Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Benjamin Koren, the founder and CEO of Frameology, knows how important it is to use your time wisely and to push yourself. Having majored in International Relations at Brown University, Benjamin went on to study at Columbia Business School. After he spent time working abroad in Brazil, he started his own company that focuses on making printing and framing beautiful and easy.

Benjamin has had a variety of experiences that he has both learned and grown from, and he shares some of those lessons. Whether he’s living abroad and working, studying to earn a degree, or making the most of every day to build his company, Benjamin seizes his youth day in and day out. Read on to learn more about what a day in his life looks like, what he’s learned from being an entrepreneur, and what books influenced him at different parts of his life.

Name: Benjamin Koren
Education: Brown University and MBA from Columbia University – Columbia Business School
Follow: frameology.com / @BenKoren

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

Benjamin Koren: Taking the opportunity to really push yourself to learn and have experiences. It’s about using your time wisely and getting the most out of a very unique phase of your life.

CJ: What did you major in at Brown University, and how did you determine what to study?

BK: I studied International Relations. Honestly for me it was a bit of a cop out. IR allowed you to take classes in a lot of different things, and as I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, it seemed appropriately broad. And I love to travel so there’s that…

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CJ: You later attended Columbia Business School. What inspired you to earn this degree, and how did business school help you?

BK: I kind of fell into business. I originally wanted to be a lawyer. My first job out of college was as a paralegal at Shearman & Sterling working on IPOs (initial public offerings). These are transformative events for most companies and are super interesting for that reason. However, I found myself most drawn to the business aspects, not the legal ones. After a year at the law firm I was fortunate enough to get a job at a merchant bank that was one of Shearman’s clients.

CJ: You’ve spend time working as a paralegal and in a private equity company in Sao Paulo, Brazil. What is it like working and living in another country? What were those experiences like?

BK: It was awesome. Living in another country for a period of time is something I would recommend to everyone. It’s challenging – you’re forced to be independent and figure things out that are not so easy to understand (either because of cultural or language barriers). For me it was one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences I’ve had.

CJ: You are the Founder and CEO of Frameology, a company that makes printing and framing beautiful and easy. How did you come up with this idea? What were the steps necessary to execute your idea?

BK: I came up with the idea when I wanted to buy a framed photo for my girlfriend as a gift for Valentine’s Day. To my shock, I couldn’t find anyone online who would allow you to upload a photo and get it printed, framed and shipped to you. A light went off. Framed photos are awesome – they make the ultimate personal gift and they help people focus on the things in life that are most important – their best memories. And my dad owned a frame shop so I knew a bunch about the business already. Starting Frameology was the logical next step.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned so far from being an entrepreneur and running your own business?

BK: Starting something from scratch is hard and it takes much longer than you think it will. I’ve truly learned so much. But if I had to highlight just one lesson, it’s the following: stay focused on your vision. Products will change, branding will evolve, the people helping you will change, but the founding vision is what provides the real consistency in your business and life. I (as founder) believe strongly that the people and experiences in life are what really matter. Our vision, as a company, is to help our customers to focus on the things that matter. Everything we do is a function of that vision, and we constantly test new tactics to bring that to life.

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CJ: Every day in your life must vary depending on the time of year and project you’re working on, but what does a Monday look like for you? Take us through your day.

BK: It does vary constantly! But let’s see. This Monday I woke up at 5:25AM to go to the gym (I know, it’s really early). When I got home I checked my Google Analytics account to monitor our key performances metrics from the weekend. I usually get into the office around 9AM. We have our company standup at 10:30. Then throughout the rest of the day I strategized with our Marketing Director about how best to promote a new program we launched for professional photographers. I fielded some questions from a TV producer that hopefully will put us on her show for a holiday gift spot. I spent time QA’ing some of the new features being built on our site. I participated in a planning meeting to decide on inventory levels that we would carry for the holiday season. I’m sure there were some other things as well.

CJ: What advice do you have for those interested in running their own business one day?

BK: Don’t give up. Starting a business is really hard. Things often don’t go the way you plan, but that’s OK. You will figure it out. Also: test, measure, analyze, repeat. When you have a startup, you actually know very little about the market in the beginning. You need to put together tests to figure things out. Measure the results. Analyze them and figure out if there is a better way to achieve your desired outcome. Then test again using what you have learned.

CJ: How do you stay organized and keep everything running smoothly?

BK: Asana. And hiring great people that I can trust.

CJ: With such a busy schedule, how do you keep yourself energized and inspired throughout the day?

BK: I try to stay in shape and eat well. I think that’s really important to maintaining energy. Most importantly I try to keep focused on Frameology’s vision. We want to help people focus on what’s important. Our customers upload such meaningful moments to our site, I’m constantly reminded of why we do what we do. One customer contacted me recently to tell me how he framed a photo from his wedding for his father in law, who was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He broke down in tears, because he was so moved by the gift. Hard not to be inspired by that.

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

BK: Professionally, there are a lot. I read The New York Times and The Economist regularly. I’m also digging the new Apple News app. Personally, here are the books that really influenced me at different parts of my life: Catcher in the Rye, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Song of Solomon, and The Old Man and the Sea.

CJ: When you’re not working on growing Frameology, how do you like to spend your time?

BK: I spend all my time growing Frameology. But I do find time to hang out with friends and family (while working on growing Frameology).

CJ: What are you working to improve upon, and how are you doing so?

BK: Right now, really all of my attention is on my company. I don’t think much about personal growth and improvement these days. That’s not to say that I don’t have things to improve upon – I have a ton of things. But starting and growing a company just comes first right now at this point in my life. This goes back to what we discussed before about “seizing your youth.” When you’re young, you can put yourself first (or at least a lot of people can – some aren’t even that fortunate). Later in life you are responsible for others – employees, investors, children, etc. I’m sure I’ll have other periods in my life that at a later date.

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

BK: Don’t force things – figure out and focus on what you love. Everything else will follow into place.

Ben Koren Qs

Images by Ben Koren

CultureEducation

Our resolution for 2016 is to read three books a month. That gives us a total of 36 books to read this year. We have a bad habit of over-buying books, and each time a new book comes out that looks interesting, well, we just can’t resist. As with any goal, having an action plan is very helpful. To help us actually overcome this problem, we broke each month down with the books we plan on reading. It’s possible things may shift, but this “syllabus” will hopefully keep us on track. When new books are released throughout the year, it’s likely we’ll add those in and bump some down (or try to squeeze it in!). For now, though, this is our list…

January

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Nightingale
 
by Kristin Hannah
How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenburg

February

Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers by Simon Winchester
First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung
Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

March

Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire, His Legacy by Frank McLynn
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

April

The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate by Robert D. Kaplan
Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

May

John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
The Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright’s Universe by Dan Falk

June

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

July

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin
The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered by Laura Auricchio

August

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario
Liar, Temptress, Solider, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

September

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
The Pearl by John Steinbeck

October

The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
Moby Dick by Herman Melville

November

Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

December

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
My Adventures with Your Money: George Graham Rice and the Golden Age of the Con Artist by T.D. Thornton

What are you excited to read in 2016?

Image by Carpe Juvenis

CultureEducationLearn

Every year we set resolutions to read more. While we read a lot as it is, there are so many great books that are waiting to be read and we want to get to as many as we can. Of all the books we read in 2015, these were the ones that stood out the most.

If you love beautiful writing and a compelling story…

2015 book

Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See was impossible to put down. The way he strings words together is unlike anything we’ve read before. This novel is about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. With short chapters, alternating story lines, and descriptions that will make you want to re-read lines twice, All the Light We Cannot See is powerful and vivid. Read it here.

If you’re into history and classics…

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The Good Earth by Pearl Buck is an unforgettable and heart-wrenching story about a farmer, Wang Lung, and his selfless wife, O-Lan during the 1920s in China. Follow this family’s journey through the many changes China undergoes during this turbulent time. Read it here.

If you loved The Goldfinch

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The Secret History by Donna Tartt is a haunting and mesmerizing story about a group of college students in Vermont who . It feels as though you’re being let in on a big secret, and you’re the only one who knows. We adore Donna Tartt’s writing and the way her stories have depth, unique descriptions, and a whole lot of mystery. Read it here.

Astronauts, space, and the wives of America’s Mercury Seven…

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We met Lily Koppel, author of The Astronaut Wives Club at BookCon this year, but that’s not why we loved reading her latest book. The wives of America’s Mercury Seven astronauts were brave and strong, and overnight they were turned into American royalty, with their every move scrutinized by the media and public. This book gives an inside look at who these women were and just how important they were in getting to the moon. Read it here.

If you’re fascinated by time and fate…

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A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki is one of those books that really makes you think. We’ve never read a book quite like this. Each chapter alternates between a 16-year-old Japanese girl, Nao, writing in her diary and the women, Ruth, who finds Nao’s diary washed up on the shores of the remote island she lives on. Covering topics such as bullying, time, and fate, A Tale for the Time Being is engaging and truly brilliant. Read it here.

If you want to laugh and feel empowered…

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If you read and loved Mindy Kaling’s first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), then you’ll appreciate her second bookWhy Not Me? In her new book, Mindy shares a more behind-the-scenes coming-of-age look at her life as creator, star, and writer of The Mindy Project, as well as her other endeavors in Hollywood. This book may be a light read, but it is both hilarious and empowering. You’ll have a great time reading it. Read it here.

