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

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When it comes to following your heart, Kial Afton knows firsthand just how important that can be. After studying Communications, Philosophy, and International Studies at Boston College, Kial pursued a role as an NBC page by continually applying for a position and networking with as many people as she could. Her persistence paid off. Kial spent time as a Page and worked her way up the corporate ladder, and she is now the Corporate Events Manager at NBCUniversal.

While in college, Kial spent time studying Greek mythology, archaeology, architecture, and culture at The Athens Centre, in addition to spending a summer studying art, architecture, and philosophy at Venice International University. Though she didn’t know what to study at Boston College, she took advantage of the core curriculum required for freshmen and discovered topics that she loved and would ultimately major in.

We are inspired by Kial’s drive, her positive energy, and the advice she would share with her 20-year-old self: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Turns out that when you follow your heart, great things can happen.

Name: Kial Afton
Education: B.A. in Communications, Philosophy, and International Studies from Boston College

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

Kial Afton: Saying yes to every opportunity that presents itself. Stepping out of your comfort zone. Realizing it’s OK to be wrong – so long as you learn something from it.

CJ: You studied Communications, Philosophy, and International Studies at Boston College. How did you decide what to study?

KA: I didn’t. Boston College has a strong liberal arts, core curriculum required for freshmen, and this was extremely valuable to someone like me who wasn’t sure what to study.

Some of my favorite classes in the core curriculum—philosophy of existence, cultural communications, international conflict and cooperation—laid the foundation for what later became my majors. I took more advanced classes offered by my favorite professors in a few different areas, including those abroad.

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CJ: You’ve spent time studying Greek mythology, archaeology, architecture, and culture at The Athens Centre. You also spent a summer studying art, architecture, and philosophy at Venice International University. These experiences sound incredible! What were these experiences like and why did you choose to spend time in Athens and Venice?

KA: I absolutely studied some very interesting topics in Athens and Venice. What I learned the most from these experiences, however, happened outside of the classroom. Studying abroad for me was less about the topic than learning to understand the environment in which you’re living, growing to understand and respect different cultures, and making interpersonal connections with people you would never otherwise have the opportunity — from Alberto who sold me my daily gelato, to Caroline who had a similar major at her university in Munich!

CJ: What did your career path look like when you graduated from college?

KA: I followed my heart, which was the opposite of sensical. I spent senior year applying to NBC’s Page Program, but when I never got called to interview; I did the “responsible” thing and lined up a Boston-based Public Relations position to begin immediately following graduation. I was not excited for it or inspired by it.

When my sister in New York called to tell me her roommate was moving out, I did the least responsible thing I could image and moved to New York without a job—or at least a steady one.

I landed a part-time PR position immediately, but had to supplement my income and fill my free time with any odd job—extra work on 30 Rock and Law and Order, nannying, foot-modeling, and lastly as a “promotional marketer”—a fancy term for “passing out flyers on the street.”

All the while, I continued applying to the Page Program and networking with anyone in NBC who could stand another informational with me. Finally, it paid off.

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CJ: You spent some time as an NBC Page. What does being a Page mean, and what did your duties involve?

KA: If you’ve ever seen 30 Rock, an NBC Page is a real life version of Kenneth. Wearing Brooks Brothers’ uniforms—adorned with a name badge, pocket square and peacock pins—the primary job of a Page is to proudly lead countless studio tours and coordinate audiences for shows such as Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live and The Dr. Oz Show. Pages work six days a week, twelve-plus hours each day and practically sleep at 30 Rock.

So why did I try so hard to become a Page? As Stuart Epstein, NBC’s CFO in 2011, told me on my first day, “The grey suit has the power to open any door.” And he was right. As a Page, you also have the opportunity to apply for 3-6 month assignments. I worked as the TODAY Show Green Room Page, and in marketing for NBC Sports & Olympics.

The Page Program exposes you to an array of opportunities and introduces you to some exceptional and influential people.

CJ: You are now the Corporate Events Manager at NBCUniversal. What does your role entail? What do your daily tasks look like?

KA: Building relationships with marketing, sales and top NBC Executives to gain a working knowledge of their needs and their clients’ needs in order to advance key initiatives. Once the parameters have been set, I’m given the creative freedom to research, develop, manage and execute special events across all NBCUniversal properties on a national and international scale.

CJ: You’ve been involved with events such as the Superbowl and the Olympics. What does the process look like for organizing these big events?

KA: One might think it would take an army to organize a 2,000+ client hospitality program. In actuality, it requires significant lead-time and having complete faith in your team and vendors. And adrenaline!

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CJ: What is the best part about your job? The hardest part?

KA: I work with amazing people. Blaise Cashen leads the Corporate Events Team, and is very selective in the hiring process. The team is therefore lean and mean and comprised of some of the most talented and devoted people I know.

The hard part—the hours! Finding work-life balance is challenging in any demanding company or career.

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

KA: Lists, lists, and more lists! Shared calendars, outlook reminders, a notebook by the bedside, and more post-its than I’d like to admit keep me organized.

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

KA: I look to sites like Pinterest and BizBash for inspiration. Developing vendor relations and networking with others in the industry, however, provide the building blocks needed to further my career.

CJ: When you are feeling overwhelmed or having a bad day, how do you like to unwind or reset?

KA: My calm is Murphy, my Dad’s rescue dog. Early mornings in Central Park and late evenings at Tomkins Square Dog Park keep me calm and grounded.

CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care greatly about? If so, why?

KA: I’m a member of Friends of Animal Rescue (to help others like Murphy) the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (to support my sister, Laine) and Planned Parenthood (I strongly support their mission).

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

KA: I’m working to build the professional confidence I’m capable of projecting but have a difficult time actually feeling. I’m working to remove the inner monologue, and never apologize for my opinions—I now have the experience to have both earned them, and stand by them!

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

KA: Don’t sweat the small stuff. It always works out and fretting about it only gives you grey hair (seriously).

Kial Afton Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When it comes to thinking outside the box, Kimberly Del Col is required to do so on a daily basis. As a Senior Staff Engineer at Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, Kimberly oversees and documents day-to-day activities on construction sites to make sure contractors are compliant with environmental regulations. Her days start early, but every day is different which keeps things exciting.

Majoring in Chemical Engineering and Sustainability from Villanova University, Kimberly knew early on that she wanted to study something that combined science and math. As a female in a very male dominated field, Kimberly is learning how to be more assertive. We can’t help but be inspired by her drive, passion, and determination to make a change. Read on to learn Kimberly’s advice for those interested in being an engineer, how we can take care care of the environment on a daily basis, and the resources that have professionally and personally inspired her.

Name: Kimberly Del Col
Education: Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and Sustainability from Villanova University; Master of Science in Sustainable Engineering from Villanova University
Follow: @Kim_DelCol

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

Kimberly Del Col: I envision youth as a resource we are given.  Like any resources (physical or other) we have the ability to use it to our advantage, to help us grow, or we can waste it. To me, seizing your youth is the ability to harness this resource for your better good and use it as a foundation to help you grow and meet whatever goals you’re trying to achieve.

CJ: You majored in Chemical Engineering and Sustainability from Villanova University. How did you determine what to study?

KDC: I’ve always had an interest in science and math, so I knew when I went to college I wanted to major in something that incorporated both. Engineering seemed like the right balance of the two. At Villanova University, the first engineering class you take helps you explore the various disciplines of engineering through lectures and labs on each disciple. When it came to the Chemical Engineering portion of the class I found the concept and theories discussed made sense, everything clicked.

As I progressed in the Chemical Engineering degree I had the option to take classes that incorporated some of the foundation classes of the degree (such as mass transfer and reactor engineering) and applied it to environmental scenarios. That is when I decided to pursue a concentration in sustainability.

CJ: After college you decided to earn your Master of Science in Sustainable Engineering from Villanova University. What led to your decision to go to graduate school?

KDC: I’ve always had an interest in sustainability, climate change and environmental health, but it wasn’t until I was a senior at Villanova that the Sustainable Engineering program was formed.  Once I began working, I became more involved with local sustainability initiatives and educating myself on what it means to live sustainably. I decided to go back to school part-time about a year after I finished my undergraduate degree so that I could incorporate the knowledge I attained from class into work (and vice-versa). Also I was able to use what I learned in class to drive new initiatives at work and my personal endeavors, that’s how you create change.

