writer. The first are Ava and Pip and Ava and Taco Cat. I was pretty pumped when The New York Times called Ava and Pip “a love letter to language.” In this new book, Ava has a crush, and tries to help a new friend who is getting teased about her weight.

The other novel coming out in 2016 is currently titled The Speed of Life and is an upper-middle grade book, meaning it’s ideal for 9th and 10th graders. I am in love with this book! It’s about a fifteen-year-old girl who thinks her life is over when really it’s just getting started. Note: One character is an advice columnist.

ava xox

CJ: What is your process? Do you have a writing routine or a strict writing schedule?

CW: No. And I have many days where I don’t actually write. Some authors set quotas for themselves where they have to write a certain amount of words or pages per day, but I don’t because I’m a hard worker and pretty disciplined anyway. When I’m in the middle of a book, I tend to get obsessed. So I’ll work in my office and then, when I can’t see straight, I’ll print everything out on blue or pink pages and edit in a library or at my daughter’s desk. In college, I would always try to find a small quiet space in the stacks. In some ways, I still seek out places where I can get into a bubble and not be tempted by a computer or anything else that might break the spell.

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CJ: Every day must look different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

CW: The Washington Post suggested I write about what I’ve learned from being an advice columnist, and no doubt I’ll work on it this Monday. Some Mondays, I’m writing, others I’m revising, others I’m doing my column, others I’m taking a day off to visit a museum with an out-of-town friend visiting New York City. For better or worse, there’s no real schedule. I will admit that I’m big on To Do lists, so everything from “empty dishwasher” to “do laundry” to “submit column” goes on there, and when I cross it out I feel good. And if I’m having a hard time getting started, I’ll set the kitchen timer. As in: Just work for 60 minutes. Once you start, it’s easier to stick with it. It also helps if you plan a break ahead, whether it’s meeting a friend for a walk or for a meal.

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a novelist do now to set him or herself up for success?

CW: Keep a diary. It’s a great way for you to get comfortable with page and pen and also to train yourself to be a better observer and to turn experiences into paragraphs. Also see if there are any writing contests out there. I got my start with a Seventeen contest. Read, go to the library and bookstores, and attend conferences for writers. Bird by Bird and the more recent Why We Write can be inspiring too.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

CW: My 20-year-old self? I’d say something like, if you knew then what you know today – that you have a wonderful husband whom you’ve been married to for 35 years, that you have kids whom you adore and who love you, that you live in New York City, and that you speak languages and write books — well, I might say, relax already! But then again, don’t relax so much that you don’t work hard to get all that. That’s always the message, isn’t it? Work hard but enjoy your life.

Carol Weston Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis, Book images provided by Carol Weston

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

Berkleigh Rathbone has been exposed to the idea of planting, growing, and harvesting plants from her own backyard all throughout her life. When it came time to choosing a project for her Girl Scouts Gold Award, Berkleigh chose to write a book called Karlein’s Pumpkin Patch to teach children about composting, photosynthesis, and other facets of gardening. In the book, a girl named Karlein plants, grows, and harvests pumpkins. The process of creating the book took about 10 months, during which Berkleigh wrote the story, edited, drew illustrations, and worked on the layout of the book.

Higher education is important to Berkleigh, and she is planning on majoring in Psychology at the University of Washington. Having been a part of the Girl Scouts since fourth grade, cookie sales are Berkleigh’s favorite part of Girl Scouts as it helped her hone her entrepreneurial skills. Read on to learn more about this ambitious young woman!

*The Girl Scouts Spotlight Series is an exclusive weekly Youth Spotlight on amazing young women who have earned their Gold Awards, the highest award that a Girl Scout can earn in the Girl Scout organization.

Name: Berkleigh Rathbone
Education: Planning to major in Psychology at the University of Washington

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Berkleigh Rathbone: I define “Seizing Your Youth” as making the most out of your life and actively preparing yourself as a teenager for the increasingly competitive world that you enter in adulthood. Simply said, seizing your youth means seizing the day, every day!

CJ: What will you study at the University of Washington, where you’re starting school in the fall? What led you to those academic passions and why are you choosing to study them in a formal setting?

BR: I am planning to study and get at least a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology since I have always been interested in the mind and how it functions. Higher education has always been important to both of my parents, so I promised them that I would go to college after I finished high school.

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CJ: How did you get involved with the Girl Scouts, and what did you love most about being a Girl Scout?

BR: I joined a Girl Scout troop as a “Junior” in fourth grade. In addition to troop meetings, I loved all of the activities (such as summer camps, weekend trips, troop activities, cookie sales, etc.) that were available to me through scouting. If I had to choose my single most favorite part of Girl Scouts it would be cookie sales – not only are the cookies delicious, but by doing sales I additionally strengthened my interpersonal and entrepreneurial skills.

CJ: What are the top three lessons you learned from being a Girl Scout?

BR: 1. Always be prepared, no matter what.
2. Volunteering is extremely rewarding.
3. Nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.

CJ: To earn your Gold Award in Girl Scouts, you wrote a published a book called Karlein’s Pumpkin Patch to teach children about composting, photosynthesis, and other facets of gardening. Your book includes a resource guide with a glossary, discussion questions, and information about donating to food banks so everyone can access fresh produce. You have shared your book with libraries, schools, and food banks throughout the country and via an online video you created. How cool! Why did you choose this topic for your project, and what did the process of putting it together entail?

BR: Choosing a topic for my Gold Award project was hands down the hardest part – I could have chosen to do almost anything! I decided to go with the theme of gardening since both of my parents love to plant and grow vegetables and flowers in our garden. All throughout my life I have been exposed to the idea of planting, growing, and harvesting plants from my own backyard, which is something that I will be forever grateful for. Furthermore, my mom happened to have a rough draft of a story she had written about a girl named Karlein who planted, grew, and harvested pumpkins that she had grown. So the idea to (re)write and illustrate a book for my Gold Award seemed like a no-brainer!

My initial project started out small. I would write, illustrate, and publish my book, put it into a few public locations (schools, libraries, etc.), and wait for readers to respond to discussion questions via an email I put in the back of the book. However, as the project progressed I realized that my project needed more oomph! in order to get necessary quantitative results for my before/after project impact analysis. That’s where the online video and remodified discussion questions, etc. come in.

All in all, this project was probably the biggest project I’ve ever worked on. From the time I stated until the time I finished, the total project time was about 9 to 10 months. Not only did editing the story take time, but so did creating and editing the illustrations, in addition to figuring out the layout of the book. I also put a lot of time into communicating with several different people, mostly by email, in order to sort out different logistics of where to send my book, who to send it to, and how many copies to send.

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CJ: How did you keep your project organized as you were working on it? How did you balance your workload with school, extracurricular activities, etc.?

BR: In order to keep my project organized I put together a list of tasks that I had to do, and in turn organized that list on a timeline in order to get a rough idea of how long my project would take me to complete. As far as balancing my school schedule with my Gold Award project tasks goes, I decided to treat my Gold Award project itself as an extracurricular activity. I had few school obligations and at the time I was not working, which really allowed me to dive into working on my project. Once my Junior year of high school ended I took advantage of my time off from school to catch up on task deadlines and evaluate the progress of my project.

CJ: Do you have mentors? How did you go about finding them?

BR: I’m not quite sure. Yes, I do know a good amount of people, and yes, I have learned quite a bit by talking to these individuals. However, I think that my mentor takes on a more inanimate form: life experiences. By learning from both the mistakes of others (myself included) and also the lucky risk-taking strategies of self-made successful people, I feel as if my life experience of interacting with people and hearing their personal stories has helped to advise me on what steps to take at what times, in addition to how many steps to take at a time without overworking myself.