If you’re intrigued by dark and heartbreaking humor…

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If you don’t have bounds of time to spend reading but you hate leaving a book unfinished, Fortune Smiles is a great solution to this dilemma. A collection of riveting short stories, Adam Johnson creates fascinating yet realistic stories about people dealing with a complicated personal life tread on by political confusion. This book will get stuck in your mind and keep you thinking all day. Read it here.

If you want to learn more about women’s roles in Nazi Germany…

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Hitler’s Furies is about Nazi Germany and the women who played a role in the horrors that occurred is not one to pass-over. Although the content is often graphic, the book does a very good job of presenting and exploring a side of history that is predominantly buried and purposefully forgotten. Read it here.

If you’ve been wanting to read an American classic that’s more relevant than ever…

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This classic book (The Tortilla Curtain) tells the story about immigrants – both legal and illegal – and the ways they interact with American society and the way society interacts with them. There are plenty of twists and turns in this exciting novel that will keep you engaged and flipping the pages as fast as you can. Read it here.

What books did you read and love in 2015?

Image by Lou Levit

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

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

We’re very excited to introduce you to our Travel and Culture Columnist, Aysia Woods. You’ve likely seen her work all over our website (and if not, check them all out here). Currently a graduate student at The George Washington University, Aysia has a passion for all things travel. She has explored many corners of the globe, and we’re lucky enough to get a peek into her adventures through her articles.

We are inspired by Aysia’s honesty, optimism, and determination. Passionate about helping others and living a balanced life, Aysia is someone who 100% seizes her youth. Get to know Aysia, her top travel tips, and how she overcomes struggles below!

Name: Aysia Woods
Education: Graduate student at The George Washington University studying Anthropology and Journalism 
Follow: Twitter: @AysiaWoods | Instagram: @FloralGumbo
Location: Washington, D.C.

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

Aysia Woods: I define it as taking advantage of all youthfulness has to offer – energy, creativity, and adaptability. These characteristics are at their peak in our early years, so I think it is extremely important to nurture them now, rather than later.

CJ: As the travel columnist for Carpe Juvenis, you share your insights and explorations with our community. What inspires you to travel?

AW: I think it’s just in my blood. My parents and the majority of my family grew up all over the world because they were in the military, and they’ve definitely taught me the value of travel at young age. I get restless very easily and exploring is the only thing that quenches that sensation. The fascinating people I meet along the way and those moments where you think, “I can’t believe this is my life,” are what inspire me the most. For example (true story), walking at 1 a.m. along a boardwalk near Cape Town, South Africa, with three European friends, and then happily stumbling upon a club full of Australian tourists hosting their “Latin Fiesta night.” Perfectly random, uniting moments like this are so priceless and inexplicable. I honestly believe if people traveled more often, there would be less conflict because there would be more understanding. The world would be a happier place.

CJ: You recently graduated from college. What has been one of the most surprising changes you’ve dealt with so far being in the “real world”?

AW: I can’t say it was surprising, but I’m still learning just how much self-motivation it takes being the “real world.” Going from being told what to do from teachers the past 18 years with rigid daily schedules to complete independence is definitely a learning curve. Because no one is forcing you to do anything, I think the key to curbing complacency is forcing yourself to stick to a strict agenda and maintain those short-term goals.

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CJ: If you could give yourself a piece of advice the day before you started college as a freshman, what would it be?

AW: Start networking long before you graduate. Connections are everything.

CJ: You just started graduate school at the George Washington University – congratulations!  What factors influenced you in your decision to both apply to and attend graduate school directly out of college?

AW: Thank you! I am actually in a combined 5-year B.A./M.A. program for Anthropology, so I started my first graduate classes during my senior undergraduate year and now I have just a year left. Because my major had this option, I decided applying to its 5-year program would be a logical choice because it would allow me to save money and time getting a master’s degree elsewhere. Working on a master’s thesis right after graduation isn’t so easy when all you want is the typical post-college Euro trip, but I know it will be so worth it!

CJ: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received so far?

AW: “Treat everyone like they are special,” which is from my dad. The best advice I get is always from him.

CJ: How do you measure success?

AW: I measure success in positive influence and overcoming challenges. I like to say this rather than something like “100% pure happiness” or “supporting my family” because I think a lot of the time, those are not realistic. It doesn’t matter if someone is a middle school teacher, trash man, CEO, or unemployed. The most successful people, in my eyes, are those who spread joy to others and are resilient.

CJ: You were part of the college club George Washington Women in Business (GWWIB). What was an important lesson you learned through participation in that group?

AW: GWWIB taught me so much about teamwork and the importance of personal branding, which I am forever grateful for. I was mostly involved in their Annual Spring Conferences, which was a great way to learn how to work with a large group, and also an opportunity to learn from and interact with successful professional women. The opportunities that exist in this organization are wonderful and should be taken advantage of. For anyone reading this, I urge you to get involved with GWWIB (men are welcome, too)!

CJ: What is your dream job?

AW: Having a massive family-owned company that publishes a travel magazine and has an accompanying travel agency, opening a few trendy lounges around the world, and eventually opening a retail store. That would be amazing.

CJ: You dedicate a lot of your time to community service. Why is this and would you recommend other young adults get involved in volunteerism as well?

AW: I believe giving back is an integral part of being a good citizen and overall person. If all we do is take from the world, we are leaving behind a void, rather than a legacy. I absolutely recommend other young people get involved in volunteerism. Two organizations I am familiar with are Global Vision International and D.C. Central Kitchen; they both do amazing work in their local communities. There are so many amazing programs – you just have to find one with a cause you are passionate about.

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CJ: Where did your interest in food justice and sustainable living come from? What advice would you give to someone new to developing on a healthier lifestyle?

AW: I always knew I was interested in food, but it was my Introduction to Sustainability class I took as a sophomore that truly opened my eyes. In one of the classes, I learned about food deserts for the first time and remember feeling so upset. I couldn’t image growing up with such limited access to fresh produce and not having the power to change it.

From that point, I quickly declared a sustainability minor and loved learning about the relationship between humans and our environment. I feel like the topics covered in this discourse should be taught to everyone! For someone new to developing a healthier lifestyle, I would say try to live a balanced life. To me, healthy living is equal parts nutritious food, physical activity, and mindfulness of your lifestyle.

CJ: How do you deal with difficult days and move past them? What have you learned about overcoming struggles?

AW: This is an embarrassing question for me, but I’ll answer honestly. My first response to a difficult situation is to get a moment to myself and cry it out. At this point in my life, I have learned to just accept shedding some tears as my natural reaction and not fight it. I think that is what overcoming struggles is all about – letting yourself be momentarily upset, de-stressing however works best for you, then finding a solution. Overcoming struggles is a constant in life, so figuring out how you deal with them early on gives you the upper hand for the difficult days in your future.

CJ: What are a few travel tips you always use?

AW: I like to always bring a fuzzy pair of socks in my carry-on for those freezing flights, keep chew-able Pepto Bismol in my pocket at all times (you just never know), and take notes. It’s so sad when you’re back home and trying to remember that song you heard on the radio or that cool shop you are meaning to go back too, but can’t. So, I always type little notes on my phone or whatever scrap of paper I have lying around.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

AW: The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes.

CJ: What advice would you give your 14 year-old-self?

AW: You are on the right path, so don’t try and follow behind anyone else telling you otherwise!

Aysia Woods Qs

Images by Aysia Woods

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When it comes to girl power, who does it better than the Girl Scouts? We’re huge fans of this empowering organization, especially because the Girl Scouts encourages learning, adventure, fun, friends, and dreaming big. We had the incredible opportunity to sit down with Stefanie Ellis, the Girl Scouts of Western Washington‘s Public Relations Director.

Stefanie is energetic, enthusiastic, and a lot of fun to talk to. Her career came about at a completely unexpected moment, but it turns out life throws curveballs at you and teaches you new things about yourself. Originally attending pastry school in London, Stefanie knew this wasn’t the career for her as soon as she saw a job listing as a writing specialist for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington. Stefanie is very inspiring and optimistic, and we couldn’t be more excited to share her story with you.

Fun fact: the above photo is of Stephanie (right) with the country’s oldest living Girl Scout, Emma Otis.

Name: Stefanie Ellis
Education: B.A. in English with Secondary Certification from University of Missouri-Saint Louis
Follow: girlscoutsww.org / 52lovestories.com@stlfoodgirl
Location: Seattle, Washington

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

Stefanie Ellis: I define it as living in the present moment and being very clear about who you are and what you want. Taking time to enjoy the challenges as well as the successes, and not letting either hold too much weight. It’s all about the journey.

It’s about trying, falling – maybe even tripping and ending up on your face – and then getting  back up. It’s about not giving up, not giving in to pressure or stereotypes and doing the things that matter to you. I also firmly believe that seizing your youth never stops just because you age. I’m still seizing my youth this very moment, and I don’t plan to stop!

CJ: What sparked your passion for public relations?

SE: I never set out be in public relations. In fact, I was pretty darned shy most of my life, and tended toward careers where I could play it safe behind-the-scenes. I’ve been a food writer for 15 years, and when I turned 30, decided to go to pastry school in London. I thought that’s where my life was headed, but I was diagnosed pre-diabetic three days before I left so I couldn’t eat any of the pastries.

I came home to Saint Louis and questioned what I was going to do with my life. I saw a job listing for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington as a writing specialist. Instantly pastry-making flew out the window and I knew that this was my job. I moved to Seattle and was a writing specialist for a few years, but then one day we had a big event for 7,000 girls, and I was doing all the marketing for the event.