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CJ: You worked as a Staff Engineer at H2M architects + engineers, a consulting and design firm. What did your duties entail and what takeaways did you learn from that experience?

KDC: At H2M I worked as part of their water resource group.  The group’s responsibilities were primarily designing and overseeing the implementation of drinking water (groundwater) treatment, distribution and storage systems. I also worked on groundwater models that would predict groundwater impacts (contamination) down the road. These models helped us better understand the challenges these water districts may face and help us better design treatment systems so that the water can be clean and safe to drink. I learned so much at H2M; the biggest take away was learning to effectively communicate with my team. It easy to think engineering is just about numbers but if you can’t communicate that idea to someone effectively, you’re project can’t succeed.

CJ: You are now a Senior Staff Engineer at Langan Engineering & Environmental Services. What does that mean and what does your role entail?

KDC: At Langan, my responsibilities are a bit more hands on. As environmental field staff, I’m responsible to oversee and document day-to-day activities on construction sites, as due diligence for our clients and making sure contractors are compliant with environmental regulations. Upon completion, we compile all of the information from the project and provide a report explaining how the requirements were met. We also are responsible for the planning and execution of sampling events to meet certain environmental requirements. Once the event is completed we compile the results and provide alternatives for moving forward with remediating the site.

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?

KDC: Every day is different! On typical day in the office I’ll be working on various reports explaining the findings of previous investigations, compiling information for final reports on construction jobs I’ve overseen or doing historical research of new sites to determine if there are any notable causes for environmental impacts. If I’m in the field the day usually starts around 6:30 AM where I’ll be on-site receiving any equipment I may need for the day’s work.

Field work varies from overseeing construction and making sure the contractor is being compliant with not only our specifications, but regulations set forth by various environmental policy makers (ie: New York City Office of Remediation (NYCOER), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) etc.) to completing the physical investigation of a site. This includes the sampling of soil, groundwater and soil vapor and conducting a visual inspection of the site to look for any indication of environmental impacts.

CJ: What are the three most important skills you need as an engineer?

KDC: Adaptability, ability to communicate (written & speaking), and critical thinking.

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CJ: What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in being an engineer?

KDC: Engineering is a challenging profession, so be prepared to think outside the box and take things day by day.

CJ: Sustainable building and planning, water and soil remediation technologies, and sustainable farming are interests of yours. What makes you so passionate about these topics? How do you think people can be better about taking care of the environment in their everyday lives?

KDC: Often times people think of ‘sustainability’ as an environmental concept when really it is so closely connected to social and economic impacts (commonly referred to as the ‘triple bottom line’). There are technologies that have been developed to create more resilient infrastructure that can handle some of the recent climate events we’re seeing (ie: hurricanes, droughts, floods etc) so people aren’t left homeless, farming techniques that not only preserve soil integrity but help crops survive floods or drought, and materials that use fossil fuels to produce and are less harmful to produce for factory workers. I think once people start to look at sustainability in this light it takes on a more personal meaning. On a day to day level things like turning off lights, choosing post-recycled or sustainably sourced products all contribute to a greener society. Being educated is your greatest resource. Read labels and ask questions. The more you know, the better decisions you can make.

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

KDC: It is critical to be organized and efficient, especially in the field. Before any field investigation I put together a binder of all of the information I need – contact information, site plans, previous investigation reports, sample tables etc. – so that when I’m on site I have all of the information I could need readily available. In the office I have a list of critical items that need to be completed, their deadlines and if there’s any outstanding information I need to complete them.  Once a day I go through the list, make and updates and if there’s something I need to address I make sure to do it and note the action. With the constant flux of information on various projects coming across my desk, it’s easy to forget something if it isn’t right in front of you.

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

KDC: It’s easy to be intimidated as a female in a very male dominated field so I’m constantly working on my ability to be assertive. It’s easy to back down and try to compromise when someone is arguing with me but if I compromise my work then I compromise my integrity, which is not that standard I hold myself to.

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

KDC: Engineers without Borders and Society of Women Engineers are two groups that I’ve found a lot of inspiration. Both societies offer resources for both learning and networking that have been instrumental in molding my interest in sustainable engineering and its social implications. Also, many of Michael Pollan’s books, which focus on the sustainability of the food chain, have helped me foster my interest in sustainable farming and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

KDC: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.

CJ: If you could have coffee with anyone – dead or alive – who would it be?

KDC: Emily Warren Roebling. Roebling had a huge hand in the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge, even became the chief engineer of the project when her husband fell ill.  For a woman to have such an esteemed role in such a monumental project during a time when women did not really have a presence in the field is awe inspiring.

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

KDC: Never apologize for being ambitious or driven. I used to always start sentences saying, ‘I’m sorry/ I’m sorry but…’ when I had nothing to be sorry about. Once you stop apologizing and start being confident in your ideas and concepts, people will notice (and respect) you.

Kim Del Col Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Curato Cover

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

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

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

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

Mike Curato Cover 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

School Library Journal

The Horn Book

Kirkus

Publisher’s Weekly

Booklist

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

Let’s Get Busy

Brain Burps for Books

PW KidsCast

The Yarn

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

Watch. Connect. Read.

Sharpread

7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Librarian in Cute Shoes

Kidlit Frenzy

Read, Write, Reflect

Teach Mentor Texts

Nerdy Book Club

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Curato Qs

Cover Image by Mike Curato; Images by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We met Ariana Austin after work one warm Washington, D.C. evening last spring. The conversation was meant to last just half an hour, but we ended up talking for over two. So when we say that Ariana is generous with her time, spirit, and energy, we have the proof to back it up. We talked about everything from why she decided to study English Lit in college, to how she manages her time as an entrepreneur and team leader. As the Founder of Art All Night, she knows how to tackle projects from start to finish and bring entire communities together. By carrying over her skills and talents from all parts of life, we are inspired by Ariana’s courage to dive right into her passions and turn them into a fruitful career.

Name: Ariana Austin
Education: B.A. English Literature, Fisk University and M.Ed, Arts in Education, Harvard University
Location: New York City
Follow: Twitter / French Thomas

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

Ariana Austin: Being curious; for experiences, for people, traveling to different places, studying what you want. Honoring that openness while relatively free of responsibility.

CJ: You majored in English Literature at Fisk University. How did you determine what to study?

AA: I have loved to read and write since childhood – I just followed my passion.

CJ: You spent some time at the University of Oxford. What were you studying and how was that experience?

AA: I studied “postcolonial” literature — a contentious term for literature from formerly colonized nations. It was very intense — the most rigorous academic experience I’ve had but a first-read of some of my now favorite novels, and a nuanced look at the most difficult of topics: who has power and who does not.

CJ: What was your first job out of college?

AA: When I graduated from college, I had a press internship on the hill, worked part-time for the Oxford Study Abroad Program (that I went to as a student), and in a boutique.

CJ: You founded Art All Night. Please tell us more about the organization and what your roles as Founder and Creative Director entail.

AA: Art All Night is a nighttime arts and culture festival. I founded the festival in 2010 after having lived in Paris and experiencing the original “nuit blanche.” My work involves sketching out the big picture for the night, then securing venues (many are vacant or non-traditional art spaces), cultural partners to curate them, managing the overall artist call, and working with galleries and more established spaces to open their doors late.

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

AA: Depending on what two or three projects I’m working on every few months is different. These days my schedule is to work from my apartment in Brooklyn. I’m working on two projects – Draw NYC – a wonderful initiative designed to get New Yorkers drawing in public space and Art All Night. Typically: I try to keep to a regular schedule and work from 10am-6pm. In the morning, I get to action items, conceptual work, and priority meetings and calls, and in the afternoon emails. Around 4pm I stop for a tea break, it’s relaxing and a nice way to break up the day; I know I still have another 2 hours to get things done.

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to run their own company do to set him or herself up for success? What’s the first step he or she should take?

AA: Start before you’re ready. Start a precursor to a business when you have that initial passion, even if you’re not sure of the exact structure. Organize around that spark and be flexible with changing course. Create something that is yours that you can grow and build and learn through. Have fun with it.

CJ: Was there ever a moment that greatly influenced or encouraged you to jump into entrepreneurship?