CJ: To you, what does it mean to be a good leader?

BR: Good leaders are like backbones:

  1. Without good leaders, society, like our body without our spine, could not function.
  2. Good leaders, like our spines, are simultaneously flexible and strong.
  3. Just like how the spine connects the upper and lower parts of the body, good leaders find ways to connect people in a group/society in order to establish a sense of unity.

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CJ: How do you define success?

BR: I define success as meeting/exceeding a previously set goal. For me, success can come in the form of money, health, happiness, wisdom, love, or any other aspect of life that I have my eyes set on improving.

CJ: What is a book you read in high school that positively shaped you?

BR: Tiny Snail by Tammy Carter Bronson – the author actually came to my school when I was in second grade and talked about the process of writing and illustrating her own book!

CJ: What are your favorite books?

BR: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Absent by Katie Williams, and The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

BR: Break out of your comfort zone. Voice your opinion – if you feel afraid to do so in front of your friends, find new friends. Take advantage of extracurricular activities at school. Meet more people. Spend time cooking meals; enjoy the food that you’re eating. SPEAK UP. And, most importantly, don’t sweat the small stuff.

Berkleigh Rathbone Qs

Images by Berkleigh Rathbone

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Mike Curato, author of the popular children’s book series, Little Elliot, is incredibly talented and creative. Mike was generous enough to let us into his workspace to see where the magic happens of making a children’s book and adored character come to life. His shelves are lined with children’s books that serve as inspiration, artwork illustrated by many of his talented friends, and plush Little Elliots. 

Having studied Illustration at Syracuse University, Mike’s passion has taken him all around the country. He worked as a graphic designer in Seattle while simultaneously doing small freelance gigs. Now Mike’s time is dedicated to creating the world of Little Elliot, as well as other creative endeavors. Mike is no stranger to hard work and dedication, acknowledging the fact that sometimes we have to take jobs we don’t want or eat Ramen noodles for months. We are so inspired by Mike’s hustle and for never giving up.

Read on to learn more about the steps Mike took to achieve his lifelong goal of becoming a published author and illustrator of children’s books, where his love of storytelling comes from, and the fantastic list of resources he recommends both personally and professionally. Don’t forget to pick up your copy of the second book in the Little Elliot series, Little Elliot, Big Family.

Name: Mike Curato
Education: BFA in Illustration from Syracuse University
Follow: www.mikecurato.com / @MikeCurato

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Mike Curato: I’m presently in my mid-thirties, which sounds ancient to a 20-year-old (at least I thought it did at that age). I still consider myself “young,” now that I have a broader perspective, and while I’m not “really old,” I’ve been around long enough to experience a chunk of life. Looking back, I’m amazed at how much work it took to get to where I am, not just professionally, but mentally and spiritually. I think “seizing your youth” means not to waste any time living your life. You’ve got stuff you wanna do, right? Find out what you need to learn in order to make whatever that is possible. Live for quality moments. Find genuine people to hang out with. Don’t be content with the status quo. What can you do right now to make a difference in your life and others? Find out who you are and own it. I used to hear “old people” saying, “it will all go by so fast,” while I was growing up, to which I would roll my eyes and grunt, “uhuh.” Now that I am one of those “old people,” I am telling you, IT’S TRUE!

CJ: You received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration from Syracuse University. Where does your love of illustration come from and why did you choose to study them in a formal setting?

MC: I’ve always wanted to be an artist. Many of my childhood memories involve drawing. It made me feel special as a child, and still does. I went to art school because I was ready for challenges. I knew I had the potential to grow as an artist. I also wanted to be around other artists, both teachers and students, people who I hoped would understand me.

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CJ: Where does your love of storytelling come from? What stories have greatly influenced you?

MC: I am the oldest of three, and there’s a considerable age gap. For seven years, I was an only child, and I really had to maintain an active imagination to entertain myself alone at home, making up stories and acting them out. Then, when my sister and brother came along, I liked telling them stories.

Probably the stories that influenced me the most as a child were from a compilation of Golden Books – Tibor Gergely’s Great Big Book of Bedtime Stories. My mother says that when I was little, I made her read me The Little Red Caboose ad nauseam.

CJ: You spent time in Seattle working as a graphic designer. What did you do as a graphic designer and what did you learn from that experience?

MC: I started working in graphic design because it is so hard trying to be an illustrator right out of college. It was a way to pay the bills and still be creative. I started out at the very bottom as an unpaid intern, as I had no design experience even from school. Then, I started doing small freelance gigs for little or nothing while I worked as an office admin at a creative staffing agency. I really got to know the industry working behind the scenes, and eventually, I became one of their hired hands. I contracted at companies like Cranium and Microsoft for several years. Eventually, I became a full-time designer for Geocaching.com, where I eventually became the design manager. From there, I went back to freelance, working for companies like Amazon and Capital Group.

I learned so much being a designer that has influenced the way I make books. I have a strong sense of typography and layout now, which has strengthened my compositional skills. Meanwhile, working in corporate America taught me a lot about how businesses work and how to interact with a team to create a product.

CJ: You were the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Queer Getting Married, a wedding stationery company that provided invitations, save the dates, and more. What were your biggest takeaways from this experience?

MC: The funny thing about our little start-up is that my business partner and I opened QGM as a means to make a living working for ourselves while we tried to get published. However, I got my book deal before we even launched! We just closed our cyber doors several months ago, as both of our lives have changed dramatically since opening. My biggest takeaways are:

  1. If you’re going to start a business, it really has to be your one and only focus.
  2. Advertising and marketing are key. We had a great product, and no advertising money. It can be a hard pill to swallow, but without investors, it’s really hard to compete with the big dogs.
  3. It’s hard to predict what the consumers will want when you’re trying something that hasn’t been done before. We were trying to cater to a niche market, and it turns out that most just wanted the same old invites as everyone else. You can do all the market research you want, but sometimes, you just won’t know how sales will be until it’s out there.

Mike Curato Cover

CJ: Your lifelong goal of becoming a published author and illustrator of children’s books was achieved when Henry Holt Books for Young Readers (Macmillan) offered you a 3-book deal featuring the adorable Little Elliot. How incredible! What steps did you take in order to achieve this lifelong goal?

MC: Well, the biggest and hardest step was creating work for myself that I loved. It’s difficult to come home from a full-time job and commit to doing even more work. But, we have this one life, and so you just have to push through it. I booked a show at a local cafe to give myself a deadline, and then set about creating images for an exhibit, which ultimately became my new portfolio. The show was a success. A month later, I attended a conference by the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. Attendees can submit their work into a portfolio showcase there, which is seen by many art directors and editors in the children’s publishing industry. I ended up winning first place, which got me a lot of attention. Elliot appeared multiple times in my portfolio, and everyone wanted to know what his story was. The next day I had emails and voicemails from editors, art directors, and agents. From there, everything eventually fell into place!

CJ: When writing and illustrating books for kids, what things do you take into consideration? How do you approach word usage, language, and visuals?

MC: Well, making a picture book is much like a dance. I usually start with some rough sketches, then write some words, and I go back and forth for months until a story emerges. Though I think picture books are for everyone, they have to be inclusive of early readers, so much of the story is conveyed via the illustrations. The words are there to support wherever the images need help conveying the plot, which is why my texts are usually very sparse. A lot of redundancies are edited out.