The CEO came up to me and told me that we had been invited on the news to talk about it, and said they chose me to go. I laughed and politely declined. She asked why I was declining, and I told her I was shy. She told me I wasn’t. I politely thanked her again and told her that I know who I am. She said, “I challenge you to look again. I think that the woman who you really are isn’t necessarily the woman who you think you are.”

I agreed to go on TV thinking that if I embarrassed myself she would never ask me to go again. Turns out, I was pretty good. I would never have discovered that had someone not invited me to challenge my own perceptions. That basically was the changing point for my whole life. Shortly thereafter, the public relations person moved and I was invited to give the position a shot. That was nearly four years ago and I have had to stretch myself in ways I never thought I would.

I had to get over a lot of perceptions I had about myself and my abilities. I have been able to change my thinking, which is exactly the point of Girl Scouts. It allows you to stretch beyond who you thought you were and step into who you really are, while building a comfort level along the way. You get to choose how you’re going to share your gifts with the world. I owe so much of who I am now to Girl Scouts.

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CJ: As you mentioned, you went to pastry school (Le Cordon Bleu) in London. What was that experience like ?

SE: When I was in high school and college I waitressed, so I thought I knew what the food profession was like. I have so much more respect who are on their feet 18 hours a day, pouring their heart and soul into something for someone else. I learned about the art of creation. For me that happens to be food. I look at art very differently in the museum now.

It was an amazing experience because there were people from all around the world in one place. Everyone had to learn how to work together. I never cut my fingers more in my entire life. Those knives are so dangerous, and I never mastered the art of looking graceful while wielding a finger-cutting weapon!

CJ: What makes young people so important and why has their empowerment become a primary focus in your career and life?

SE: I believe everyone has a voice and sometimes young people don’t think they are allowed to use it, which is unfortunate to me. Organizations like Girl Scouts help young people see that they have a voice and gives them so many opportunities to practice using it. I didn’t find my voice until my thirties, but I spend my days watching everyone from age six to 18 develop skills, talents, find their strengths, and become empowered. They are the ones who will be leading us into the future, and we have a responsibility to nurture and support them in their journey.

CJ: What advice would you give to a young person hoping to set themselves up for success in the world of public relations?

SE: Talk to everybody everywhere you go. Even if it’s at the grocery store or in the aisle of a hardware store. Ask questions and make observations. Practice active communication. Communicating is something we’re born knowing how to do but not necessarily a skill that we develop, especially now with texting and social media. I truly believe these things can be a detriment to our ability to form and nurture relationships. I straddle both worlds, but prefer to live on the side where people actually sit across from each other and look one another in the eyes. I see so many people eating dinner together, but texting. We can’t lose conversation! We can’t lose real and meaningful relationship building. This isn’t just about PR – it’s about connection. I also believe these natural practices will dramatically influence how effective you’ll be in your career.

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CJ: What has been one of the most unexpectedly interesting parts of your career to date?

SE: An unexpectedly amazing part of my job that I don’t think I’d experience if I did not work where I work happened when I accidentally ran into Dave Matthews at the gym. My co-worker and I had been trying to figure out how we could incorporate him into our campaigns for years. When I ran into him I was unprepared, and knew I only had 15 seconds to ask him something!

I walked up to him and said, “Hey Dave, can I ask you a question?” And he said, “Yeah, sure!” And I said, “Would you ever consider dressing up as a Girl Scout Cookie?” He said, “I can honestly say that’s never been a dream of mine, but I love making people’s dreams come true, so I’ll think about it. Can I ask why you asked me that?” I was so caught off guard that I forgot to tell him where I worked! When I told him, he just smiled and said it made a lot more sense now. I love that I have a job where I can ask people silly things. I love that I can bring people cookies, and use my creative mind to dream up things that make people smile.

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

SE: There’s no typical day in my job, which is what I love most about it. I might go on TV to talk about cookies; work on organizational campaigns and initiatives; build partnerships and collaborative opportunities with folks in the community who share our mission; pitch media stories about amazing things girls are doing; interview Girl Scout alumnae for our Awesome Woman series; write scripts, and coach girl speakers at our luncheons or give talks about Girl Scouts. Sometimes I dress up in a cookie costume just because it’s a Tuesday.

CJ: Leadership skills training is an important focus in the Girl Scouts – what are some ways young people can become better leaders?

SE: Join groups that focus on topics you’re interested in, and volunteer to have a lead or supervisory role. Talk to everyone. Watch the people who are heading things up, and see what they do. Make note of what you like and don’t like about their style. Same goes for when you’re in the work force. Watch people around you. See who inspires you the most, and take notes! Better yet, ask to interview them or go for coffee, and ask them for pointers and guidance for how you might get to a similar place in your own career.

The best things I learned about leadership came from my bosses. They were my best mentors. I loved how they were clearly in control, but never made big decisions without group input. They were fair and open. They wanted to see me succeed, so they asked me how they could help me reach my goals. It was amazing. All I had to do was watch and absorb. Then I learned how to be the kind of leader I admired, while sticking to my own personal style. That’s maybe the most important part: Don’t ever give up who you are! Just pepper who you are with awesome bits and pieces from those around you.

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

SE: For me it’s not to take anything personally. That’s one of the most difficult but simple things for most of us. I’m working on it one day at a time. In this line of work, you ask people a lot of things. I don’t believe that any dream is too big, so I ask everything. You ask and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.

Sometimes you get attached to an idea and it’s a bummer when it doesn’t work out. Who knows why someone doesn’t agree to do something? It could be for a number of reasons. As long as you try and as long as you ask, you’re golden. If someone says no or doesn’t respond, move on to the next idea.

It never hurts to follow up, though. I always tell younger people to politely bug people they want to talk to. There’s a right and a wrong way. As long as you are kind and gracious and can respect personal boundaries, most people won’t mind. I never mind it. When I’m busy and forget, I appreciate when people remind me.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

SE: I cook and bake. I cook dinner every night no matter how stressed out I am. I eat chocolate. I lay on my couch and call someone I love. I always plan a reward for myself. At the end of cookie sales, for example, I’ll treat myself to a trip somewhere. Or I’ll look forward to my favorite tea when I get home.

CJ: If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and why?

SE: Oprah Winfrey. She is a powerhouse, and she worked very hard and for a long time to get there. She never gave up, and look where that got her. She’s the poster child for tenacity, and I’d want to high five her, then ask her for advice!

CJ: What is your favorite book?

SE: Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton.

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

SE: Stop worrying! Just go with the flow a lot more. I was and still am ambitious and there’s nothing wrong with that. And I worked really hard. But I don’t think I allowed myself enough grace and room to relax and breathe. I was maybe too focused on all the things I needed to do, which really took me away from focusing on the present moment, which is all we have. There’s nothing wrong with having goals or planning for the future, but a lot of times it can take you away from where you are right now. Mellow out a little bit, darling!

Stefanie Ellis Qs

Images by Stefanie Ellis

CultureLearnTravel

There is no shortage of great literature about England, or by English writers. Whether it’s about the English and their manners, a foreigner moving to London, a little red-headed school girl taking a class trip, or a day in the life of a woman planning a party, stories set in the country you’re visiting will provide you with a new perspective and add another layer of excitement into your planning or actual trip.

If you’re headed to England, spend some time reading these books before your travels. Reading about a country you will soon explore will make your adventures rich with knowledge and more fulfilling. There’s nothing like learning as much as you can before a trip to get the most out of it and to see the stories you read about come to life.

1. LONDON: A BIOGRAPHY by Peter Ackroyd

Get to know London through its history, people, and observations. Two thousand years worth of history and folklore are in this biography of the capital of England – read it to get a good sense of the culture and events that shaped this city.

2. A LITTLE PRINCESS by Francis Hodgson Burnett
You might know this story better as the movie version, which we grew up watching too many times to count. In this 1905 children’s novel, wealthy Sara Crewe tries to make friends at boarding school in London. However, when her father, Captain Crewe dies, the headmistress of the school strips Sara of her nice things, and she is transformed from a princess to a pauper.

3. SORRY!: THE ENGLISH AND THEIR MANNERS by Henry Hitchings
What does it mean to have proper manners? Henry Hitchings examines English manners and investigates what it means to be English. We love books that help us better understand different cultures, mannerisms, and provide a unique anthropological view of how others live.

4. WHITE TEETH by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith’s debut novel is the story of two friends and veterans from World War II – Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal – in their later years. Set in North London, Smith tackles a beautiful story of friendship, life, race, history, and culture.

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5. THE GREAT STINK by Clare Clark
In 1855, engineer William May returns to Victorian London to transform the city’s sewer system. When a murder occurs in the tunnels, William is considered a suspect. Clark creatively combines fact and fiction to produce a gripping story.

6. BLEAK HOUSE by Charles Dickens
Dickens tackles the injustices of the British legal system in this classic novel. Known as one of Dickens’ most ambitious novel, he takes readers from the British aristocracy to the poorest of the London slums.

7. LONDONERS by Craig Taylor
Journalist Craig Taylor shines a unique perspective on London through the eyes of those who live there. From a rickshaw driver in the West End to a Soldier of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, London is loved and hated. The memories and stories from those who have been a part of its history are included in this book.

8. MRS. DALLOWAY by Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf’s extraordinary talent is captured in this novel through her examination of a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway as she prepares for a party in London in June 1923.