AA: During graduate school, I went on a trip sponsored by the Harvard Innovation Lab to NYC to meet with cultural entrepreneurs. We met with really great people: Arianna Huffington, Diane von Furstenberg, the founders of Rent the Runway, and more. I spent that week really critically thinking about starting a culture business. I hadn’t expected to do it this soon, but I knew it would happen someday. It feels good to have invested in it fully from the very beginning.

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CJ: How do you deal with and overcome tough days?

AA: With big projects, this is hard because often a lot rides on one day or one event. I try to isolate the source of the stress (is it related to getting something done, asking for something specific, variables beyond your control etc). If it can be handled, I just do it. If I need extra support, I talk to family and friends to help figure out a solution. But there is something to big projects where 48 hours or so before you have to be kind of Zen-like and let it go and be in execution mode. You work as much and as hard as humanly possible, but then there are situations where you have to let go – learning that will make a happier producer. Also, at the end of the day when I’m done, I’m done. I need those hours to go out or be home, have a glass of wine and recharge for the next day. I’m almost always refreshed and ready to go after a good nights sleep. 

CJ: What is something in your life – professional or personal – that you’re working to improve on and how are you doing that?

AA: Personally: keeping up with friends and family more consistently. 

CJ: How do you measure success?

AA: I am a very focused person so I have a couple of key goals and everything I do should feed into those goals ultimately. Success for me is getting things done at a steady pace and producing at a high quality both professional and more personal projects, that I’m happy with my work and so are my clients. Beyond that, being content and finding joy throughout the day. 

CJ: You’ve traveled quite a bit and moved for work – what is the best travel and moving advice you can share?

Take your spirit, leave your baggage. I wrote it in an article once and have since tried to follow my own advice.

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

AA: Wise words from Kanye West: Steer clear of “opportunities” and focus on dreams.

Ariana Austin Qs

Image: Morgan West / A Creative D.C.

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

It is always pure joy seeing a Broadway show. The actors are insanely talented, the music is catchy, the costumes are gorgeous, and the set designs are stunning. When it comes to set design, one show in particular stands out in our minds: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, a musical about Monty Navarro, an heir to a family fortune who sets out to jump the line of succession by eliminating the eight pesky relatives who stand in his way. We saw the show last year on Broadway, and not only did the show blow us away with its dark humor, wit, and enjoyable show tunes, but the set was so grand that it was essentially its own character.

We were over the moon when we had the opportunity to interview the award winning theater, opera, and dance stage designer Alexander Dodge. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is just one of the many incredible sets he has designed (also for which he received his second Tony Award Nomination!). Alexander has also designed for productions such as Julius Caesar, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Tempest, and Twelfth Night.

In addition to two Tony Award Nominations, a Lortel Award, a Drama Desk Nomination, and an Outer Critics Circle Nomination, he has also been the recipient of two Elliot Norton Awards, three Independent Reviewers of New England Awards, two Connecticut Critics Circle Awards, two San Diego Critics Circle Awards, and a Bay Area Critics Award. Alexander continues to impress with his attention to detail and incredible designs.

Born in Switzerland, Alexander grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona. He attended Bennington College in Vermont, spent a semester abroad in London, and later trained with the talented Ming Cho Lee at the Yale School of Drama. Alexander’s credentials and experiences with stage design makes him stand out above his peers, and even with his continued success, he is a pleasure to talk to and is generous with his time. Also, this September, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder goes on tour! If the tour is coming to your city, you’ll be able to see the amazing set design Alexander has created.

Name: Alexander Dodge
Education: BA in Drama from Bennington College; MFA in Design from Yale School of Drama
Follow: alexanderdodgedesign.com

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

Alexander Dodge: Do things you want to do when you can and when you’re young. I have a one-year-old son and I’m focused on getting him to understand the idea of doing all the things he can when he can. You never know what’s going to come ahead in life that will stop you from doing something you could have done when you were young.

CJ: You majored in Drama from Bennington College. How did you decide what to major in?

AD: What’s great about Bennington is that they’re all about learning by doing and want you to dabble in a lot of things before deciding what to major in. Every year you have a work semester so my first year I worked in a gallery in Soho, my second year I worked in San Diego at the Old Globe Theater, my third year I worked at the Young Vic in London, and my fourth year I worked at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. I had these great experiences of learning what was good or what wasn’t for me. After a couple of years of that I figured out what I really liked doing. And we had a great performing arts center there – it was the same size as one you’d find at a major university but for 500 students. That was incredible. You could get lost in some of the backstage stuff, it was really cool.

CJ: You also received your master’s of fine arts degree in Design from Yale School of Drama where you trained with Ming Cho Lee. What inspired you to go back to school to receive this degree?

AD: Going to Yale was great because it was completely structured – in the three years there was only one elective class you could take. Which is great in a way and I loved being at a large university for a while. The campus was awesome, and Ming Cho Lee is amazing. I absorbed so much and it was so important being there and being around the other students who you learn so much from. So many places teach you different skills, and Ming Cho Lee was really about teaching you to become an artist. To really see, and really look, and figure out how to interpret the world around you.

CJ: How do you work with the rest of the crew to create the physical stage that the audience sees?

AD: Unlike architects we don’t have engineering backgrounds, so we’re not required to know exactly how to construct and put things together, but we make suggestions and we’re really only responsible for the look. So there’s a technical director for each project – either based at a theater or based at a commercial shop. If you’re doing a Broadway show there aren’t any scene shops here so everything gets built elsewhere. So I’ll give them a pretty good sense of the technical drawings, and then they’ll really figure out how to construct it. I’ll also give them a color model, renderings, paint elevations and all that, and they’ll then take those drawings and do technical drawings of what’s inside and what’s actually keeping the walls up. You also work very closely with the director to figure out how you can put everything together in the space you have to work with.

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CJ: You are a set and costume designer for theater, opera, and dance. What does it mean to be a designer, and what do your daily tasks look like?

AD: Today is all about finishing up a model and coming up with new designs I’m doing for a new show this summer, as well as reading a play I just got offered. So it really depends. It tends to be office time when I’m in the city, but I fly all the time and it’s a lot of travel.

CJ: When starting a new project, what does your process look like?

AD: Collaboration is the name of the game. I find that the shows I’ve worked on that have been the most successful are the ones that we all work together. I’ve also done shows where I basically hand them the set design and they go with it. Other times it’s a lot of back and forth and figuring it out together, which can feel much more satisfying. Also the director might have a take on the piece that’s important. The text is read first and foremost, then I go to the director and talk about what he or she thinks, then there’s interaction with the costume designer an the lighting designer. Usually costumes and set are what we start with because of the nature of how long those things take to create and build. We have to start right away. Nothing is by chance – everything has to be decided, down to the buttons and the trim on the jackets, the height of the door frame, and so on.

CJ: What is an important skill you need as a set designer?

AD: Trying to carve out time for myself is really good. If I don’t go to the gym in the morning and have my time, I’ll have a million excuses to not go in the afternoon. But it’s time for myself and it’s important for my own sanity. Even though I’m on the road a lot, trying to keep a business routine is really good too. This past year I’ve made a big push to carve out vacation time, because before that it was all about trying to grab a weekend here or a weekend there, and that was kind of it. But the theater is very different where we plow through national holidays and don’t really have a typical summer season because there are always shows going on. I remember once I did a show in Boston and we started technical rehearsal on December 26th and we went right through the New Year – it was a whirlwind of work at a time when you’d really love to be with your family.

CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care about? If so, why?

AD: Something I care a lot about is LGBT youth and youth programs like the Hetrick-Martin Institute. There’s also a program called Live Out Loud which provides scholarships for LGBT youth. I also love smaller theater groups like The Civilians – they do a whole variety of investigative theater, which is so interesting.

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

AD: I think try to get out and see as many things as possible is important, especially if you’re close to any major theater area. Even if you’re in a smaller town, take advantage of what’s there. Familiarize yourself with what you’re interested in. Try to travel to places that offer different shows. Seizing those things, especially if you want to do this business, is important. And see a variety of things – see operas, concerts, modern dance, and museums.

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

AD: Being more present and taking more time for my family and me is something that I’m really working on. It’s difficult with work, but I don’t want to be that person where my job is everything. Time with your family is not to be undervalued.