Mike Curato Cover 2

CJ: What is your book writing and illustration process? Do you have a routine or a strict schedule?

MC: I do not have a strict schedule per se. Every book is different. Some days I work a lot, some days the magic is just not coming. Meanwhile, deadlines are great motivational tools for me. I try to break a project down into milestones to keep me on track (and also to feel some form of accomplishment on the long road to the finished product).

CJ: Every day in your life must look different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

MC: Ha! The days of the week are quite abstract to me. I work when I need to work, and I take off when I need to take off. I actually enjoy working weekends and taking off on a weekday. I guess “Monday” is the day I need to get back to work, which can be challenging. I need to trick myself into getting to work. I set little goals to coax myself back into the groove.

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CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a children’s book author and/or illustrator do now to set him or herself up for success?

MC: Well, most importantly, an aspiring writer/illustrator needs to read as many children’s books as possible. You need to know what’s out there. What are the classics? What is current? What speaks to you?

Then, you have to do your industry homework. One needs to remember, though making books is usually born out of a passion, it is still a business. You wouldn’t show up for an interview at Apple and not know what an iPod is. Look up your regional Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators chapter and try to get to some meetings or a conference. Find out how a book is constructed. Keep tabs on what publishing house the books you like are with, then try to find out who edited them. If you’re an illustrator, start sending out promotional materials to art directors. If you’re a writer, find a writing critique group. If you’re an artist, try to get feedback from an art director (I actually was able to get a lot of feedback as a student from real art directors because I wasn’t looking for work, so take advantage of that generosity while you can).

I would also stress the importance of having an agent in today’s publishing world. It is very hard to get published without an agent, as many houses do not want unsolicited manuscripts. If you don’t know how much you’re worth and how to demand that worth, you need an advocate who will fight for the best deal. Most literary agents take 10-15% commission, but will most likely be able to get you more money than you would on your own. Finding an agent also requires researching an agent to make sure they’re legitimate and a good fit. What authors/illustrators do they represent? What books have they gotten deals for? What houses do they have connections with? How long have they been doing this? Also, do you feel comfortable working with this person? If all goes well, you’ll be together for a very long time.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

MC: The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators really is the go-to resource for “pre-published” authors, as they like to say.

Get acquainted with the major publications about children’s publishing:

School Library Journal

The Horn Book

Kirkus

Publisher’s Weekly

Booklist

There are some really great “kidlit” podcasts out there, where you can learn about the industry and hear from working authors and illustrators:

Let’s Get Busy

Brain Burps for Books

PW KidsCast

The Yarn

There are tons of blogs dedicated to talking about children’s literature, mostly book reviews and author/illustrator interviews. These are written by librarians, who are perhaps authors & illustrators’ greatest advocates. This list is the tip of the iceberg, but these are some of the best:

Watch. Connect. Read.

Sharpread

7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Librarian in Cute Shoes

Kidlit Frenzy

Read, Write, Reflect

Teach Mentor Texts

Nerdy Book Club

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CJ: When you’re not working on your next book or other design projects, how do you like to spend your time?

MC: Eating, sleeping, karaokeing, and watching movies – not necessarily in that order, preferably with friends.

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

MC: As someone who works at a desk all day, I have been trying to really take care of my body lately. I’ve been going to yoga and pilates several times a week (luckily there’s a studio around the corner from me), and I’m trying to eat healthier. I also work from home, so it’s important to get out of the house at least once a day for a walk.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

MC: It may sound corny, but “don’t give up!” When you’re fresh out of school, survival is usually at the top of one’s list. Sometimes we have to take jobs we don’t want to do. Sometimes we have to eat Ramen noodles for a few months. But I think it’s important to have a dream to motivate you to better yourself. Working towards the dream makes all the crappy jobs and Ramen noodles worth it in the long run.

Mike Curato Qs

Cover Image by Mike Curato; Images by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We recently met up with Tara in New York at a delicious cafe on Mott street to talk more about her upcoming book release, and to get to know her better in person. Her first book is coming out on September 1st, and we wanted to get the inside scoop on her process, routine, and what she’s been up to. Positive, kind, and generous in sharing her advice, Tara is incredibly open and easy to talk to. Her book, Eden’s Wishis about a twelve year old genie who wants to be free from the lamp she’s been kept in all her life and experience what the world is really like. Tara gave us a sneak peek of the book, and we couldn’t put it down. It is captivating, funny, and well-written. We can’t wait to watch where Tara and Eden’s Wish go next!

Name: M. Tara Crowl
Education: BA in Cinematic Arts and Advertising from the University of Southern California; MA in Creative Writing from Macquarie University
Follow: mtaracrowl.com / @mtaracrowl
Location: New York, New York

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Tara Crowl: Knowing that when you’re young is the time to take risks. As life goes on, your responsibilities will increase. There’s no better time than your youth to go after the things you dream about.

CJ: You majored in Cinematic Arts and Advertising at the University of Southern California. How did you decide what to major in?

MTC: USC has a great film program, so that was a major factor in my decision to go there. I really wanted to make movies, so initially I planned to study Production. But when I got there, I fell in love with the academic side of film—Critical Studies—and stuck with that. (I also learned that I was no good with a camera.)

Advertising was sort of a random thing for me to study. I took a couple of advertising classes and liked them, so I went with that as my minor. It’s a cool type of creativity—learning what people want, and then figuring out how to deliver it.

Although I’m not working in either of those fields now, I’m glad that I studied what interested me at the time. I think that because I loved what I was learning, I retained it and have been able to apply it in ways I wouldn’t have thought of back then.

CJ: After college you worked for an independent movie producer and a literary manager. You then worked in the motion picture literary department of a talent agency. What were these experiences like and what are your biggest takeaways from them?

MTC: Those jobs were two very different experiences within the entertainment industry, and I’m grateful for them both. Each was really challenging and enlightening.

Primarily, I learned about storytelling. During those days, I read and evaluated screenplays every day. When I read a script, I started to see the movie—or the lack of potential for it. That has absolutely contributed to the way I write.

But also, being on that side of the process, I learned the value of being a writer that people want to work with. I think it’s so important to be humble, hard-working, and communicative when you’re in a creative role.

CJ: Where does your love of storytelling come from? What stories have greatly influenced you?

MTC: I read constantly when I was little. I think books played a huge role in shaping my identity and the way I saw the world. And for as long as I can remember, I wanted to write books for kids like me. A couple years ago my mom found my journal from first grade, and I had written that I wanted to win the Newbery Medal one day!

The books I loved back then definitely influenced the way I write now. I hope so, at least, because I still think they’re brilliant. My favorite was A Wrinkle in Time. I loved the Baby-Sitters Club books, and everything by Roald Dahl. Harriet the Spy was one of my favorites too—and also a book called The Mennyms by Sylvia Waugh.

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CJ: You moved to Sydney, Australia, for a Master’s program in Creative Writing at Macquarie University. Wow! This sounds like such an incredible experience. What led you to your decision to go to graduate school for creative writing, and why Australia?

MTC: I liked my job at the talent agency, but something kept tugging at my heart, telling me that my childhood dream had never gone away. At that point I hadn’t studied writing at all, so the prospect of it was terrifying. But I got an idea for a middle grade book, and I took a stab at it. I sent the beginning to a few publishers, and there was some interest, so I decided to give it a real shot.