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9. A CONCISE CHINESE-ENGLISH DICTIONARY FOR LOVERS by Xiaolu Guo
An inventive novel of language and love, Guo explorse a young Chinese woman’s journey to London to learn English. When she meets an Englishman and falls in love, she learns more about herself and language than ever before.

10. THE BALLAD OF PECKHAM RYE by Muriel Spark
In this story, Dougal Douglas, a Scottish migrant, moves to Peckham in London and wreaks havoc on the town and those who live there. This 1960 short novel is known to have a fresh comic style and interesting supernatural elements.

11. BRICK LANE by Monica Ali
After an arranged marriage, Nazneen is taken to London and has to leave her Bangladeshi village behind. Readers are taken along for the adventures of Nazneen’s new life.

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12. THE NIGHT WATCH by Sarah Waters
In this story of four Londoners, three women and a young man’s lives intertwine and then change in the shadow of a grant event. We are all for literary suspense.

13. SECOND-CLASS CITIZEN by Buchi Emecheta
In this classic tale of a Nigerian woman, Adah, who brings her family to London, themes about immigration, identity, and racism emerge. Though Adah seeks an independent life for herself and her children, she is faced with the hard truths of being a new citizen.

14. MADELINE IN LONDON by Ludwig Bemelmans
The beloved Madeline makes her way to London with her class and Miss Clavel to visit Pepito, who has just moved there.

15. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen
First published in 1813, this beautiful novel is one for the ages. The story follows Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of the British Regency. You can never go wrong with Jane Austen.

What books about London have you read or are interested in reading?

P.S. 11 books to read before traveling to Ireland.

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We can’t say enough great things about Belisa Silva, the Head of Content and Communications at GLOSSYBOX. She’s smart, an excellent writer, warm, welcoming, well read, and insightful. A self-proclaimed “theater geek,” Belisa decided to pursue Journalism in college as a way to combine her natural talents and curiosity. After college, Belisa worked at a small newspaper in New Jersey, but eventually made her way to New York City to interview with Condé Nast. Having spent time as an Editorial Assistant and Editor at Beauty Inc. and Women’s Wear Daily, respectively, Belisa is now at GLOSSYBOX, a monthly beauty subscription box.

Throughout her years of experience with journalism, beauty, and fashion, Belisa has great advice to share. She’s a believer in hard work, quieting distractions, and finding your own perspective. Regardless of whether you’re into journalism or the beauty industry, Belisa’s motivating words are sure to inspire.

Name: Belisa Silva
Education: B.A. in Journalism and English, minor in Spanish from Lehigh University
Follow: @GLOSSYBOX / Glossybox.com

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

Belisa Silva: Looking back as this someone now older and wiser, I realize how lucky you are to be young and discovering things about yourself and the world around you. It is amazing to be in that moment of your life where everything is fresh and new. You are defining the future of your life and the possibilities are endless! It seemed more scary than fun at the time, and I wish I had lived in the moment more. I also wish I would have taken on more that came my way with more zeal and positivity rather than fear.

CJ: You attended Lehigh University and majored in Journalism, English, and Spanish. How did you determine what to study?

BS: When I was in high school I was a big thespian, and I was really into theater and singing. I was Dolly in Hello, Dolly! my senior year, did the morning announcements, and I was choir president. I was your typical theater geek girl, but also very into culture, literature, and writing.

I went to college thinking I’d do musical theater. When I got there, though, it felt a little limiting. I had always been a good writer. My dad is a writer and English professor, so literature had been a part of my upbringing. I loved works like Hiawatha and The Tell-Tale Heart from a young age. In college journalism seemed really interesting to me because it was a good combination of my natural talents and my natural curiosity and affinity for getting to know people. I love to investigate things and find out an interesting backstory. It felt like an ‘aha’ moment when I declared the major, and as a journalist not a day went by that felt like work.

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

BS: When I first graduated from college, I realized writing is one of those industries that everyone wants to be a part of. It’s very saturated market and hard to break into. You have to pay your dues a lot, which I did. That meant not making a lot of money and a lot of running around doing grunt work, which I also did.

Directly after college I started working for a small newspaper in New Jersey, which was a very hands on experience. It was a tiny team and we had a lot of pages to fill every day! I had to write eight stories a week about a town that had very little going on in the way of news. To create stories I would drive around town looking for things going on, and stalk the phone book, then Google names of residents to find interesting stories. This experience really tested my creativity and I met some incredible people. In fact, the article I’m most proud of writing to this day came to fruition during my years at the paper. It was about a local girl named Maggie Doyne, who had just graduated from high school, and afterwards moved to Nepal. During her time there she witnessed a lot of poverty and saw so many children in need, so decided to open an orphanage on her own. Maggie was looking for fundraising to complete building her children’s home, and from my article she was able to get more donations and has since started a school. She is still extremely inspiring to me.

My next job took me to New York City, a place I always felt I wanted to live. A good piece of advice to share, which I learned from my first interview at Condé Nast, is how important it is to be open to saying ‘yes.’ I met with a recruiter who asked what I was interested in as far as a job. I told her fashion and beauty and would love to work for a magazine like Vogue. She then asked if I would be interested in doing something less glamorous and covering the trade side of the industry, as opposed to the consumer side. I didn’t know what that meant at all. But, I said ‘Yes, I’ll do anything, I just want to be here!” She told me later that this was a huge reason I was hired. If I had been closed off to the idea, she wouldn’t have remembered me six months afterwards when a job as an Editorial Assistant for Jenny Fine, the Editor-in-Chief of Beauty Inc, opened up.

Jenny was the biggest influence in my entire career as far as writing goes. She demanded excellence and really pushed me to be better. In my first few years I questioned my abilities, and there was a lot of hard work. I emerged from that experience able to edit my own articles, which is one of the biggest lessons in journalism. A few years later when a job became available at Condé to be a market editor, Jenny recommended me for it. Those experiences had its challenges and there was self-doubt, but ultimately it was all worth it. New York is a tough place, as is editorial, but I put in the time and the work and it paid of. Working as an editor at Women’s Wear Daily was amazing, and I worked under Pete Born, who is a true journalistic legend, not to mention the kindest boss I ever had.

When I was at Women’s Wear Daily I interviewed the president of GLOSSYBOX, Elian Pres-Gurwits. He was head of the U.S. business at the age of 26 and spoke passionately about his company and his life experiences, including living and working all over the world. I was intrigued. At this time, GLOSSYBOX had a job opening and Elian thought that I had the right personality and background, so he offered me the position. Leaving editorial was tough because I really worked hard for it. I put in almost 10 years to be an editor, but I felt that it was time to stretch myself and it was time to say ‘yes’ again to something different. I didn’t know a lot about business, and I figured it was a good opportunity to push myself, travel and learn the ins and outs of the beauty industry.

CJ: What an amazing journey. When writing an article as a journalist, what is your process from start to finish?

BS: I first start by aggregating everything I know I need for the story and I put it all in one place. Then I go through and eliminate what’s repetitive or uninteresting, and come up with an overall feeling and theme for how I want people to feel about it. For example, with the Maggie Doyne piece, I wanted to highlight how young she was, and how in a blink of an eye, made the decision to help complete strangers by opening an orphanage.

I always want to get to the root of the story. Whenever I write anything, it’s important to me that I understand it 100 percent. I don’t like writing anything I don’t completely comprehend because I know it won’t translate to the reader. I want people to feel what I felt, so I have to understand my interview subject. I’ve interviewed amazing people, and for me it’s about getting to the essence of the person. I want to provide insight from my perspective. I live by the motto, “Show don’t tell.” Create an emotional experience for the reader.

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CJ: Great advice! You are now Head of Content and Communications at GLOSSYBOX. What does your role entail?

BS: I handle all of our written assets that accompany each monthly box, as well as communications internally and public relations. I also oversee our partnerships.

In order to grow the business, I leverage existing relationships, and luckily I have a lot of relationships with people who I’ve met from the beauty industry. I try to pick a lot of people’s brains, because I know that I don’t have all of the answers. I like to ask my friends who work in various sectors for their expertise. All-in-all, I approach partnerships the way I approach journalism; aggregation and dividing and conquering. Since we have such a small team at GLOSSYBOX North America, my idea can become a new box in a matter of months. It’s such a rewarding experience.

CJ: What advice do you have for teenagers and young adults interested in working as a journalist or in the beauty industry?

BS: Be a sponge and be humble. Always listen. Model yourself after the people you want to be like. There’s a great word called propinquity, and it means that what you’re around you feed off of and become. You don’t have to be physically there, which does help, because it can also happen through your mindset. If you’re in the mindset of wanting to be a journalist and you start reading writers you admire, you’re going to get better and start writing in a more elevated way.

It’s also important to gather different perspectives so you can find your own way. You don’t want to imitate one person. When I reflect on my journalism career, I think back on a professor I had in college or a book I read or my first editor, and realize I incorporate elements of each into what I do now. Another piece of advice would be: don’t be afraid of hard work. Case-in-point, for my first internship at ABC’s 20/20 I commuted into New York City from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania three days a week, first thing in the morning on a train that took three hours. I made sure that no matter how exhausted I was from a full workload as well as an internship, I kept smile on my face and said ‘yes’ to everything I was asked. If I hadn’t been there and said ‘yes,’ I wouldn’t have had the opportunity for networking and eventually finding a job. Always remember, there’s no substitute for hard work.

Also, don’t be distracted. I can always tell if an intern is distracted, checking social media. It makes a difference when an intern is completely present. Quiet the distractions. Give 100%. Facebook will be there when you’re done with work.