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

AD: I would say don’t major in drama – branch out more than you did. I think that I zoomed in on what I knew I wanted to do, but in hindsight I’m thinking it would have been good to take an anthropology class or more science courses. In grad school I decided I wanted to be in a show for the first time, and it was great. I was on the stage at Yale University and it was such a great experience.

Alexander Dodge Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Gabriel Cabrera is a food and prop stylist who runs a gorgeous food, art, design, and culture blog called Artful Desperado, and we were hooked after seeing just one blog post. The photos will make you want to take photography (and perhaps even food styling!) more seriously, and Gabriel’s writing is fun, catchy, and engaging – you won’t be able to visit his blog just once.

After having studied Tourism Management at Universidad Anahuac, Gabriel received his Culinary Arts degree from Vancouver Community College. The skills he learned from culinary school comes into play every single day, whether he’s dreaming up a new recipe for Artful Desperado or for his Stylist job at Luvo Inc.

We are excited to share this exclusive interview with Gabriel, where he shares his top three photography tips, his favorite dessert he’s ever made, and an inside look on what his blog and stylist duties entail. Read on for more culinary inspiration!

Name: ​Gabriel Cabrera
Education: ​Tourism Management from Universidad Anahuac; Culinary Arts from Vancouver Community College
Follow: ​TheArtfulDesperado.com / Instagram@ArtfulDesperado
Location: Vancouver, Canada

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

GAB: ​I think the process of seizing your youth never truly ends. To me it’s a constant state of mind where you must take every opportunity you can to shape your future. Seizing your youth is a life­-long learning experience through trial and error. This means you cannot give up and you cannot shy away from creative/life challenges, otherwise you will be giving up on some very valuable life lessons (which by the way, are tuition free!). Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you always end up with a new skill that will help you get closer to success.

CJ: You majored in Tourism Management at Universidad Anahuac. How did you determine what to study?

GAB: ​I chose Tourism Management based on my personal interests, which are travel and food. It was a tricky choice! You know, turning something you love into your full-time job may not be what you would expect. When I chose Tourism Management I thought “I’m going to travel everywhere for a living!” I was wrong; I was stuck in an office making sure everyone was enjoying their vacations, and that killed me. Some people thrive in the service industry, but not this cat.

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CJ: You then went on to receive a Professional Certificate in Culinary Arts from Vancouver Community College. What sparked your passion for food and cooking, and what was your culinary school experience like?

GAB: ​I’ve always loved cooking. I was born in Mexico, so food is a HUGE part of our culture, pretty much every social interaction revolves around food (fine by me!). I wanted to do something with this foodie passion of mine, so I decided to take it to the next level in cooking school. I knew it was going to be hard work (despite what everyone thinks, a kitchen is more like the military than what you see on the Food Network). I had some really stressful moments where I thought to myself “why am I doing this!?!” but deep inside I knew I had to keep going. I did, and I don’t regret it one bit. I think that’s key – you’ve got to listen to your inner voice. Your gut is right 99.9% of the time and if something feels like it fits ­despite the stress and sleepless nights ­then it will turn out for the better. Trust me, your sweat and tears pay off!

CJ: You run the stunning blog, Artful Desperado. What inspired you to start your blog, and what do your blogger duties look like?

GAB: ​The blog started as a creative exercise to train myself to be more aware of what was happening in the art, design, and food world. From then on it took off and it changed a bit to be more focused on food and styling which is what I do.

My blogger duties are basically wearing many hats! Copy-writing, photographing, styling, editing, business skills (to create partnerships with sponsors or brands) and even a bit of HTML coding (for any bugs that may happen). A “day in the life of” looks like this: gather inspiration for a new post, test the recipe, gather props and ingredients, cook, style and shoot, edit, write the blog post, and promote to social channels. Mind you, due to my work schedule I currently don’t blog daily, I only update once a week­-ish.

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CJ: What is the best piece of advice you would give a baking/cooking enthusiast?

GAB​: Travel! Seriously, get out there. Cookbooks are awesome, and so are ideas from Pinterest, but traveling is just the real deal. You don’t have to go somewhere extremely expensive or exotic (though, if you can, then yes! by all means go), you can do trips in your state or province and try different things you’d never try before. Architecture, culture, nature; all of them will have a major impact on the way you see/create food.

CJ: You take gorgeous photos on Artful Desperado and your Instagram. What are your top three photography tips?

GAB: ​Top three would be: 1 -­ Great lighting. Lighting is key to achieving a great photograph, learn the basics and practice as much as you can and soon enough you’ll start seeing it everything in a different light (pun intended). 2 – If it doesn’t look good, then don’t share it­. The Internet is full of images, no need to add something that’s not appealing (there’s plenty of that already). Just Google “Martha Stewart food photos” and you’ll see what I mean. 3 ­- Experiment. Try different set ups and styles until you find the one that fits you, this also helps you learn lots about styling/photographing in different situations so you’ll become a pro.

CJ: You are also a photographer and stylist at Luvo Inc, a company that provides healthy and convenient pre­made meals that are good for you. What does your role as photographer and stylist entail?

GAB: ​My job is making sure we visually showcase our food and team recipes in the best way possible, according to brand standards and also depending on what our customers love. I also coordinate our photo shoots making sure we have everything we need: food, props, equipment, etc. On a typical week I’d be brainstorming for a shoot, hunting new props, working with our team to design a set for our “scenes,” cooking, and testing recipes, etc. It’s busy!

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CJ: What is your favorite meal or dessert you’ve ever made?

GAB: That would be a very simple and easy Mexican flan ­- honestly, whenever I make it it’s a couple hours before I eat it all. I love it because it brings back so many childhood memories and tastes like heaven.

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

GAB: ​Have stamina! The kitchen is tough place. Also try to gain as much experience outside of regular work; go intern at a top restaurant or practice at home with friends and document it (these are the baby steps of starting to build your own recipes). Surround yourself with activities that will enrich your culinary style: go see some art shows, watch food documentaries and movies, check out classic cookbooks from the library. The more you know your craft, the more you’ll get noticed in the industry. Basically you’ve got to build respect from day one. Street cred, ya know!?

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

GAB: ​I’m old-school and I use a monthly planner (an actual notebook) and a sketchbook. In my planner I put every single deadline I have and the name of the project. Any additional notes such as number of assets I need to create (e.g. number of photos or looks), shopping lists, mood boards, fabric samples, etc. they all go in my sketchbook in the appropriate project. Needless to say my sketchbook gets HUGE! But it’s nice to see all the things you done and keep all that important creative information for future projects.

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CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care about? If so, why?

GAB: ​I’m not sure if it’s a cause but it’s something I really care about: I am pro­-food­-happiness and anti­-internet-­stupidity. The first means to be happy with your diet: don’t be vegan just because, don’t eat a bunch of meat just because ­ do it because you actually enjoy it. If you’re a concerned about the environmental impact, then make better choices such as eating cruelty free products. If you’re a vegetarian and you want to eat a spicy chorizo sandwich then do it! Whatever you choose, do it because it makes you happy.

The second is so important and I feel the new generation of youngsters need to learn more about it: everything you post online will stay in there forever and ever, so be careful and internet-­etiquette savvy.

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

GAB: ​That would have to be negative feedback. As a creative I really take it to heart when someone doesn’t like my work. I’ve learned that is not the end of the world -­ different strokes for different folks, right? Instead of shutting down, I’m working on taking the bits that will help improve my work and move on.

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CJ: What is your favorite book?

GAB: Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi.

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?

GAB: ​I bake and/or go to take photos outside my home. Baking for me is like meditation as you’ve got to visualize your recipe, measure ingredients, etc., and the rewards are always oh­-so­-sweet (another pun!). Taking photos just for myself and not for work is also the best, a lot of times I go out and take a ton of photos and then delete them all. It’s kind of therapeutic.

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

GAB: ​Quality not quantity! Back then I felt I needed to have a lot of everything: friends, contacts, clothes. Really tightening your social life, contacts, and finances helps you stay focused on the things that matter.

Gabriel Cabrera Qs

Images by Gabriel Cabrera; profile photo by Tomasz Wagner; graphic by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Being part of the online world means searching tirelessly and endlessly for other people who can provide us with fresh perspectives and new inspiration. Someone who continues to inspire us post after post is Carly Heitlinger of The College Prepster. We’ve been long time fans and were excited to meet Carly in person when we moved to New York City last winter. One of our favorite things about The College Prepster is how authentic her writing is and how much she shares with her online family (and we can’t forget Teddy!). When we sat down with her at a coffee shop on the Upper East Side, she was engaging, relatable, and outgoing.