I knew I’d need to go to school for writing—because I had a lot to learn, but also as a way of fully committing to my dream. I looked at grad schools with the type of program I wanted to attend, and most of them were in places that weren’t appealing to me. One day I started to look internationally, and I saw a program at Macquarie University. Suddenly I knew it was where I was meant to go. I’d never been to Australia, or really even wanted to go there, but I just knew it was right. I applied, got in, and a few months later I went.

I think some of the people around me at the time might have thought it was a strange decision. But my parents were 100% supportive and encouraging. They always have been, and I’m so grateful for that. Leaving everything I knew to follow that dream was scary, but exhilarating—and ultimately, so rewarding.

CJ: We imagine you had a lot of amazing adventures in Australia. What were your favorite things to do there?

MTC: It really is an incredible place! Sydney is unbelievably beautiful, and it was such a special time for me personally. My life opened up and took on a whole new dimension while I was there. I remembered how big and beautiful the world is. I felt like a kid again.

For the second half of the year I spent there, I lived in an old house near the beach with a big backyard. I loved going for swims in the ocean, and then coming home and reading in the yard.

CJ: You started writing a book in Sydney that will be published in September called Eden’s Wish. Congratulations – that’s very exciting! How did the idea for this book come about, and what was your writing process?

MTC: Thank you! I was on a plane when I first came up with the idea for Eden’s Wish. For some reason I was thinking about genies, and I started imagining what a genie’s life would be like. There’s a certain allure to the whole thing—the wish-fulfillment aspect, I guess. But when I thought about it, I realized that a genie would be trapped inside an oil lamp until someone happened to rub it. Then, whenever you did get out, you’d have to spend the whole time granting someone’s wishes. You’d be able to give other people what they wanted, but have no power within your own life.

When I looked at it that way, being a genie seemed terrible. So I started to dream up the character of Eden, a twelve-year-old genie who loves the world and hates the life she was born into. And the story took shape from there.

I started writing the book during grad school, and turned in the first section as my thesis. Then I moved to New York and finished it while working various jobs to support myself along the way.

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CJ: Any tricks or tips for writing a book? Do you have a writing routine or a strict writing schedule?

MTC: One thing that’s important for me is taking the time to get to know my characters really well. Then when I place them in different circumstances, they kind of write themselves. My characters don’t come across strongly if I haven’t spent enough time developing them. And without compelling characters, a story isn’t worth reading.

My schedule varies, but I’m learning that you really do have to sit down and make yourself write every day, even when you feel like you have nothing. There’s something to be said for inspiration and the creative process, but at the end of the day, if you want writing to be your job, you’ve got to treat it like a job. You have to put in the time and the work necessary to create a quality product.

CJ: Every day in your life must look different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

MTC: It does depend on which stage of a project I’m in, but basically, the day revolves around writing. I write at home a lot of the time, or in cafes—my fiancé owns a café, so I go there sometimes. I try to go to the gym in the morning, because sitting in a chair all day isn’t great for your body. And I usually do something social in the evenings. I like being alone in my head all day while I’m working, but if I don’t talk to people on my off time, I start to go crazy!

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a novelist do now to set him or herself up for success?

MTC: Well, the obvious advice is to read. You’ve got to read in order to learn language, story structure, and character development, and to be exposed to new ideas.

But I’d also say, soak in the experiences of your own life. Let yourself see and feel things, and then practice writing them down. That’s the only way you can write honestly—and in fiction, honesty is essential. The experiences that belong to you alone will give you a voice that’s unlike anyone else’s.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

MTC: Personally, the Bible. Personally and professionally, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf.

CJ: When you’re not working on your next book or other writing projects, how do you like to spend your time?

MTC: Being with the people I love. Going out to eat or cooking at home, going to concerts and movies, exploring New York, traveling when I can.

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

MTC: Professionally, using my time more efficiently. When you’ve got a creative job and you structure your own schedule, it can be hard to figure out what’s most effective for you. So I’m focusing on finding and establishing that.

Personally, I’m always trying to be better at loving the people around me. Through my work and through my life, I want to put the best things into the world that I possibly can.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

MTC: So many things! I was an idiot when I was 20. Basically, be more conscious of what you do and how you treat people.

 Tara Crowl Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Entrepreneur, baker, author, and cupcake lover are just some of the words used to describe Trophy Cupcakes founder Jennifer Shea. Jennifer had always loved cooking and baking, but it wasn’t until she saw a cupcake shop in New York City that she realized what she wanted to do. When she went on tour with a rock band doing marketing and promotions, she used that time to also test out different candy shops and bakeries around the U.S. and Europe.

Now, Trophy Cupcakes has four locations in Washington state. Jennifer has also written a cupcake cookbook and appeared on Martha Stewart – amazing! Even with all her success, Jennifer continues to be hardworking, kind, and generous with her time. It was incredible to discuss with Jennifer how she got to where she is today, challenges she faced along the way, and what it means to be a leader.

Name: Jennifer Shea
Education: BS in Nutrition and Dietetics from Bastyr University
Follow: @trophycupcakes / Instagram / Facebook / Trophy Cupcakes

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Jennifer Shea: It’s about identifying your dreams, your bliss, and really focusing on what you’re passionate about. It’s also about taking steps to make your dreams happen. The people who realize their dreams are the ones who put one foot in front of the other and just do it. Even if your dreams or goals seem out of reach, just start talking to people about how to accomplish them. You’ll be amazed how the pieces will start to come together.

CJ: You majored in Nutrition and Dietetics at Bastyr University. How did you determine what to study?

JS: I’ve always loved food (who doesn’t), especially cooking and baking. But I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do right out of high school. I was already interested in nutrition because I was a vegetarian at the time. But, because I couldn’t put my finger on what my passion was or what my career was going to be, I landed on nutrition by accident at a job fair. I came across Bastyr University’s booth and saw that they had a whole foods nutrition program, which sounded fascinating. I decided to just go for it.

CJ: You spent some time touring with a rock band doing marketing and promotions after college. What was that experience like and what did you learn from it?

JS: It was a really exciting time, but super hard, too, because it’s rough to live out of a suitcase day in and day out. I was glad I’d majored in nutrition, but I wasn’t seeing myself in that profession in a typical capacity. I happened to meet and date a guy soon after passing my boards and he asked me if I wanted to go on tour and sell T-shirts. To the horror of my mother, I said yes.

I’d worked really hard in school and had a full time job, so I needed a break and touring sounded like a dream come true. I also didn’t want to be the girlfriend stuck at home while her boyfriend was on tour doing who knows what. So, I basically created a position for myself in the band. I eventually called myself their Merchandise Manager and I figured out how to help make sure the band got all of the profits. I really got into figuring out what made their fans tick and what kind of merchandise they would love.

I introduced a whole line of pillowcases with song lyrics going across the cases and badges that were exclusive to each tour so as you went to more shows you could collect the different patches. I had a lot of fun with it, and it taught me a lot about merchandising and presentation. It was a good first experience with having my own little business.

CJ: You opened Trophy Cupcakes in Seattle in 2007. What inspired you to open a cupcake shop, and what does your role as founder entail?

JS: I first saw a cupcake shop while visiting NYC and I instantly knew it was what I wanted to do. My life flashed before my eyes. I realized that I’d been complaining that I didn’t know what my passion was, yet I baked all the time. I didn’t know that I could turn my hobby into a career. Touring was a great way to do research because I visited so many candy shops and patisseries in the U.S. and Europe. I took mental notes about architecture, design and perfect little details I saw.