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

BS: Self-doubt. Insecurity has always been my issue. I’m not the kind of person who thinks I’m the best. That’s just my natural thing – I’m very hard on myself. That’s something I’m working on, and I haven’t figured it out just yet and it is definitely a work in progress. Part of my role here means being confident and trusting myself. Sometimes I might overthink and over-analyze, and this is something that can make corporate growth more difficult. It’s important to remember that everyone has their own unique perspective and special qualities, which make them an asset.

CJ: What are your favorite books?

BS: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Awareness by Anthony De Mello, and On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care greatly about?

BS: One thing recently that I’ve been reading about that makes me angry is disrespect for women. I’m such a supporter of women and hate seeing when they are marginalized. Another thing that gets under my skin is prejudice and blind hate. People you can’t reason with and people who twist religion to support hate – that drives me crazy.

I’m also hugely into animals. I have a cat at home who I found on the street. She was two weeks old when I found her and she was in really bad shape. I was on my way to Fashion Week and I saw her – she looked like a dirty little rat. I took her to an animal hospital on my way to a fashion show, picked her up after, and I’ve had her ever since! I honestly love all animals and often times wish I could open a farm and adopt every unwanted dog and cat in the world.

CJ: What is a memorable travel experience that you’ve had?

BS: When I first got hired at GLOSSYBOX I went to Berlin to meet the whole team. I spent a few days after by myself exploring the city. It was actually really cool to travel somewhere by myself. I wrote down everything I saw. As amazing as it was I felt a bit isolated because I didn’t know anyone in the country. Traveling solo was something I’ve never done. I decided to spend ta full day exploring and found myself at the Pergamon Museum that has unbelievable relics from antiquity, including the Pergamon Altar, a massive frieze built during the 2nd century BC. I came alive that day at the museum. The rest of the trip was amazing, and it was because I allowed myself to enjoy the moment rather than be stressed.

CJ: Any travel tips?

BS: I created a book that I took on every spring break and all vacations with my friends. I traveled with the same friends for college spring break all four years. We wrote down all the funny things we said and did, and now it’s this epic book with all these different time periods. All of the hilarity is captured in this book and nothing is forgotten.

CJ: How do you stay organized and manage your time?

BS: I have a creative brain so organization and time management don’t come naturally. I have to proactively work on it. I used to just write notes on everything, and would have post its everywhere with random notes to myself. I’ve learned to compile where I keep my notes and calendar so everything is in once place.

As far as time management, I think of the day in blocks. The morning is a time to connect with the team in Germany. After lunch I do my follow-up calls, and then late afternoon is my creative time for partnership outreach. Overall there are certain things I know I have to do, but I put it in my schedule at a time when I know I can get it cranked out. I manage my time based on what’s logical and then frame my day around when the best time to do what is. I have to force myself to organize. I’m a creature of chaos.

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

BS: First of all, start a skin care regimen. Also, I would tell myself to lighten up a little and that things that seem like huge deals now have a way of working out in the end. I spent a lot of my twenties very stressed about where I was going to be in life and what I was going to do. It would’ve been nice to trust in myself more and realize even if something goes wrong, there is always something to learn from it.

I also wish I would’ve studied abroad during college. I started a magazine and worked on the newspaper and was part of choir, and I felt like I had so much to do. I could’ve put it aside and done one less major or minor. The experience would have been more worth it. I now realize the power of travel and seeing new cultures and wish I could have experienced it when I was younger. I was a little overambitious in some ways and a little afraid in other ways.

Belisa Silva Qs

Images by Belisa Silva

Learn

After learning about so many great new books at BookCon, we were inspired to create a column for monthly books to read. Read as many as you can, or just choose a few of the ones that stand out to you. Not all of these books are released this month.

Here’s what we can’t wait to curl up with this month:

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

In this memoir, Vera Brittain describes the impact of World War I on women and the middle class of Great Britain. in 1915, Brittain abandoned her studies at Oxford University to enlist as a nurse in the armed forces. We’re very interested in reading about Brittain’s first-hand experience with the horrors of war, lost love, and coming of age.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

It’s the same Judy Blume we loved in our “young adult” days, but this time for adults. The main character, Miri Ammerman, visits her hometown. When Miri was a teenager, she and the community witnessed real-life plane crashes that occurred in the early 1950’s. Blume is a fantastic storyteller, and we have no doubt that this novel will be one great story.

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel

Full confession, we’re 75% of the way through this book and are loving it. It’s a real page-turner. Lily Koppel saw a photo of the wives of the astronauts on the cover of Life and wondered why we hadn’t heard more about them. That’s when she set out to write their story. This book gives a behind-the-scenes look into the lives of the astronaut wives. Those women were strong, brave, and influential in getting man to the moon.

A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin

93-year-old Sherlock Holmes lives in a remote farmhouse in England and revisits a case, during which he learns about life and love. If it has anything to do with Sherlock Holmes, we’re all for it.

Speedboat by Renata Adler

We’ve heard great things about this book, and it was noted to disrupt the rules of the conventional novel but still be a gripping read. Set in New York City, a young female newspaper reporter comes of age and we get to go along for the journey.

The Rocks by Peter Nichols

The cover is stunning (and reminds us of a book we loved, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters), and the story premise is even more intriguing. The novel opens with a mystery, moves backward in time, and reveals what really happened decades earlier.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

In Tokyo, 16-year-old Nao keeps a diary documenting the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun. Nao is bullied and lonely and has decided to end it all. Writing in the diary comforts her. A novelist on the other side of the pacific discovers items in a Hello Kitty lunchbox and is drawn into Nao’s world. We have no idea what to expect with this one, but we can’t wait to find out.

Revenge, Ice Cream, and Other Things Best Served Cold by Katie Finn

Sometimes you just need to enjoy a young adult novel. This one looks fun and light – perfect for when you relax on the beach this summer.

What are you reading this month? Share with us in the comments below!

CultureEducation

If you’ve been keeping up with Carpe Juvenis on Instagram or Twitter you already know that we went to Book Con for the first time this past weekend. It was our first real convention and we had a huge learning curve in those two days. By the end of the weekend we were exhausted (yes, from sitting and listening to panels all day and from strolling from booth to booth) and made a list of all the things we would do for next year’s. This year’s convention was held at the Javits Center – a huge convention building on the west side of New York City – and was set up with booths on the first floor, small panels and a main hall for big names (like Mindy Kaling, John Green, Jason Segal, and Judy Bloom) on the second. We opted to wait in line for Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak, and spent the rest of the time going to smaller panels where we had the opportunity to see Julianne Moore, Tavi Gevinson, Jodi Picoult, Sophia Rossi, Candace Bushnell, Lily Koppel and many more speak about their upcoming literary adventures!

Here are our Book Con 101 tips for all of our fellow bookworms out there:

1. Bring a jacket and wear long pants. Convention centers are air conditioned. A lot. We spent the first day of Book Con freezing because we didn’t bring jackets. We figured it would be jam-packed with people and the shoulder-to-shoulder heat would keep us toasty. We were wrong and we suffered for our mistake. Pack a light scarf and long sleeve cover up for the long day ahead. You also want to wear long pants because you might be sitting on the ground while waiting in line for tickets to bigger events.

2. Bring plenty of snacks. Book Con 2015 was held at the Javits Center in Manhattan this year, and we weren’t sure if food would be allowed inside. We thought it might be similar to airports or concert venues where they pat you down and check your bags. Unfortunately and fortunately there was no entry security whatsoever, so we were able to walk into the convention center with a backpack full of snacks on the second day. It was much better than buying over-priced chips the day before when we weren’t sure if our precious snack loot would be tossed in the garbage. The day goes by a lot more smoothly when you can eat healthy snacks that you feel good about (and spend less money on!).

3. Bring a sturdy tote bag. You will without a doubt be given a tote bag (or 10) when you get to the convention center – everyone wants to use you as free advertising for their upcoming book or publishing company – but it really helps to show up with your own tote so that you can hold everything you need to bring, as well as new items that you’ll be given. Pro Tip: Do not wear a backpack. I wore a small backpack the first day and I was constantly being shoved around from people trying to walk behind me. It was frustrating for me but also probably super annoying for everyone else trying to move smoothly down the aisles. A small side bag for your wallet, keys, and phone along with your tote bag are my best suggestions for what to carry.

4. Strategize your game plan before the convention starts. Schedules for the entire weekend will be online weeks ahead of time, so it’s important to read through each event carefully. There’s a very likely chance that a few of the same speakers you want to see will be doing so at the same time, so prioritizing who you need to see beforehand will be critical. You’ll also want to build in time to walk around the booths and meet some awesome new authors who are introducing their self-published book for the first time ever! And if you’re like us you might also want to build in 5 minutes to let your curiosity get the best of you and peek around the corner to catch a glimpse of Khloe Kardashian during her book-signing.

5. Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be doing a ton of walking. Convention centers are huge.

6. Bring cash. $10 bills are your best bets for not getting any loose change back. You don’t want to bother with trying to pay with a credit card, especially if you’re in a busy intersection where jostling will occur. Bringing cash will also help you budget because you’ll know exactly how much money you have to spend that day. Once it’s gone, it’s gone!