From starting a blog in her college dorm room at Georgetown University to building it into a self-established brand and career, we are so impressed with everything Carly has done and can’t wait to see what she does next!

Name: Carly Heitlinger
Education: B.S. in Marketing from Georgetown University
Follow: TheCollegePrepster.com / Instagram / Twitter / Facebook

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

Carly Heitlinger: I definitely think that the idea that there will always be a tomorrow and there’s only one today is great. We are so young and we have everything to gain and nothing to lose – so I’m so glad I started my company when I was 19 because for one I was a little bit naïve and I didn’t know what I was doing, and there was no fear because I literally had nothing to lose. I didn’t have to make money right away, I didn’t have to be financially independent, and I didn’t have to worry about a mortgage or a family. I think that the more you figure out now, the better off you’re going to be later. Make a lot of mistakes now.

CJ: You are the blogger behind The College Prepster, which you started when you were a freshman at Georgetown as a creative outlet. What are three most important skills that you use on a daily basis?

CH: I would say some sort of public speaking element is useful. I’m very introverted – I think that’s why I started a blog so that I could be behind the computer rather than in front of people – the fact is that I do have to go out and speak to people even though that’s not my natural inclination. But I’ve practiced so much that meeting strangers five years ago would have been horrifying, but now it’s normal and I don’t get as nervous. So being able to effectively communicate with people you don’t know is a huge thing.

Another skill is being hyper-organized. I think a big issue that a lot of people face is letting things slip through the cracks because they’re not organized. I think it’s the easiest thing you can do to set yourself up for success. Making sure you have a calendar, transferring things from your computer to your phone with iCalendar. Staying on top of your email. Making sure you’re paying bills on time. It’s boring being an adult, but at the very least you save yourself from a few headaches and embarrassment down the line. You don’t want financial mistakes you made when you were 18 or 20 to haunt you. Organization is a habit.

I also think that effectively managing stress is a big skill. It’s not as tangible of as skill as staying organized, but I think that a lot of people our age are prone to letting stress either freeze them or stop them from doing things that they want to do. There will always be stressful situations that come up from now until the day we die. If you come up with good strategies and mechanisms to deal with those now and get in the habit now, that will really help. Problems that seem big now and would become huge later won’t be nearly as big. For me, knowing that I need to wake up every morning and walk my dog, talk to my mom, go to yoga, eat healthy, and cut back on caffeine – doing little things that help minimize stress – you just work so much more effectively if you’re not going a mile a minute with your internal thoughts.

CJ: You have gotten really into yoga. How do you stay healthy and do you have a fitness routine?

CH: I don’t really have one, but I was on the crew team for seven and a half years. The first year I was actually a rower and ran – I was never actually boated because I was terrible – but I would run all day. And then I fell out of the habit and I was an athlete in the mental sense but not physically. I do think that keeping your mind active is a huge skill. But I’ve been really bad in the past about being healthy.

Part of it is a quarter life crisis and realizing that this is the one body I have. I need to be thankful for having my health. I think making the choice and decision and really committing to being healthy has been the biggest thing – before I wasn’t committed but now for some reason I feel like I really care. I try to only eat bad things in moderation. Yoga has been a great way to get back into it, and now I try to walk for 45 minutes or more, which I think is pretty easy in New York. And taking the stairs versus the elevator – little changes like that all add up. One big thing is that I’ve been trying to drink more water.

Carly - by Bekka Palmer 2

CJ: How do you do about setting and tracking goals?

CH: I’m a very visual person. I learn visually – I use big number lines to track things that I want to achieve. I’ll set goals in my calendar. I’m very number driven. Getting other people involved helps too. I also break things down into quarters. I think you can set goals for the week, goals for the day. Those are really tangible goals that can add up. I also set quarter goals for my business and it percolates down into my personal life, too. For example, a year seems like such a long time to me, but 90 days seems manageable. Three months – that’s totally doable. With the quarter system you can track things more easily.

CJ: What is a memorable Spring Break trip you’ve had?

CH: I’ve actually only ever had one Spring Break ever. I was always on a crew team so our Spring Breaks were training trips, which were actually a lot of fun. They were two-a-days, but when you’re with your friends it’s so much fun. Then my senior year I wasn’t on the crew team anymore and my family went on a trip together. That was my best spring break because it was my only real spring break.

Carly - CH Insta

CJ: What are some travel tips that you would recommend?

CH: The biggest tip I would have is traveling with people who are like-minded with what is important to you. If you don’t want to get wasted and drink a lot, don’t go with people who are going to drink a lot. You’ll be in an environment where you’re not having a good time for making that decision not to drink, or you’ll feel like you have to play along even if that’s not what you want to do. Maybe you find two girl friends who want to plan a crazy quick week-long turnaround trip to Paris and you don’t want to drink at all. Make sure that you’re surrounding yourself with people who make decisions that you want to make.

I would also say spend Spring Break with your family because you don’t see your family as much when you’re an adult. If you don’t want to spend it with your immediate family, spend time with people you love and who you want to spend time with.

CJ: How do you combat really hard days? What do you do to keep yourself positive?

CH: Sometimes I need to surround myself with great friends or call my mom to vent. And other times I need to just spend time alone. Going for a long walk or spending a night curled up in bed reading can do wonders for my mental health! I also repeat to myself, “this too shall pass.”

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CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care greatly about? If so, why?

CH: Mental health on college campuses! I contribute in small ways to specific organizations, but I know there’s more that I want to do. I personally had such a hard time adjusting to college life and really struggled. There were some very dark days, especially in the beginning. Luckily, I found help on campus that helped me get back on track.

CJ: What advice would you give your 19-year-old self?

CH: I would remind her that things work out. I spent too much time convinced that my world was going to end, or that one little problem was going to throw off everything. Everything resets, or you find a new course that was better than one you would’ve taken otherwise. Everything happens for a reason. You’ll figure it out as you go. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know where you’re going as long as you’re going.

Carly Heitlinger Qs

Images by Bekka Palmer and Carly Heitlinger

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When we first discovered the Scottish Fold cat Shrampton on Instagram, we couldn’t get enough of him and his twin sister, Bunni. It’s hard not to fall in love after seeing just one photo. After a few months of seeing Shrampton pop up in our Instagram feeds, we decided to reach out to the woman behind the photos, Leilani Shimoda. Leilani is not only mama to the cutest cats on Instagram, but she is also the head of the swim and intimates department at Wildfox, a vintage inspired clothing line.

As a swimwear designer, Leilani is in charge of many responsibilities. Not only is she researching, designing, and managing production, to name a few, but she also styles photo shoots and casts models. Despite hearing ‘no’ and being told to quit, Leliani worked hard and was persistent, and it paid off. As Leilani wisely noted regarding being in a tough industry such as fashion, “It won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding.” Read on to learn more about how Leilani views leadership, how she stays organized, and how Shrampton has changed people’s lives.

Name:​ Leilani Shimoda
Education: ​BFA in Fashion Design from Otis College of Art and Design
Follow:Portfolio / Tumblr / InstagramTwitter / Shrampton
Location: Los Angeles, California

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

Leilani Shimoda: Sometimes when you’re young you get caught up in socializing and fail to realize all the resources at your disposal. In high school and college there are so many opportunities to get advice and skills from teachers and professionals. Use them. The party will always be there. Free computer programming tutorials and yoga classes won’t.

CJ: You majored in Fashion Design at Otis College of Art and Design. How did you determine what to study?

LS: I grew up with a lot of art influences ­ drawing, jewelry making, and piano. I knew I wanted to do something artistic. Fashion was a place where I could do something creative but it also served a function. I liked that combination.

CJ: You are the head of the swim and intimates department at Wildfox where you manage a team that designs swimwear, cover­ups, pajamas, intimates, bags, and accessories. We are huge Wildfox fans! What does your role as Swim and Intimates Designer entail?

LS: Thank you! I work within the overall story or theme for each season to develop pieces that will fit and help tell that story. Whether it’s cozy pajamas or sea shell bikinis, I research, sketch, design, create tech packs, source fabrics/trims, manage production, conduct fittings, cast models, style photo shoots, organize fashion shows… it’s pretty extensive.