My role as founder has changed a lot over the years and it’s always morphing. In the beginning, I did everything—from baking the cupcakes, to opening the register, to training and managing employees, to doing payroll, to coming up with new flavors and marketing. When you’re a small business, you have to do it all yourself. I should’ve just slept in my shop, really. I would get there at 4am and leave at 9pm. As we started to grow, I was able to bring in more experts.

Right now I focus on marketing, social media and innovation. I’m also our brand ambassador, making sure that we are living up to our brand promise and that my team understands what that is. I also act as the face of the company. I do several speaking gigs each year about how I got started. I also teach classes in my shops and online through Craftsy.com. I also wrote a book, which took a lot of my time, but was totally worth it.

CJ: In your role as founder, leadership is important. How have you learned to lead and what does it meant to be a leader?

JS: That has probably been the most challenging part of having a company. I haven’t always been a good leader and work really hard at it now. I think being a good leader means understanding how differently people work. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. Everyone has a different way of getting motivated and inspired. You have to really listen…really see people. If you can take the time to see what makes people tick, you will have a much easier time inspiring them and leading them to represent your company the way that you want.

On another level, I try to inspire others to do something amazing with their lives beyond Trophy. I like telling people my story because I didn’t come from a background where I had parents who pushed me toward business. I didn’t have money or experience that would have made you guess I could do this. I really just followed my dreams and figured it out along the way. The more I believed I could do it, the more the doors to success just kept opening right in front of me.

CJ: What have been the greatest challenges in running your company, and what do you wish you had known before opening your shop?

JS: Entrepreneurs have to be naive because if they knew how hard it was before they started, they wouldn’t do it. I always say that entrepreneurs succeed because they don’t know any better.  I didn’t know anything when I started. I had taken some business courses as part of my registered dietician training, but I didn’t have any experience with the business of baking.

I wish I’d known there are so many people out there willing to help you and you don’t have to do it all by yourself. I have that type of personality where I think I have to do everything myself, but I learned that it’s okay to ask for help and that there are all kinds of women/young entrepreneur groups in just about every area that can be super helpful. I also wish I had asked someone to be my mentor earlier on, so that he or she could give me pep talks. I recommend finding a support system—a group or person—that can help you with business-specific problems along the way.

The thing I wasn’t expecting was for me to stop baking. I thought I was always going to be the one baking the cupcakes, but the more I learned about business, the more I realized that when you run a business there’s a point where you have to be steering the ship and looking at the big picture. If I was in the kitchen for 8-10 hours per day, I wouldn’t be able to determine our next move.

CJ: Almost a year ago you published your first book, Trophy Cupcakes and Parties. We love that your book not only provides recipes, but also party how-to’s. What was your book writing process like?

JS: The publisher came to me and asked if I wanted to write a cookbook. That sounded exciting right off the bat but I knew the cupcake cookbook world was already saturated. (I have so many of them myself!) I said I loved the idea of writing a book, but in order for it to be marketable it needed to have more than just recipes. I wanted to help people learn how to plan parties. I also wanted to appeal to more than just bakers.

Little did I know this book would be 10 times as much work as a cookbook. Every single cupcake recipe includes party ideas and a craft, plus suggestions for décor, drinks, and food. Writing all of that content and then photographing it was challenging. But I love the way it turned out. I tried not to do anything that would be dated; I wanted everything to be classic so the book would always be relevant.

Touring with the book through Williams Sonoma stores was super fun and I love that I now have fans across the country and beyond!

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to have their own bakery and run their own business do now to set themselves up for success?

JS: Believe you can accomplish your dreams, then know that believing is half the battle, doing is the rest. Also, embrace your fear! Everyone is scared. The key is to know that fear is a part of the process and not be paralyzed by it. This mentality is not necessarily easy if you weren’t raised that way. I started reading books about manifesting and having an abundant state of mind, and that really changed my life. I also started doing guided meditations focused on love, success and manifesting…amazing! I would also recommend traveling and going out of your way to meet people who are inspirational to you. You can meet almost anyone if you come from an authentic place, and you’re not pushy. Most people are happy to help you or answer questions. Sometimes even brief encounters can really end up paving a road for you.

I believe in synchronicity and that if you’re following your dreams, the universe will end up putting things in your path that will help you down the road. Be adventurous and put yourself out there even if you don’t know where you’re going. I didn’t necessarily know where I was going. If I hadn’t gone on tour (and horrified my mother), Trophy may not exist today.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like? How do you balance your career roles and goals? How do you stay organized and efficient?

JS: Every day is a little different, depending on what projects I’m working on. And as an owner, you have to wear lots of hats. But usually, I wake up early and meditate (this sets the tone for my day), then I get my son ready for school. My workday starts with checking in with the bakery, which is the heart of our business. I really like knowing first thing in the morning that the bake has gone well and that everything in our stores is “Trophy-quality.” I try to visit each shop and I check in with our general manager, work on social media, and talk to employees working on different projects. I may do a talk for a local Girl Scouts or entrepreneurs group. Or, I may have back-to-back meetings about a million different things. My goal is to get to a point where I make sure to do something for myself each day beyond meditating.

Balance…it’s super tricky. If you are super passionate about what you’re doing, it’s very easy to lose site of family, friends and even yourself. I have learned that it’s very important to take time out of your business path for self-care. If you are not well rested, taking the time to recharge (through exercise, spending time with family or reading a good book), you will eventually crash and burn. You cannot be a good boss, entrepreneur, friend, (fill in the blank) if you don’t make time for yourself to recharge each day.

I stay organized through using tools like Basecamp — it keeps all of my to-do lists in one place. I also use my calendar religiously so that I don’t overbook or forget meetings. I also try to never schedule meetings for Mondays. That gives me an entire day to plan my week and tie up any loose ends from the previous week.

CJ: You have had many amazing career moments in such a short period of time, such as being featured in Vanity Fair magazine, appearing on The Martha Stewart show, and releasing your first book. What other goals do you have for Trophy?

JS: My goal is to continue figuring out how to make Trophy a relevant and inspiring business to the community and to myself. What we do is about so much more than cupcakes. We sell little pieces of happiness and people feel emotionally invested in it. I’ve seen people eating Trophy cupcakes on their first date. I’ve also seen people serve Trophy cupcakes at their wedding, and then again at their baby shower.

The best businesses stay fluid and I think there always has to be a fresh idea and a new outlook for what Trophy is giving to everyone. That’s what I stay focused on. I also really want to open something that’s exciting with more offerings and where people can have more celebrations.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

JS: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown.

CJ: If you could enjoy an afternoon eating cupcakes with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and what kind of cupcake would you bake?

JS: My dad. He passed away when I was a baby, so getting to spend an afternoon with him would be a dream come true. I would create an angel food cupcake with chocolate whipped cream filling for him. It was his favorite type of cake that my grandma used to make him.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

JS: I would tell my 20-year-old-self to believe in me, and the power of the universe. It took a lot of years before I believed that I really could do anything. I spent a lot of years flailing and not really seeing that I had a passion. Who knew that your hobby, what you love to do most, could be your career?! I’d tell me, “Just get out there make your dreams happen!”

Jennifer Shea Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

LearnSkills

“A single fixed identity is a liability today. It only makes people more vulnerable to sudden changes in economic conditions. The most successful and healthy among us now develop multiple identities, managed simultaneously, to be called upon as conditions change.” – Gail Sheehy, New Passages: Mapping Your Life Across Time

After reading One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Work Model for Work/Life Success, the once overwhelming and seemingly unfeasible concept of multiple professions turned into an attainable, practical, and unifying option in life. Author Marci Alboher is proof of living out a “Slash Career.” Upon leaving a career in law, she is a regular contributor to the New York Times, as well as a renowned speaker and writing coach. The book is chock-full of real life examples of the journey to slash careers and guidelines to follow when considering a slash for yourself. To start off, here’s a list of some featured slash-ers and their chosen professions.