Pro Tip: This will sound counter-intuitive, but do not bring your own book to Book Con. Firstly, you’ll be too busy trying to figure out where to go for each event to even begin thinking about reading another chapter, secondly you’re going to be given books (some for free) and you’ll be able to purchase books for a super discounted price so bringing extra books won’t be necessary, thirdly it’s a great place to meet someone new and exchange book recommendations, and finally you just don’t want the extra weight with you all day as you walk around a giant convention center.

Happy reading!

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Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When it comes to leadership role models, Doris Daif is someone we look up to. As Head of American Express Digital Customer Experience, Doris gets to know the people she works with both personally and professionally. She also believes in flexibility and balance. Having studied marketing in college, Doris interned at Revlon and ended up working there after undergrad. After working at Revlon, Doris decided to continue her education and enrolled in Stern School of Business at New York University to earn her MBA. Now at American Express, Doris leads a team of over 130 people.

Throughout our interview, Doris emphasized the importance of passion, hard work, and finding mentors. We not only found Doris to be motivating and empowering, but what she shared resonated with us deeply. When it comes to her advice about living more in the moment and not being so prescriptive, we couldn’t agree with Doris more. Read on to find out how Doris thinks young people can demonstrate confidence and poise, what her daily duties involve, and how she unwinds from an occasionally overwhelming schedule.

Name: Doris Daif
Education: Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Rutgers University; Master of Business Administration in Marketing and Finance from New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business
Follow: @ddsethi

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

Doris Daif: Seizing your youth means living in the moment and not apologizing or feeling that you should be doing something other than you’re doing at that very moment. At least for me, that’s come as I’ve gotten older. When I was younger there was a lot of “shoulda coulda woulda” mentality around wondering if I was keeping up with what other people were doing or feeling like I was missing out on something. Seizing your youth is about feeling passionate and excited about what you’re doing at that time, knowing that it’s the right thing for you, and feeling comfortable in your own skin.

CJ: You majored in Marketing at Rutgers University. How did you determine what to study?

DD: I didn’t have a great plan when I was in undergrad in terms of what I wanted to do. My parents were both very academic and have master’s degrees, and they both wanted me to be in a stable job that earned money. I was in school in the early 90s and there was a lot of pressure around getting jobs post-graduation. It was a very tough time.

Before I went to Rutgers I thought about going to Carnegie Mellon and studying engineering. I ultimately decided to go to a state school. I may have headed toward marketing because I wanted to study something in business, and I knew I didn’t want something accounting and finance-related. Marketing really wasn’t planned at that point in my life but I knew it would give me the most options.

CJ: What did you do once you graduated from college?

DD: I was interning at Revlon when I was at Rutgers. I helped the chemists in R&D test their products on customers. It was awesome! All these women would come in to test out everything from shampoo to lipstick, and I really started to love the interaction with customers and thinking about what made them tick.

When I graduated from Rutgers, it was a difficult time economically. A lot of jobs available for undergrads with marketing degrees were sales jobs. I ultimately decided to go back to Revlon in a sales role. Going back to what I was saying about seizing your youth, it was not a typical job to start at with an undergraduate degree, so it was a risk but I loved the work and the people. After a few years, I turned the job into a full-blown marketing research opportunity and moved to the headquarters in New York City. I had the opportunity to work under really seasoned market research people where I could take what I learned in the R&D labs and translate it into more qualitative and quantitative market research at Revlon.

It was while I was at Revlon in NYC that I realized that I wanted to go back to graduate school and continue my education. I didn’t want to go back full time, though, so I applied for a part-time MBA program at the Stern School of Business at New York University. Then there was an opportunity that presented itself at Colgate Palmolive, and I got a call from them for a similar role where I would be working on much larger brands and doing more business analytics. That’s really what led me to leave the position at Revlon and go to Colgate.

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CJ: You are currently the Head of American Express Digital Customer Experience. What does that mean and what does your role entail?

DD: I lead a team of 130 folks located in New York and in the United Kingdom. We have responsibilities for making sure that when customers have a digital experience with us – whether they come onto our website or get an email or a text message – that we’re not only meeting their needs but that we’re delighting them.

We think about features that customers want to see, but we also actually listen to the voice of the customer. We have an internal design team that will sit down with customers and prototype and design with them. When we have a design that we think is really good, we figure out ways to put it into market and test it. It’s a really active place to work and there are no two days that look alike. I work with a really passionate group of people who are excited about what they do. The team ranges from data people to designers to operations people to product developers. There are some people who are in charge of the site or content management or personalization. We all work together to give the customer a great experience.

CJ: In an interview with theglasshammer.com, you noted that “confidence and poise are two of your greatest assets.” How can young people demonstrate confidence and poise?

DD: I’m so passionate about this topic because I didn’t have either of those growing up. I was a very shy, introverted kid. I didn’t fit into a natural clique, so to speak. What’s important to remember is to not put people in a box. People can be in many boxes or not in a box at all, and that is okay. The right kind of reinforcement is important for kids at a young age. Being able to celebrate not just the clear successes but also the effort is very important. You don’t just try once and get something; you have to develop the ability to come back repeatedly. You also have to learn how to step away. Take time to immerse yourself in why something failed, but then get up and try it again the next morning. We’re in a culture of wanting things to happen immediately, but that’s just not reality.

CJ: What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in working in the digital space with customer experience?

DD: During those first five to seven years, you want to work your tail off. You want to create great work that is meaningful and has high integrity. Go into something where you’re going to be happy putting in the extra hours.

Surround yourself with people you want to be like. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had a couple of early leaders and mentors who I observed. I watched them in action and saw their mistakes and what they did right. To a certain extent, they turned into advocates for me.

Also, you can’t fake it. Early on in my career I had a very false idea that I’d get one position and do it for two years, and then I’d get promoted and do that for two years. It’s not all that prescriptive, but the common ingredient is passion. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, it’s way too much time and way too forced to amount to anything. Younger people get caught up in what they should be doing, but this comes back to haunt you later. Knowing that you’re passionate about something allows doors to open that you wouldn’t have expected.

CJ: Finding that passion when you’re young can be difficult. In your experience, how do you think young people can find their passion?

DD: There’s not a magic bullet with this one. Passion can ebb and flow for different things throughout your life. Some of it is not being so prescriptive. If you’re overly sensitive to finding your passion and figuring out a plan, it can get really stressful. I’ve been caught up in that! You learn as you go.

Having great mentors and leaders who have been honest about what I do well and what I don’t do well has helped me figure out what I am interested in. Family does this very well – they will put a mirror up and tell you what you do well and what you don’t. Be receptive to this feedback and ask questions. Sometimes we have a very self-centered view of ourselves. I tap my team a lot to tell me what I can improve upon. What would my biggest fan say and what would my worst critic say?

CJ: You mentioned that you didn’t really fit in with any certain “clique” in high school. It can be hard thinking you don’t belong to a certain group. How did you navigate that when you were younger?

DD: Not well. I latched on to academics. I really worked my tail off. If I had to be 98% prepared, that should have been good enough, but at the time I was so insecure about myself that I would do whatever it took to get to 110% preparation. Looking back, that’s not a bad thing. I’ve been told that I am extremely hungry for the next thing, and I think that resilience comes from the feeling of wanting to excel. The flip side is always having that insecurity of having to do 110% which is not always a good thing.

For me, I love American Express because some of my most formidable years have been at this company. I came in at an entry level job and now I’m running a large team. I appreciate that I work for a company that has put a lot of confidence in me, which helped me build my confidence.

We as a company talk about diversity a lot, which is important. Diversity in terms of the products we offer and the kinds of customers we want to attract. Therefore, your employee base needs to be diverse to reflect that. I’m first-generation American, and both of my parents are from Egypt. There weren’t a lot of other Egyptians walking around in the schools I was in. I don’t know how much that contributed, but I definitely always felt like a fish out of water and that I had to try harder to integrate with any given group of people.

CJ: Leadership plays an important role in your job. How have you learned to lead and how do you bring the community together?

DD: I always make an effort to get to know the people who work for me, both on a personal level and professional level. I think that’s really important. I don’t just get to know my direct reports, but I like to dig in and have deep relationships with all of my people. I like to do it in an approachable style, even if it’s not in-person; using instant messaging is great.

The second is giving people flexibility. Everybody has different needs in terms of what’s going on in their personal and professional lives. One thing I’m extremely passionate about is seeing women advance. Women in particular need that flexibility as children come into the equation.

We afford people the ability to have a full life. I feel like people’s best ideas come when they’re out living their lives and they’re outside doing other things. I try to ensure that people are balanced.

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

DD: There are two areas. When you rise in an organization, you spend a lot of time removing roadblocks for your team. One thing I’ve become aware of is not losing my technical skills, so I’ve been doing a lot in the area of digital technology.

The second is doing even more to figure out how to collaborate with people across different lines of business in the company – that’s a lot more fruitful. A lot of times, rather than going to people when you’re in crisis mode, it should be about how you can help them. This notion of “giving to get” is an important thing to understand, especially for youth. When you’re a millennial, there can be a focus on yourself and how you can get ahead. It’s amazing how much can get sent back to you when you’re outwardly facing and helping other people. When I get stressed out and so focused on my issue, I figure out how to call someone and help somebody with his or her problem. As an old Revlon mentor would tell me, “you get more bees with honey versus vinegar.”

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

DD: I value balance but for me that balance doesn’t mean I cut off work when I leave the building or vice versa. I self-regulate. There are times when I know work will be busier than other times, but there are other times when I end my day on time and go exercise. I make an effort to be more active. Meditation is something I’ve been wanting to try. I try to maintain connections with people who I’ve come across in my professional life. I enjoy going out to eat a lot. I enjoy reading.