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CJ: What does your creative process look like when working on a new line?

LS: As Wildfox is very vintage-­inspired I do a lot of shopping at flea markets, vintage stores, and on Ebay and Etsy. Paying attention to past trends and paying homage to styles that were influential is as important as creating looks from scratch. Once I know the story (Wildfox is very story-­driven) I work with the team to fit my lines into the overall vision.

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?

LS: Typically I meet with my team and review all pending tasks. Then I meet with the Creative Director and other Senior Designers to have a creative meeting. We’ll break for lunch and then meet with our entire team in one room and discuss everything we’re working on. A lot of important decisions are made at the meetings and then I have a bunch of emails to get back to and give approvals and relay comments to the factories.

CJ: What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in being a fashion designer?

LS: Work hard and be persistent. I was told time and time again that this isn’t a good field. It’s extremely competitive, the hours are relentless, trends come and go quickly, there’s no entrance exam (so you get a lot of unprofessional people in power positions). Despite all that, if you can take the punches and keep designing great fitting garments that girls covet, you will succeed. It won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding.

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CJ: Leadership plays an important role in your job. How have you learned to lead, and what does being a good leader mean to you?

LS: The best way to lead is to be a student. For years I had a range of different bosses, creative directors and leaders guiding me. I’ve had things thrown at me and I’ve been told to quit. I read Diane von Furstenberg and Kelly Cutrone’s books. I’ve taken all the good and the bad and built my own method for leadership. Being a good leader means not letting the constant stresses impact the way you treat your team. It is never effective to belittle someone else. It’s contrary to the greater goal of building the brand and doesn’t maintain forward momentum. Working as hard as your team, the same grueling late nights, getting your hands dirty. Those all inspire confidence and help keep the work environment productive. I also love teaching my team in a fun way by taking them shopping and having us all try things on and take photos of details we like.

CJ: You are also mama to the adorable cats, Shrampton and Bunni. Shrampton’s Instagram currently has 46,000 followers. How has Shrampton and Bunni’s growing online presence changed your life?

LS: It makes me so happy when Shrampton’s followers say things like “I was having a hard day, but Shrampton’s photo made it better.” That’s what I strive to do with my designs. Making people happy is the most rewarding part.

Shramp and Bun

 

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

LS: Being part of Fashion Week in Miami is always a highlight. I like the combination of working toward a very visible goal and also meeting the other designers in a place where everyone can finally show the work they spent so much time designing/producing. The energy and temperatures are high. It’s very stressful and thrilling at the same time.

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

LS: I’m a list maker. Putting all the small and large tasks in one place, then checking each thing off is not only helpful but satisfying. I believe in color­coding and post­its.

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

LS: I’m constantly pulled in so many directions between work, exercise, friends, family, Shrampton. Getting to a calm, grounded place is what I’ve been focused on lately – meditation, yoga, reading, me time.

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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?

LS: I usually satisfy whatever food craving I’m having but I try to balance that with exercise, which also helps.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

LS: Many Lives, Many Masters by ­Brian Weiss.

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

LS: I would give myself a pep­talk and let myself know that I’m a good designer and belonged at fashion school. That I should be confident and believe in myself because I’m great. To be patient and surround myself with what I loved and learn everything I can.

I didn’t get this kind of encouragement during my college years. That’s why I enjoy mentoring and spreading a positive message to young designers and women that wear my designs.

Leilani Shimoda Qs

Images by Leilani Shimoda

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

HealthProfessional SpotlightSpotlight

After experiencing the magic of rehabilitation in high school, Vikash Sharma decided to pursue a major in Exercise Sports Science. Vikash went through many years of schooling and a residence experience that ultimately led him to open up his own physical therapy practice, Perfect Stride. As a runner, Vikash has first-hand experience with what his patients are going through, and he and his team work hard to help their patients fully recover.

Vikash gave Carpe Juvenis an exclusive look into his business, his top running tips for preventing injury, and why meditation and exercise are the keys to maintaining his happiness.

Name: Vikash Sharma
Education: Major in Exercise Sports Therapy and Minor in Philosophy from Elon University; Doctor of Physical Therapy from The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences; Orthopaedic Residency at Temple University
Follow: Perfect Stride Physical Therapy / @PerfectStridePT

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

Vikash Sharma: Seizing your youth is about taking risks and understanding that there is plenty of time to learn, grow, and recover. As you begin to move further into your life, these opportunities to take risks diminish as responsibilities and commitments take priority.

CJ: You majored in Exercise Sports Science and minored in Philosophy from Elon University. How did you decide what to major and minor in? 

VS: My decision to major in Exercise Sports Science came due to the fact that it was the degree that would allow me to fulfill the most pre-requisites for Physical Therapy School. It was a decision that I had made fairly early in my undergraduate career due to the numerous hours that I had spent rehabilitating various injuries in high school. I just loved the casual atmosphere and positive interactions that I had with my Physical Therapist (PT). It always remained in my mind as a career option.

My minor came as a result of wanting to delve into something that I didn’t have much prior experience with. After I took a few classes, I couldn’t stop. It made me think differently and opened up my mind to looking at the world in a new light.

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CJ: You also received your Doctor of Physical Therapy from the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. What inspired you to go back to school to receive this degree?

VS: It was something I had known that I wanted to do since selecting my major in undergraduate. Working with my PT in high school and seeing how they were able to spend quality time with each of their patients and really unravel the mystery that is each and every person’s body sparked an early interest in me.

CJ: You were an Orthopaedic Resident at Temple University. What were your experiences as a Resident like?

VS: They were amazing; coming out of my doctoral program I had a great scientific and theoretical understanding of what should happen. However, as we all know, that’s not how things always happen. This is where the residency experience was extremely helpful. It bridged the gap between being a novice clinician without any direction and guidance and being a skilled practitioner who is able to recognize various patterns and draw upon clinical experience.

CJ: You co-founded your own physical therapy practice, Perfect Stride Physical Therapy. What does your role as physical therapist entail, and how do you balance those duties with your role as co-owner?

VS: My role as physical therapist entails working with my patients to help them return to their optimal level of function; essentially get them moving as well as they possibly can. I do this through careful assessment of each individual’s unique body structure and ability to move. Based on these findings a plan of care specific to that individual’s need is developed.

These duties as a physical therapist are balanced with my duties as a co-owner through very careful planning and execution with my team at Perfect Stride. We all work very well together towards ensuring that our clinic remains at the forefront of physical therapy practice and is running efficiently. My business partner Daniel Park, our office manager Austin Shurina, and our Director of Operations and physical therapist Joseph Lavacca are all to thank for the success of Perfect Stride.

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CJ: You specialize in sports rehabilitation. Why is this topic of interest to you?

VS: As a youth I spent a great deal of time participating in a number of sports and with this love for sport came injury upon injury. Spending time in physical therapy for sports rehabilitation piqued my interest in this specialty early. I was always fascinated with the human body and how it is able to heal from injury and bio-mechanics.

CJ: What have been the greatest lessons you’ve learned in opening your own physical therapy practice?

VS: As cliché as it sounds, you have to be willing to take the risk to make your dreams come true. I have always known that I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and open my own business. However, moving outside of your comfort zone and taking a risk on something that isn’t guaranteed takes a lot of passion and dedication. Looking back, I can say that it has been one of the best risks that I have taken in my life thus far. It has opened countless doors for me and also changed my personality for the positive as I am much more confident stepping outside of my comfort zone.

I have also learned that you have to be a salesman, you have to always be looking for opportunities to further yourself and your business because they arise with each and every interaction that you have.

CJ: You have been an avid runner for most of your life. For those who are interested in running and preventing injury, what tips do you have?

VS: Most of the running injuries that I see walk through my door are a result of not allowing the body to adapt to the loads that are put on it (doing too much too quickly). The body has an amazing capacity to heal stronger than before. However, many people are too eager to get running and don’t acclimate their body to the loads and stresses appropriately.

Cross training also comes along with this adaptation process. By properly training your tissues under loads similar to or greater than what running demands on the body (forces up to 2.5 times that of ones own body weight), you are conditioning your tissues for success. Coupled with a proper nutrition plan, training schedule, recovery plan (the most underrated aspect of training in my opinion), and equipment, you are laying all of the groundwork to ensure that you are setting yourself up for success and avoiding a trip to see me for a running related injury!