Dan Milstein, computer programmer/theater director
Karl Hampe, management consultant/aspiring cartoonist
Grace Lisle-Hopkins, Assistant Dean of Admissions/photographer
Robert Sudaley, teacher/real estate developer
Sally Hogshead, branding expert/author/consultant

GROWING A SLASH

The people in Alboher’s book did not find the way to their slash(es) all in the same way. It’s different for everybody. Sometimes people have a solid foundation or experience in one thing, such as having a degree in a certain major and getting a job in that field. Having that background, they are able to sustain themselves financially while garnering more skills for a second career. Think of this as already having a tree to live in, but then planting a new seed right next to it, watering it as it grows. You’re preparing and consistently attending to this second interest. “Watering the seed” can look like taking photography or writing classes on the side, training for yoga instructor certification, or spending weekends traveling and blogging on a personal site.

These side projects are essential to growth because you can choose the amount of hours you spend cultivating your slashes and can tweak your journey if you realize certain aspects aren’t working. Alboher sums this up well when she explains that “the place that something occupies in your life – the paycheck, the gratifier, the giveback, the passion – is all up to you. In a slash career, you can control what goes where.” Forming multiple identities through slashes is in your hands. The choice to add or subtract slashes can allow you to feel more in control of your biggest interests. You’re testing out a menu of careers before you order.

USING A SLASH TO CHANGE

Sometimes slashes help people transition from one job to the other, even if they are completely different. Two things every transitioning slash-er needs: 1) Self-awareness and 2) Preparedness. This is especially true for individuals who have started careers that are time-sensitive. For example, athletes and dancers cannot and should not rely on their physical abilities to sustain them forever. Pursuing slashes during their starting careers will safeguard the switch. And before you think otherwise, it can be done. Tim Green, former NFL player for the Atlanta Falcons, worked on earning a law degree during his off-seasons. It took him eight years, but he did it and secured post-football work. He has also written best-selling suspense novels so if you need a slashing muse, he’s a good fit.

LITTLE SLASH NOW, BIG SLASH LATER

“The fact that an opportunity presents itself isn’t enough of a reason to take it on. It has to fit in with the rest of what you want to be doing. At that moment.” Alboher talks about the importance of being aware of a slash’s place in the now. Let’s say someone is an accountant or lawyer, but they volunteer as a firefighter or police officer on evenings and weekends. Volunteering may be the only channel at this time to successfully balance the slashes. However, upon retirement, placing more precedence on community safety will be the best time for that commitment. The different stages in life are wonderful places to revisit slashes. It’s an on-going path so there is no need to feel confined in how or when you add or change careers.

GET STARTED

Alboher urges her readers to think about their lives and distinguish their anchors and orbiters. An anchor is what she defines as a job that you’re getting your health insurance from, or a steady income, or a place that requires you to show up in person or travel on behalf of a company. Orbiters are the slashes that you find are able to orbit the anchor activities. She shares that typical orbiters could be writing, building websites, or anything that can be done at any time of day.

Now it’s your turn. Create a simple chart with a Column A (anchors) and Column B (orbiters). Writing out this list is the first step into the world of slashing.

The slash is a reminder that there are no excuses to limit yourself. It is also a call to action, to reflect on what you want the big picture of your life to look like and to work through the details now. If you’re seeking wholeness or dynamism in your work/life, living out a slash may be just what you need.

Image: Unsplash

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We can say with complete confidence that Adam Braun is one of the most inspiring people you will ever meet. He is passionate about his work, speaks with enthusiasm about his travels and the lessons he has learned, and his hunger for making the world a better place is contagious. Adam worked at a consulting company after graduating from Brown University, but he soon realized his passions lay elsewhere. During a trip abroad, Adam asked a young boy in India what he wanted most in the world. His answer: “A pencil.” As Adam continued to travel, he handed out more pens and pencils and realized the power of a school supply that most people wouldn’t typically think twice about. Pencils of Promise was born in 2008, and as of this writing, 170 schools have been built in countries such as Laos, Ghana, and Guatemala.

In his years of experience starting, building, and growing Pencils of Promise, Adam managed to find time to write a book about the lessons he has learned along the way. All of the book’s proceeds will go towards helping build schools and to support Pencils of Promise. We had the incredible pleasure of speaking with Adam about his career and personal experiences, how he got to where he is today, and to speak more about his upcoming book, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change, which will be released on March 18. 

Name: Adam Braun
Age: 30
Education: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Economics, Sociology, and Public & Private Sector Organizations from Brown University
Follow: Pencils of Promise / PoP Twitter / Adam Braun’s Twitter / Personal Website / Order The Promise of a Pencil

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Adam Braun: I define seizing your youth as living each day as if you only have one shot at an experience that can come out of that unique moment. The most powerful element of youth is that young people don’t know yet what’s impossible, and through that they’re willing to try things that others will claim can’t be done. Seizing your youth is trying out things that speak to your inner voice and absolute truths and pursuing them with the honesty and integrity that you believe they deserve.

CJ: You attended Brown University and majored in Economics, Sociology, and Public & Private Sector Organizations. Why did you choose to study these topics?

AB: I went to college thinking that I was going to major in Economics because I wanted to work on Wall Street, and Psychology because I took it in high school and I’ve always been drawn to the way that people make decisions and in particular, how you can influence groups and how you can ultimately catalyze movements.

What I realized in my first semester when I took psychology was that it was incredibly biology-based. I wasn’t as interested in the biology aspect but instead was interested in the humanity element, which turned out to be Sociology. That resulted in me majoring in Economics and Sociology.

I didn’t want to write a 100-page thesis so I figured that if I could do a triple major then I wouldn’t need to write a thesis paper as well. The third major, Public and Private Sector Organizations, was actually about entrepreneurship and how you build a business. I took courses on leadership and organizational management, knowing that I wanted to one day run my own organization. The three of them seemed like a great fit.

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CJ: You left your job at Bain & Company to start Pencils of Promise (PoP) when you were 25-years-old. What skills did you have that were useful in starting Pencils of Promise, and what do you wish you had known before taking the leap?

AB: Though my time at Bain, I developed a set of hard skills that I think are really important early on. That included building financial models, creating impressive and persuasive presentations, and understanding how organizational turnover and retention happens. In my childhood I spent a lot of time doing entrepreneurial things and lot of entrepreneurs fall into this trap of believing that they are the only one who can accomplish something, especially the higher level responsibilities, so you take it all on yourself.

From my time at Bain & Company, I learned that it’s more important to train the people below you and invest in the next person so that they can ideally do your job just as well, if not better, than you can. That allows you to take on higher level responsibilities. I never would have taken that approach if I hadn’t witnessed and experienced it firsthand from my time at Bain. More than anything, Bain gave me a foundation upon which I felt comfortable to build a business.

What I wish I had known was that there is no such thing as the ‘big single win.’ I think early on I had this inherent belief that all the little wins were suddenly going to give me one opportunity and that one opportunity was going to springboard us to a place where we were huge. In reality, there’s no such thing as a ‘big single win’ that changes absolutely everything. It really is a series of 10,000 small, medium, and large wins that create organizational longevity.

CJ: Your book, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change, comes out in March 2014. The book is your memoir of your experience leaving your finance job to start Pencils of Promise. What is one of the greatest lessons you’ve learned from starting PoP?