CJ: What is your favorite book? 

DD: The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street by Naguib Mahfouz.

CJ: What is a book you’ve read this year? 

DD: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

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

DD: I would have carried myself with greater poise and confidence. I also would have had more fun and not been so paranoid about what the next thing was going to be. I’d try to live more in the moment and not be so prescriptive. I’d also try not to be as introverted. There are people who are naturally introverts, but I was holding back on a lot of things that were in my head that I thought that no one wanted to hear or weren’t valuable enough to be said or done.

Doris Daif Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

CultureEvents & ProgramsLearn

This weekend is going to be filled with books, books, and more books. We couldn’t be more excited. BookCon, the event where storytelling and pop culture collide, officially begins on Saturday and lasts until Sunday evening. There are so many incredible guests scheduled to speak, autograph, and promote their new projects. If we don’t go in with a game plan, the entire event will just be overwhelming and chaotic. Plus, without knowing when and where our favorite authors will be, we might miss them.

Because there are a ton of great panels and activities happening throughout the weekend, we’re going to have to pick and choose our priorities. These are the top eight panels and speakers we can’t miss!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

1. 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Mindy Kaling in conversation with BJ Novak

2. 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM: Mixed Me: A Discussion with Taye Diggs and Shane Evans

3. 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM: Girls Online/Girls IRL: Young Women in the New Media

4. 4:15 PM – 5:15 PM: Aziz Ansari / Modern Romance

5. 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM: Everything Wrong With: A Day with Cinema Sins

Sunday, May 31, 2015

6. 11:30 PM – 12:30 PM: Telling Women’s Stories

7. 2:30 PM – 3:15 PM: Judy Blume in Conversation with Jennifer Weiner

8. 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM: A Conversation with Brandon Stanton, creator of Humans of New York

Don’t worry, in case you can’t make it to BookCon, we’ll be live-tweeting and Instagramming the event, so be sure to follow along! In addition, we’ll be posting a recap of our adventures at BookCon next week, so stay tuned!

Is anyone else going to BookCon? If so, who are you most excited to see?

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

As young professional women, we have read more Levo League articles than we can count and have watched all of the Office Hours videos. While watching Office Hours, which is a series of conversations with extraordinary leaders, we were fascinated not only with those being interviewed, but the woman doing most of the interviewing. Freyan Billimoria is the host of Office Hours and the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Levo League, and we had the pleasure of interviewing her for a Professional Spotlight.

Freyan has worked in luxury marketing, managed donor relations at Teach for America, and has been the Director of Development at The White House Project. Freyan now spends her time managing partnerships, engaging influencers and leaders, and producing and hosting Office Hours at Levo League. Freyan’s ambition, organization, and work ethic are truly inspiring. Read on to learn more about how Freyan has learned to be a leader, what a day in her busy life looks like, and her latest favorite books!

Name: Freyan Billimoria
Education: B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies and English Minor from University of California, Berkeley
Follow: Levo.com / Twitter: @freyanfb / Instagram: @freyanfb

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

Freyan Billimoria: Exploring your world, trying new things, and learning every day.

CJ: You created your own interdisciplinary major focused on globalization with a minor in English for your undergraduate degree. How did you determine what to study and why create your own major?

FB: I entered Berkeley interested in the impact of globalization, but every time I took a course – whether in political economics or development studies or English – I felt like I was missing a part of the story. In order to understand the full picture, I thought it was important to draw upon many disciplines. Plus, I always got to take classes I was passionate about!

CJ: You are the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Levo League. You also host and head production of the video series, Office Hours. What do your roles entail and what skills do your roles require?

FB: My role at Levo is a total mix of things – true startup style! I manage partnerships with corporate clients, from startups to Fortune 500s; help engage leaders and influencers as they get to know Levo; and produce and host interviews with folks like Natalie Morales and Ariel Foxman for Office Hours. This entails a lot of relationship management, the ability to oversee multiple projects, communication skills, a clear head under pressure, and a healthy dose of caffeine.

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CJ: You’ve done many interesting things throughout your career such as organizing concerts in college, luxury marketing, managing donor relations at Teach for America, and being the Director of Development at The White House Project. What have you learned from these experiences and how have they influenced you with your current job?

FB: The importance of working meaningfully with people has been a huge thread throughout every role I’ve had. I’ve really learned the power of forming authentic relationships rather than operating transactionally. This mentality has been hugely helpful whether rallying community support for expansion, raising funds, navigating internal teams, or interviewing experts.

CJ: One aspect of your job entails producing events. What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in event planning?

FB: Event planning is one of my favorite activities, both in my personal and professional life! I think it’s vital that you have the ability to think strategically about the big picture – What is the purpose of the event? What do you want people to get out of it? How should they feel? – and to get incredibly micro when it comes to the details. And, of course, never underestimate the power of feeding people!

CJ: In your various roles, leadership has been important. How have you learned to lead and what does it mean to be a leader?

FB: I think leadership is always an evolution: no one is born a leader, and no one is ever finished with the process. I see it as the ability to move other people to collectively work towards an objective, especially in the face of uncertainty and changing conditions.

CJ: What has been one of the most unexpectedly interesting parts of your career to date?

FB: My second role at Teach For America was working on a growth strategy team helping to launch new sites. The opportunity to deeply understand communities in places like Ohio, South Carolina, and Appalachia was incredibly exciting and rewarding. To say no two days were alike is an understatement – no two hours were alike! We developed relationships, formed partnerships with school districts and universities, raised funds, and changed laws – sometimes all in the same day!

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

FB: An average Monday starts with a quick breakfast of oatmeal with walnuts and dried cherries while powering through the news, emails… and, let’s be honest, my horoscope. Then it’s out the door I go. Once in our Union Square office, I set myself up with a cup of tea and dive in.

Mondays are chock full of meetings with our entire team, the editorial team, and occasionally the sales team. In between, I’m speaking with clients, working with our content team to plan for upcoming features, orchestrating future video shoots, navigating corporate requests, and wading my way through emails. In the evening, I head back to Brooklyn, where my partner and I convince ourselves to do a quick workout with varying degrees of success, and then give up and pour ourselves a glass of wine, sit down to dinner (favorites at the moment are homemade mushroom ramen and roasted eggplant with couscous and harissa), often with a friend dropping by. As it gets late, I close out a bit of work, take an old-lady constitutional around the neighborhood, and then it’s five minutes of (incredibly low-level) yoga before reading in bed.

CJ: What are your time management tips? How do you stay organized and efficient?

FB: I’m obsessed with email organization and my Google calendar. The only things that remain in my inbox are open items that require action – everything else is filed, whether it goes under a client’s name, or strategic planning.

My calendar is my baby – I believe in including everything you need time to do, from meetings and personal appointment to reminders and general “work time.” I color code so at a glance I have a sense of where my energy will go throughout the day.

CJ: What are your favorite books?

FB: So many! Latest favorites include Americanah, The Paying Guests, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and at long last, I finally read the entire Harry Potter series… and am so ready to start over again!

CJ: Any favorite news publications?

FB: The Week, The Daily Beast, NY Times, The New Yorker, NY Mag, and in very serious food news: Bon Appetit and Cherry Bombe.

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

FB: Learning to say no! At Levo, we’re lucky enough to have a lot of opportunities come our way, and part of my role is knowing how to graciously decline when the match or timing isn’t right. The same is true in my personal life – I’m learning to say a big YES to things that excite me, and a guiltless no when I find them draining.

CJ: What is a cause or issue that you care about and why?

FB: Ensuring women have opportunities to succeed is close to my heart. At Levo, we’re working to offer women the connections and resources they need to build careers and lives they’re passionate about – in turn, creating happier, healthier outcome for all of us.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

FB: Some combination of walking around the neighborhood, shaking up a cocktail, planning an amazing Friday, and sleeping a whole bunch usually does the trick. The key is to get out of your head and remember that work is only one part of your life.

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

FB: It’s all going to work out. Maybe not how or when you think it will, but amazing things are always around the corner.

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Images by Freyan Billimoria

HealthSkills

Two steps forward, one step back. Or sometimes, two steps back or even three – and then we’re really lost, asking ourselves how we even got there. The setback comes in all shapes and forms, but always of the same effect. It has a tempting, toxic ability to keep people in a negative state of mind making it more of a stayback than anything else. We feel it when relationships end, whether with a partner or a close friend. We feel stagnant when our career choices don’t reach the expectations we have bred in our minds. We become self-degrading, unconfident, anxious, and fearful versions of ourselves whenever we face circumstances that stunt our flow of life. The sad part about all of this is not the fact that obstacles happen, but rather that our collective response to hardship is to blame ourselves by shutting down. After all, if it’s happening to me then I must be deserving of it, right?

Incorrect. Unfortunate things happen all the time, and a quick reality check can help many of us realize that our problems are not quite as hefty in the big scheme of things. But how do we get out of the mental rewind that keeps replaying the negativity reel? First and foremost, separate your true self from the problem.

STEP 1: You are not the circumstance. The circumstance is happening to you, it is not you. And too often, people feel entirely consumed by the problem almost becoming it.

Tim Storey, world-renowned motivational and inspirational speaker says it best when he describes how people ruminate on their issues. He says that “We nurse it, curse it, and rehearse it.” By doing this, we are conditioning our minds to react to problems by constantly thinking about them and repeating them in our heads. Storey explains in his book Comeback and Beyond that the best way to cope is to “accept the now and take inventory of what is happening.”