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CJ: What is your favorite running shoe?

VS: Saucony Kinvara – I love the heel to toe drop and feel of these shoes.

CJ: What is your favorite running warm-up?

VS: I have a few depending on the situation but I like this one presented by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella.

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?

VS: Before I even get the chance to step out of bed I am usually responding to emails and planning the day. My mornings are usually a mix of breakfast, making phone calls, working out, running errands, answering more emails, and getting into work.

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

VS: I would highly suggest gaining some experience as a PT aide or getting some observation hours under your belt at an early age. I would also recommend looking at particular schools’ pre-requisites for admission as they can vary from school to school. Make sure that you are covering all the necessary courses during your undergraduate studies.

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

VS: In terms of professional resources, there definitely isn’t just one. I can’t stress the importance of communication and consultation with my peers. Getting a better idea of how others think and gaining perspective on the bigger picture has allowed for me to grow infinitely as a practitioner. This, along with getting my hands on any text or web-based resources that are evidence-based, have gone a long way in my growth as a practitioner.

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

VS: Meditation and exercise are the keys to maintaining my happiness. My meditation practice is mainly based around focusing on and controlling my breathing. I have had some formal training in Buddhist meditation; however, my practice comes largely from what I have found to personally work best for me over the years. I have always found that getting in a strenuous bout of exercise is a great physical and mental reset; it makes me feel more alert, increases my energy levels, and most importantly gets my body moving!

Perfect Stride 2 -2

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

VS: Personally – I am always looking to be decrease stress in my life and this is something that I heavily rely on my meditation practice to help me with, in addition to remaining physically active.

Professionally – Currently my focus is on learning more about what I can do to get all of my patients moving and feeling better than they ever have. This is done through taking continuing education courses (that we also host at Perfect Stride) and reading as much as I can possibly get my hands on.

Another big goal professionally is growing Perfect Stride Physical Therapy to better service the needs of our patients. This is accomplished through patient feedback and careful planning and trouble shooting with the rest of the team.

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

VS: I would tell my 20-year-old self that failure is an option, failure is acceptable, and that failure is welcomed with open arms just as long as it is learned from. There have been countless instances where my fear of failure has stopped me from doing what I wanted in my youth and now looking back on those instances I can say if I had taken the risk I would have either succeeded and/or learned a great deal from whatever endeavor I pursued.

Vikash Sharma Qs

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.

Doris B

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

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Saying that we are fans of Darling Magazine would be a major understatement. We are huge fans – we love how real it is, the topics covered, and the positivity expressed on each and every page. Did you know that Darling Magazine never uses Photoshop to alter women’s faces or bodies. Pretty cool. Not only is the magazine a joy to read, but the Darling website provides a dose of daily happiness and articles that are deeply relatable.

When you’re on the Darling website, Nicole Ziza Bauer is the one curating everything you see, such as writers, articles, ads, and collaborations. So you can thank her when you read an article that makes you reflect on what’s important in everyday life. Though Nicole now spends her time storytelling, her time used to be spent in labs and conducting medical research. Nicole originally pursued a career in the medical field, she stepped back and thought hard about what she wanted to do, not what she should do. This reflection brought her to a new, more creative path.

Nicole is a world traveler, an avid list-maker, and someone who is true to herself, and her journey will inspire you to follow your heart and to not worry if you don’t have everything already figured out (who really does anyway?).

Name: Nicole Ziza Bauer
Education: B.A. in Zoology and Molecular Biology from Miami University
Follow: NicoleZizaBauer.com / Darling Magazine

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

Nicole Ziza Bauer: Enjoying it, savoring it, not being in a rush to grow out of it.

CJ: You majored in Zoology and Molecular Biology at Miami University. How did you decide what to study?

NZB: I planned on going to medical school after graduation, so I wanted to major in something that would best prepare me for what lay ahead.

CJ: After college you were a Staff Research Associate at UCLA Medical Center researching how the heart works. What was this experience like working in a lab and conducting research?

NZB: Working in the lab was a great transition from college life to the “real” world, since I was still in an academic environment very similar to where I had spent the last four years. It was challenging but also inspiring; I got to be on the very edge of research that could potentially save lives. Though there was a lot of monotony and repetition in the lab, each day also held the potential of unlocking something that nobody had ever seen or understood before. That was really motivating.

CJ: After preparing for medical school and doing post-grad research, you switched career paths and went into a career of storytelling, writing, and creating. Before Darling Magazine, you were a Purchasing Agent and Event Coordinator. What inspired this change of heart and how did you deal with the stress of making this transition?

NZB: I wish I could say it was one simple thing that sparked the change, but nothing in life is ever that black or white. While I was excited about medical school and worked really hard to get accepted into one, I also kept a strong inner dialogue after college and that prompted me to truly evaluate where I saw my life headed and if there were other things I might want to do instead of becoming a physician.

I had always been a creative child and writing and art brought me a lot of joy. When I stepped back from what I thought I “should” do in order to appear successful in the eyes of others and slowly started asking myself what I wanted to do, the answer came into focus. From there I started looking for opportunities that would better enable me to learn and grow creatively.

Nicole and Horse

CJ: How were you able to block out the external voices and follow your internal compass?

NZB: Trusting that I didn’t have to have it all figured out, or have a clear idea of my career path once I graduated helped to free me from the stress surrounding the decision. I had to (and still do) remind myself that taking things one step at a time is OK. Our character and appreciation of life is built in those tiny steps. Thankfully, I had a few close friends that I could lean on when I was deciding whether or not to go medical school who guided me out of the fog a bit. Having those trusted sources to remind you of your worth, your convictions and your big dreams is so, so important.

CJ: What advice would you give a young adult who might be at a “passion crossroads” in his or her life? 

NZB: I would say: Hi, can I give you a hug? Because you are completely normal!

College is great for so many things, but a lot of times it can also lead us into a false belief that it’s the only time in life to figure things out or decide our future. That’s simply not true. If you are conflicted over what you’re pursuing right now, ask yourself some tough questions: Why did you choose the road you’re on in the first place? Whose applause are you seeking? Do you want out because you’re afraid of hard (sometimes tedious) work? Or are you simply realizing that there might be other avenues out there that you’d enjoy and want to explore?

Our early to mid-20s grant us many opportunities for making decisions and learning how to make independent choices. It’s really important that we look at crossroads or changes of heart not as failures, but as chances to better understand how we’ve been made, who we are, and what our unique role in the world should be.

CJ: You are now the Online Managing Editor at Darling Magazine, a guide to “the art of being a woman.” What does your role as Online Managing Editor entail? What do your daily tasks look like?

NZB: As online editor I’m responsible for all the website, blog, and advertising content that Darling develops. This involves creating and maintaining an editorial calendar (so that our site always has new material), finding and communicating with writers, and generating article ideas, and sometimes even writing myself. My daily tasks include lots of emails, reading and editing articles, chatting with different Darling staffers, and maybe a meeting or a phone call with a brand about potential collaborations.

Nicole ZB

CJ: You curate content, writers, ads, and collaborations on the Darling website. How do you go about narrowing down content so it fits the Darling mission, and how do you establish collaborations?

NZB: Great question! Knowing what you stand for is key to developing a powerful brand. Therefore, with Darling I’m constantly evaluating if something will serve to reinforce our mission statement or if it’ll conflict with it. I try to put myself in the position of a reader and ask: What would they take away from this article? Would they be more inspired to own the things our mission statement says about them, or less? The same goes for working with other writers and brands. We have to be on the same page, working together for that same common goal, rather than just using one another for increased status or popularity.

CJ: We loved your inspiring article ‘The Myths of Wanderlust’ – how has traveling influenced you, and is there a particular trip you have taken that stands out in your mind?

NZB: Thank you! Traveling is definitely something that I choose to prioritize, as it helps to keep my problems small and sense of wonder and world awareness large.

Probably my favorite adventure to date was the month I spent backpacking around Italy with my husband. My grandmother was Sicilian, so I’ve loved everything Italy since childhood. I studied the language a bit in college and then spent a few weeks in Rome after graduating, but getting to go off the grid around the entire country (for a whole month) felt like a dream. It was like coming home.