AB: The book was written in a style that should enable any reader to not only get inspired by the story itself, but to take his or her own extraordinary journey as well. I really wanted to write something that was a how-to, but framed around this idea that storytelling provides a hook for people because we all want to read, write, and tell great stories.

Each chapter is titled with a mantra, and there are 30 mantras in total. Those mantras collectively create the blueprint for any person to go from ordinary to extraordinary. One of the mantras that I would describe as my greatest learning lesson is called ‘Vulnerability is Vital’. It’s about the one thing that scared me most, asking people for money, which I did not do for the first three and a half years in the organization. When I admitted openly to the people that had the most confidence in me, who are oftentimes the scariest people to show your weakness to, which in my case was my Board of Directors, it was incredible to see how they invested in and rallied around me.

When I finally faced that fear head-on, the results weren’t as bad as I had feared all along. What I learned coming out of it is that the scariest or the hardest part of your day is the thing you should do first. I find that if I have 25 emails in my inbox, I probably do the 10 easiest ones, the 10 medium ones, and I leave the five hardest ones and justify that I’ll do it another time.

In acknowledging how important your vulnerability is, what I realized is that I should start each day with the hardest things and make sure I get it done. I don’t let myself leave the office until I’ve taken care of that challenging element. Ultimately, that one challenging thing is more important for your long-term success than the 10 easy things you did first.

CJ: What was the book writing process like?

AB: It was actually really fun. I wrote the entire manuscript while traveling in the course of three months. I worked with a co-writer, who was wonderful. She had written five books before and she was really more of a writing partner than anything else, helping me craft the stories and lessons I wanted to share. She would take a first cut at some and I would take a first cut at others, but ultimately every single word in the book is mine. It was really enjoyable to reflect on how this path happened and distill it down to the 30 most important lessons that I could share with others.

book

CJ: You wrote a blog post for when you turned 30 about setting ambitious goals, chasing them, and then moving the finish line off into the distance. How often do you set goals for yourself?

AB: There are small goals and big goals. I have small goals every single day, and whether I’m consciously admitting or not, I have a goal every day. For the bigger goals, the older you get the longer the horizons you look at. I used to set goals that were in that week or month, and they would be pretty big goals. Now most of my goals are really framed around a year or three years. I try not to set goals any longer than three years because the world is going to change so much in that time that whatever goal I set will become obsolete. Most of my goals are within the next year.

CJ: What advice do you have for teenagers and young adults interested in starting a non-profit organization?

AB: The first thing I would say is that the role of Founder has been mythologized and celebrated in our culture a bit too much. It’s really important to understand that you can have just as big of an impact if you aren’t the founder but you find a great organization that you believe in and work for and are able to channel your energies and efforts into that organization. I didn’t start Pencils of Promise until I was turning 25, but I had been working with non-profits since I was a teenager.

It’s really important to learn from a mentor that you completely and wholeheartedly believe in to see how an organization is built. Building a non-profit is such an uphill battle and you are going to hear ‘no’ more than you hear ‘yes,’ and you have to believe that what you are doing is right.

One, I would advise to work for someone or an organization that you really believe in and two, in the process of doing that, figure out what your greatest sense of purpose or passion is, the thing that makes you most come alive. Thirdly, start with small goals and have really ambitious goals in the distance.

ab speaking

CJ: What is the best moment of your career so far?

AB: The best moment in my career was when I sat my grandmother down and I showed her the photos of our very first school, which was dedicated to her and she didn’t know. When I showed her the kids and the structure and the photo of the school sign, she saw her name on it. That was the best and most emotional moment of my career. It’s one of the reasons why I believe so much in Pencils of Promise because I know now what it does for children in the developing world, but also the capacity that it has to unite families here, as well. If I could enable that same experience for every single grandchild or child, then I think we will be able to unite a lot of families and educate a lot of children.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

AB: I spend about half of my day meeting with individuals, partners, foundations, and brands that are interested in Pencils of Promise. I try to further the mission, so I spend at least half of my time external in terms of the meetings. About a quarter of my day is spent with our staff, going through everything from our long- and short-term planning to working on the branding elements of the website, and then the last quarter of my day I try to spend working on things that happen in the moment. I’ll see a link online that will give me an idea and I’ll share it with somebody internally or externally. I always try and keep a quarter of my day free, though it doesn’t happen all that often.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

AB: The advice I would give my 20-year-old self is that as much as you feel both lost and found at the same time, keep pushing as hard as you are pushing in both directions. I love the quote: “Not all who wander are lost.” I started traveling when I was 21 and I spent a lot of time from age 21 to 26 traveling.

A lot of that period was spent in a state of exploration without knowing exactly why I was doing something or where I was going to be. There’s a bit of fear that comes from not knowing what comes next, but there is also a lot of beauty and freedom and creativity that comes out of that. I would say keep pushing as hard as you’re pushing both in the directions of lost and found.

Adam Braun Questions

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Deepa Subramaniam, the Director of Product at charity:water, is always looking for ways to push herself both personally and professionally. When Deepa is not building awesome products with impact at charity:water, she makes time to meditate, do yoga, attend tech meetups, and set daily goals for herself. After taking a computer science class at U.C. Berkeley, Deepa discovered her natural passion and made a career out of it by working at Adobe and moving up the ranks. However, despite growing up, going to school, and working in California, Deepa recognized that it was time for a change and moved to New York City for an entirely new adventure in the non-profit world. Determined to continually challenge herself and live a full life, Deepa is incredibly inspiring and is living proof that you can wear many hats, be hardworking, stay involved in the community, remain curious, and in an effort to grow as a person, leave your comfort zone and embrace the unexpected.

Name: Deepa Subramaniam
Age: 31
Education: Bachelor of Applied Science in Computer Science from U.C. Berkeley
Follow: Twitter / charity:water

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Deepa Subramaniam: I think youth is subjective. I have met people who are the most youthful, joyous 60-year-olds and I have met 18-year-olds who feel as hardened and put upon by life as older people. Youth is what is in your heart, not your age – it’s how you feel.

I think it’s so weird when people are embarrassed about their age, it’s just a number. There are people who look 20 and are actually 40. I think age-based shame is a bad thing in our culture, and something we all should help nix. I remember being super excited about turning 30. I was really proud of what I had accomplished by 30 and I am excited about the next 30 years.

Seizing your youth is taking advantage of every single day that you have available to you. Make the most out of the time that you have. Just do and create and put things out in the world. Don’t worry about whether it is finished or polished and what other people are going to think. Live a fulfilling life and take advantage of your youth. I look back on times when I wasn’t learning or doing or creating, and that is a real bummer.

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CJ: You majored in Computer Science at U.C. Berkeley. How did you determine what to study?

DS: I started school undeclared though a lot of people thought I would be a lawyer. I was good at science and math, but I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted to do with my entire life. When I went to school, I realized that science was where my natural skill and interests lay. I had no idea about computer science at all. My sister studied computer science and she kept telling me to take a CS class. I shunned that for whatever reason – sometimes being told what to do by a family member is the best way to not do something.

So I started off studying physics. And I found astronomy really interesting. I finally gave in to my sister’s advice and took an introductory computer science class. It was so fun that it didn’t even feel like school! There was a lot of problem-solving and my brain was able to solve these programming puzzles without it feeling like a lot of effort. I guess that’s natural passion, and it was the first time I ever experienced that. This was late in my second year, but I decided to switch majors because I felt like that was the right thing to do. It took me four and a half years to graduate.