STEP 2: Thinking about a problem is different than being aware of what’s happening. When you become aware you are expanding your thought patterns from dwelling on a single issue to seeing the entire picture. Less thinking, and more recognizing. Recognize how you’re feeling and what triggers you to repeat bad thoughts. Knowing how often you nurse, curse, and rehearse will help you work towards stopping those thoughts.

There is great power in what we think. Because of this, we must be very careful with what enters our minds. Setbacks create space in our heads to think negatively, but we can train ourselves to make space in our heads for positivity. It’s about redirecting what we pay attention to. Instead of focusing on what went wrong or what we failed to do, realize that there are unlimited other ways to focus on things that will breed positive thoughts. If you feel like you have nothing, give more. Volunteer, call a friend, help your parents out at home, and experience firsthand what happens when you shift the expected course of action. Your mind is so used to repeating the bad, that when you begin to feed your thoughts with helpfulness and kindness, your emotions begin to change as well.

If you feel lost and confused, be open to getting help from others. It is common for people to think that success is a one person job, and if they can’t do it on their own they don’t know how to be successful. This is twisted thinking. The most successful people understand the importance of mentorship and having a strong team of individuals to support one another in both work and personal life.

STEP 3: Shift your receiver and pick up positive signals. Don’t stay in the setback. Choose to hang out with people that believe in you. Make an appointment to talk to a counselor or therapist. Only read beneficial and substantial articles and follow positive people on social media.

There are so many times in life that we can feel weighed down. A lot of that weight is in what we think and not actually what is happening. Take the time to redirect yourself and don’t forget:

Separate from the problem. Recognize your thought patterns. Shift yourself to get better reception.

“Life is all about course-correcting.” – Arianna Huffington

Image: Raumrot

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When Genna Reed discovered her love for biology after whale watching in Cape Cod as a kid, she pursued that passion in high school, college, and graduate school. It wasn’t until Genna took an environmental policy class that she realized she wanted to shift gears from science to policy and advocate for environmental change. Genna started working toward her Environmental Policy master’s degree the fall after graduating from college.

What we love about Genna’s story is that when she recognized what made her excited, she followed those instincts. When a class re-awakened her interest in environmental policy, she turned that passion into further learning and ultimately, a career. Genna now works as a researcher at Food & Water Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based non-governmental organization and consumer rights group that focuses on corporate and government accountability relating to food, water, and fishing. She spends her time researching and writing materials to support Food & Water Watch’s campaigns, specifically their GMO (genetically modified organism) labeling campaign.

Genna provides insight into how she spends her days, what it’s like being a researcher and advocate for the environment, and what the important things to know are when it comes to genetically engineered food. We’re inspired by how determined, passionate, and knowledgeable Genna is, and she really captures the ‘Seizing Your Youth’ spirit.

Name: Genna Reed
Education: B.A. in Biology and Psychology and M.A. in Environmental Policy Design from Lehigh University
Follow: @gennaclare / foodandwaterwatch.org

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

Genna Reed: Youth is an advantageous time in a person’s life because individuals are most open to exciting opportunities and big changes, while also being resilient enough to manage these changes with ease. This flexibility begins to fade with age. It is absolutely essential that young folks take advantage of their freedom and explore new passions and interests whenever they can. Unless you happen to be Benjamin Button, you’re not getting any younger, so take advantage of it!

CJ: You majored in Biology and Psychology from Lehigh University. How did you decide what to major in?

GR: I have been very passionate about biology ever since going on my first whale watch in Cape Cod as a kid and becoming an instant die-hard humpback whale advocate. I was always more interested in my science and math courses during high school and carried that with me into college where my course load was predominantly biology and calculus courses. I was on the pre-med path until my senior year when I took an environmental policy course that re-awakened my interest in advocating for environmental change.

CJ: You also received your master’s degree in Environmental Policy Design from Lehigh University. What inspired you to go back to school to receive this degree?

GR: I realized at the end of my senior year of college that I wanted to shift gears from science to policy. I had worked at an environmental chemistry lab at the Meadowlands in New Jersey for two summers extracting very high levels of pesticides and other contaminants out of soil and water samples. I realized just how badly humans had polluted the environment and how essential it is that our society work to clean it up. Although I enjoyed working in a lab, I wanted to help work on concrete changes at the policy level. It just so happened that Lehigh had started up an Environmental Policy master’s program that seemed like a great fit for me. I began the master’s program the fall after graduating from undergrad at Lehigh.

CJ: You worked as an intern at the Wildlands Conservancy where you led environmental education programs and handled live animals including turtles, lizards, snakes, and owls. What were your biggest takeaways from this experience?

GR: I really loved working at the Wildlands Conservancy because I got to share my excitement about the natural world and environmental conservation with kids. I learned how incredibly important it is to expose children to environmental experiences at a young age and to teach them how they fit into the biological cycles and what they can do to help protect the environment. It’s really fun to channel kids’ energy and enthusiasm into becoming mini environmental stewards!

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CJ: You were a National Network for Environmental Management Studies (NNEMS) Fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. What was this experience like and what did you do as a Fellow?

GR: While I was completing my master’s thesis on wetland regulation and preservation, I was lucky enough to get a temporary fellowship position in Philadelphia with the EPA’s wetland division. I was able to apply things I was learning about wetland biological assessments into the policy world and to see firsthand how regulations are enacted. I spent my time with the EPA comparing and contrasting different ways to assess the health of streams and wetlands in order to find the best way to determine how these bodies of water can be protected from pollution and degradation.

CJ: You now work as a researcher for Food & Water Watch where your focus is on new technology issues within the food system. What does your role as researcher entail?

GR: I spend most of my time researching and writing materials (reports, issue briefs, fact sheets, op-eds, letters to the editor, blogs and testimony) that support our campaigns, specifically our GMO labeling campaign. I also work on federal comments on issues relevant to genetically engineered crops and animals and present our research at certain science and policy forums, stakeholder meetings and public hearings.

CJ: What are the three most important skills you need as a researcher?

GR:
1. Patience. It’s not always easy to find what you’re looking for.
2. Versatility. We have to be able to write about food policy to a range of different audiences.
3. Positive Attitude. Working at an organization that attempts to protect our food and water, we are up against very strong corporate interests, which makes it difficult to win our campaigns. We have to remain positive and keep on keeping on.

CJ: You research genetically engineered foods and the impacts that the technology has on farmers, consumers, and the environment. For people who are starting to learn more about genetically engineered foods, what are the most important things to know and keep in mind?

GR: The first thing I always tell people that are just learning about genetically modified foods, or GMOs, is that the way that this technology is currently used is first and foremost a moneymaking scheme for biotech companies that own seeds as well as the herbicides that are used with them. Herbicides are poisons, and their use has increased since GMOs were introduced. There are still many unanswered questions regarding the safety of GMOs and the herbicides that are used with them, and we have been the guinea pigs for this experiment since these crops and associated chemicals have been used for the past 20 years and foods made from these crops have been sold without labels the entire time. We should all be outraged at the lack of accountability and transparency from our regulatory agencies that have been keeping us in the dark about what’s in our food for far too long.

CJ: Food & Water Watch is an advocacy group with food, water, and environmental policy campaigns. Why do these issues matter to you and what can young people who are interested in these causes do to make a difference?

GR: There is not a single person in the world that is not affected by food, water and environmental issues. I have always believed that we have to take responsibility for the way in which we’ve treated our natural resources as commodities since humans began colonizing this planet. It’s high time that we begin thinking about the environment as having its own intrinsic value. Interested young people should get involved at the local level in their communities by getting educated on issues and joining with other concerned individuals to demand change.

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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?

GR: Monday mornings are spent drinking earl grey tea and going through my emails from the weekend and my to-do list that I’ve written on Friday afternoon. I start the day off finishing quick research tasks and then move on to longer-term projects as the day wears on. I try to do my writing either first thing in the morning or right after lunch, when my mind is the clearest.

Throughout the day, I usually have a couple of calls with our organizers on the ground to discuss campaign details and how we can work together to advance our cause or with representatives from other organizations who work with us in coalitions in order to build power to affect change. Hopefully by the end of the day, I have checked more things off the list than I have added.

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

GR: Having an inquisitive mind is a great way to begin preparing to be a researcher. Research is really just the process of finding an answer to a question or a set of questions. Another good skill to start honing is the ability to distinguish between good sources and questionable sources. It is essential that good research be backed up by solid fact and discerning between what is credible and what is not is imperative in this line of work.

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

GR: E.O Wilson’s Biophilia was incredibly important in shaping and affirming my own opinions about the importance of protecting the environment and the role of humans in preservation. Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac was also very influential for me.

CJ: When you’re having a bad day, what do you do to reset?

GR: I usually go for runs to clear my head. After that, I spend time cuddling with my two cats, Jack and Willow, for comfort (if they’re in the mood, of course).

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

GR: As a researcher with a dual monitor computer set-up, sometimes I find myself overwhelmed with inputs. Growing up in the age of multi-tasking and short attention spans, I sometimes struggle with devoting my full attention to individual projects as I’m working on them. I’m attempting to be more mindful of this and to fully immerse myself in one task at a time rather than spreading myself thin on a bunch of tasks.

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

GR: I probably would tell 20-year-old me to spend a little bit less time studying and more time exploring the state parks and natural beauty around Lehigh and farther out into Pennsylvania.

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Images: Genna Reed