CJ: What made you interested in studying engineering?

DS: I like the problem-solving aspect of it. I was interested in how to make things better, how things work, and analyzing the natural friction point in systems. Computer programming was really fun and it didn’t seem like hard work so that was the best engineering pursuit for me. I thought that it would be amazing if I could make a life out of it. I read something recently about Jerry Seinfeld where he said he chose comedy because it seemed like the farthest thing from work for him. Problem solving through programming or technology is like that for me.

CJ: What does it mean to be an engineer?

DS: Engineering is so broad, there are so many different applications of it. I think engineering and being an engineer is about making systems better, whether the system is an airplane, a building, or a software program. Taking the time to understand and propose the right changes to make to a system – that’s engineering.

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CJ: You recently moved to New York City from San Francisco to be the Director of Product at charity:water. What has your experiencing moving to the East Coast been like?

DS: I was born and raised in California, went to school there and I worked there for a very long time. I’ve basically always been at minimum, an hour away from family, friends, and parents. Moving to the East Coast was an intentional decision in order to challenge myself to see if I could thrive away from them. It’s a weird thing to admit in your thirties, but that’s just the case. I wanted a personal challenge and I wanted to try being in a new city with a new job in a new domain. I thought I was getting too soft and too comfortable in San Francisco so I wanted to change it up and rely on my inner hustle.

Also, New York is so inspiring right now for anyone interested in design, technology, or creativity. I think what’s happening in New York at this time is what the people a generation before me experienced in Silicon Valley. The energy around New York’s tech & creative communities is addictive and truly energizing.

CJ: What does your job as Director of Product at charity:water entail?

DS: Product is such a broad term. I work closely with our amazing creative and engineering teams to build out products so that it is the best experience for our supporters. As Director of Product, I help road map and improve products in our portfolio so we can raise more money and help provide more people with clean and safe drinking water. With the right products, we can connect money easier to the field so that we are building and sustaining more water projects for longer and ultimately giving more clean water to more people.

Right now I focus on what we can do online, such as our donation flow, our fundraising platform, and the educational components of our website. By having people learn and understand the water crisis, we want to inspire them to act, whether that’s through giving money, fundraising, or just spreading the word about the water crisis.

As a product manager, I analyze data to figure out where our customers are successful and where they are not and how our products should grow. My job synthesizes different aspects of the business from engineering to creative to data analysis.

CJ: You used to work at Adobe. What skills did you bring from Adobe to charity:water?

DS: I was at Adobe for a long time. I was a lead engineer and then switched over to technical product management. I definitely think people should work multiple jobs and work a variety of jobs in their lifetime. Going from a large, corporate company to a small, non-profit has been really interesting. At Adobe, I learned about working in large teams, how to clearly define what the goals and key initiatives are, how to report back to people, and how to ask for what you need to be successful in ways that are going to be met with action.

The people I worked with at Adobe are a very mature group, so I grew up in a business environment but also had a lot of fun. I learned about quality software development, mixing quantitative and qualitative skills, and how to use data to improve products. Because of my time at Adobe, I came to charity:water with a solid foundation and confidence  so that was definitely a good transition.

CJ: What do you love most about working at charity:water?

DS: It’s so meaningful day in and day out. The people I work with and the work that we’re doing is incredibly inspiring. There are so many creative, smart young people who could be working elsewhere but chose every day to work at charity: water. We are all here working on something that will hopefully outlast all of us. That passion and commitment is rare, and to see that among a group of 50 people is fascinating.

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CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

DS: I’m up pretty early. I like to stretch and try to do a little meditation, 8-10 minutes per day. It helps me find balance and composure in a busy day. I come into work and then the busy day begins. I meet with my team, discuss on-going projects and get a sense of what is most important to accomplish that day. This is a habit I have formed, where I jot down 5 things I want to accomplish that day – both personally and professionally – and anything beyond that is cake. I power through things based on that list and work tends to fly by.

I tend to do many more things with my day in New York than in San Francisco. I’ll go to a design or tech talk, meet friends for dinner, or go to yoga, and then try to get home at a decent time so I can get more sleep. As I’ve gotten older, I have become more dogmatic about self-care. When I was younger, exercise, eating well, and quality alone time was not as high on my list.

To achieve long-term goals, you need the discipline of being able to achieve wins in much smaller increments. So I rely on daily rituals and weekly rituals to keep me focused. If you’re consistent about accomplishing those rituals and are defending them from change or competing priorities, that cadence and discipline will translate to hitting year-long goals. Be critical about what goes on your daily list of things to accomplish. If something isn’t a “hell yeah” I want to do this, then it doesn’t go on the list. I am more careful about the time and energy that I put into something and that means I am ultimately happier with the outcome of my days.

CJ: What is the best moment of your career so far?

DS: So many, I feel blessed. I have just worked with so many great people. One of the things I am most proud of is when my co-workers and I had an idea about a new tool and we pitched the idea to Adobe executives. I convinced them that there was a real need and opportunity and that I was the right person to run it from an engineering and technical perspective. I built a team of engineers and then most of our managers forgot about us till we debuted the tool at our annual user conference. We sneaked the tool and it was met with such excitement and ended up having a great release. That is where I learned that with a little space, a team, and a high dose of passion, we could take something from idea to execution quickly.

That tool, by the way, is called Adobe Scout.

CJ: What advice would you give teenagers or young adults who are interested in being engineers?

DS: There are so many ways to learn about design and technology. You can buy a book, take a class, or just jump in and start playing. The barrier to entry is a lot lower.

Even if you have a tiny bit of interest in programming or design – just try and learn it. A quick Google search will help you find those resources or a local meet up to learn with other people in a social environment. If that hunger comes from within instead of having to create it, then you’re on the path to working on something with passion.

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CJ: Did you face any adversities in the workplace or school for being a woman in a predominantly male profession?

DS: There have been situations where something has happened which made me feel weird. Things that I shrugged off in my twenties are things that I would challenge now. For the most part, though, I have been surrounded by amazing people, both male and female. I always intentionally sought out great people to be around, both in school and work. Here’s one bit of advice: don’t wait for someone to ask you if you need a mentor. Go up to people you admire and ask to them to mentor you – you’ll be surprised how often people say yes.

CJ: You are a South Indian Classical dancer. How long have you been involved with dancing and how has it impacted your life?

DS: I still dance and have started choreographing a bit more. I have been dancing since I was six-years-old. Having a creative and artistic outlet has been incredibly important for me. Dance is so great, it teaches you composure, it’s physically great exercise, and it is a great mixture of expression and movement. There are so many amazing dance communities in New York – I love it. I would not be the person I am today without having a creative outlet that I love, which for me was dance. It is a great way to play when you’re not working on your other passions.

CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life?

DS: I don’t like to do the same thing, I like to do a bunch of different things, such as write a book, do a dance show, ship a great product, etc. Learning new things is how I define growing, and growing is what motivates me. I want to squeeze as much as I can out of every day!

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

DS: I would tell myself that it’s okay to break some rules and not do the things that you think you are expected to do. Do things that you think are expected of you only if they are in alignment with who you are and what your core values are. So I guess I would tell myself to rock the boat a bit more.

Another bit of advice is that you don’t learn nor do you get better without making mistakes. I still make mistakes every day, and that’s a good sign. In the moment it might feel uncomfortable, but I look back on it and realize that those moments translated to real growth. Force yourself to make mistakes when you’re younger because the bandwidth to recover is so much higher.

Deepa Subramaniam Qs