Darling Mag

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

NZB: I am an avid list-maker. Every thought, idea, or task that I need to accomplish gets written down, that way I immediately get it out of my head and onto a tangible piece of paper. From there, I look at my week’s agenda and decide when I can schedule time to complete the most pressing tasks. I never go anywhere without my giant, spiral-bound notebook calendar.

CJ: When you are feeling overwhelmed or having a bad day, how do you like to unwind or reset?

NZB: It depends. Sometimes I just need to say a quick prayer, vent to my husband or call my best friend. Other times getting outside and taking my dogs on a walk or going for a hike will help. And when all else fails … I’ll watch old Netflix episodes of Murder, She Wrote. JB Fletcher can solve anything.

CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care greatly about? If so, why?

NZB: I love animals, so I’m a huge advocate of pet adoption. Not only can we provide an animal with a safe and loving home, but we in turn learn compassion when we care for things smaller and less consequential than us. Darling also has a partnership with IJM, of which I am a huge fan. They have such a comprehensive model for bringing justice and eradicating sex trafficking across the globe. It’s very impressive and inspiring.

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

NZB: Lately I’ve been trying to get by with less, get rid of more, and curb the mindless spending that’s all too easy to fall into, especially after trolling blogs or social media. In the last few months I’ve donated about five bags of clothing, which has been really eye-opening to consider, especially when I find myself “needing” something new. Most likely, I don’t.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

NZB: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

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

NZB: Study abroad. Also, take a deep breath; this is just the beginning.

Nicole ZB Qs

 

Images by Emily Blake and Nicole Ziza Bauer

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We became (just slightly) obsessed with Tu-Lu’s Gluten-Free Bakery when we stumbled onto the vegan granola at a local health store. Once we enjoyed the sweet, filling, and delicious granola, we had to know who was behind the magic. Baker and founder Tully Phillips shares her story and advice with Carpe Juvenis. From New York City to Texas, this entrepreneur knows what it’s like to open up bakeries across the country and discover a passion that was hidden right under her own nose for years.

For anyone excited about starting their own baking venture, or who just loves to get their hands dirty in the kitchen, we are extremely excited to share this week’s inspiring Spotlight with you!

Name: Tully Phillips
Education: Southern Methodist University and Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, TX
Follow: @tulusbakery / Tu-Lu’s Gluten-Free Bakery

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

Tully Phillips: I think it’s best to seize every opportunity to learn and gain experience when you are young. Try all sorts of things because you never know what might pique your interest!

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

TP: I was a fine art major. It was an easy decision for me because I loved painting and creating art in high school. I have a real need to be creative and that translated into cooking post-college.

Sara Kerens 2012

CJ: You attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, TX. What inspired you to pursue cooking in an academic way and what was that experience like?

TP: I have always loved cooking. I find it extremely relaxing, an outlet for creativity and of course a delicious profession. Going to school for something that was formerly a hobby was a dream come true. Some people might think culinary school is relaxed but it is actually quite strenuous. You have to be on point every day because each dish you create is graded. Despite that, I still enjoyed every moment. 

Sara Kerens 2012

CJ: You signed your first lease for Tu-Lu’s NYC bakery at the young age of 28. How did you decide where to start and which area of the city to rent in?

TP: I wanted to be in a neighborhood that was a “foodie destination.” The East Village is one of those areas of Manhattan with such a variety of restaurants and is quite the hang out area on the weekends. The less expensive rent was also a deciding factor. It was important to me not to overspend on rent since it was a new business and quite frankly a new concept for NYC. We were the first 100% gluten-free bakery in Manhattan so I was not sure how successful we would be.

Tp 1

CP: In your roles as founder and owner, good leadership is critical. How have you learned to lead and what does it mean, in your opinion, to be a strong leader?

TP: I think a leader needs to be experienced in all the roles of their employees. When we first opened I was the dishwasher, weekend baker, register employee, as well as having all the managerial duties. I learned the ins and outs of each position, which was helpful in delegating work and projects to my employees. I think you also have to be willing to learn from your employees and listen to them. Be open to tweaking how things run according to advice they give you.

CJ: How did your education and past work experiences prepare you to start Tu-Lu’s Bakery in both New York and Texas?

TP: I helped manage the kitchen in a catering company NYC. That job really taught me how to be confident in having employees and letting them know your expectations and limits. Of course my culinary education and work experience directly influenced the quality of our baked goods. I have very high standards for what we sell at Tu-Lu’s.

Sara Kerens 2012

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

TP: We are open seven days a week in NYC with very long, late hours so essentially we are never closed! There is always something that comes up that needs to be addressed. Whether it’s someone not showing up for work or a light fixture that no longer works, owning a business is a 24 hour, seven day a week job.  That might have been nice to know before opening!

CJ: What is the greatest lesson you have learned from being an entrepreneur?

TP: Being an entrepreneur is risky but extremely rewarding. I was so scared to open a retail store in the middle of New York City but once I signed that lease I didn’t look back.

Tp 2

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

TP: I recommend working at a bakery to really learn the ins and outs of the business. Try to work your way up to assistant manager or manager to get experience on all levels. Knowing how to manage people and money is key. Though I had culinary experience, I had never worked in an actual bakery so I could have learned so many things and avoided quite a few mistakes and bumps in the beginning.

Sara Kerens 2012

CJ: You’ve had such incredible feedback about your gluten-free products, especially the delectable brownies and Carpe Juvenis’ personal favorite, the Agave Cinnamon Granola. Aside from your own experience being gluten intolerant, what inspires you to create delicious treats that anyone can enjoy?

TP: I created the bakery to fill that void of not having delicious GF treats available to me. I was shocked I could not find a wonderful GF cupcake in all of Manhattan. We are always trying to create new products to excite our customers. I especially love when we can recreate a childhood memory in a GF version.

Sara Kerens 2012

CJ: What motivates you on your toughest days?

TP: We have the best customers and we are always striving to make them happy. I can’t tell you how many times people have thanked me for opening the bakery. How many people get thanked on a regular basis at their job? Not many! That completely makes up for the tough days.

CJ: What advice would you give your 19-year-old self?

TP: I would probably tell myself to get a job at a local bakery and learn as much as I can about their systems, customer service, accounting, etc. Try to get some marketing and PR experience as well. You can never learn too much and all knowledge is useful! You never know where it will take you.

Tully Phillips Qs

Images by Tully Phillips

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When we think of people who have inspired us, Meagan Morrison comes to mind for several reasons: she created her own dream job, she’s incredibly talented, and she’s contagiously optimistic. You can tell right away from seeing her illustrations how much skill Meagan has, and you immediately get drawn into her colorfully brushstroked world.

Though Meagan studied business in undergrad, it wasn’t until she was 24 that she decided to go back to school for a degree in fashion illustration. After doing internships and asking lots of questions, Meagan realized that she was going to have to create the dream job she ultimately wanted. The awesome and inspiring part? She did just that.

As a Traveling Fashion Illustrator, Meagan works with fashion designers and high profile brands and travels the world illustrating what inspires her. During our conversation, Meagan consistently referenced how much hard work it takes to make your dreams come true and that you have to “rewire your brain to think positively.” Very true words, and it’s encouraging to know that the road to your dreams may not be easy, but it’s definitely worth the challenge.

We’re excited to share with you Meagan’s interview with Carpe Juvenis! Read on to learn about her role as an illustrator, the greatest lessons she’s learned from starting her own company, and of course, how she seizes her youth.

Name: Meagan Morrison
Education: Bachelor of Commerce from McGill University; Fashion Illustration AAS from Fashion Institute of Technology
Follow: MeaganMorrison.com / Instagram / Twitter / Facebook

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

Meagan Morrison: Making the most of every opportunity and asking tons of questions. Those who seek will find. Don’t wait for anything to fall into your lap, you have to go after it. Since I was very young I’d always ask a lot of questions to family friends and teachers. I was constantly educating myself and involving myself in things that I found interesting. ‘Seizing Your Youth’ is ultimately defined by each individual and what he or she wants to get out of life.

CJ: You received your Bachelor of Commerce from McGill University. What did you major in and how did you determine what to study?

MM: I went to McGill and studied business. My older sister went to McGill, as well. When I went to visit her, I remember looking at the girls in the commerce program and I loved seeing how they carried themselves. They were well dressed and professional. I really identified with them. They looked confident, empowered, and determined.

At the time I was very much into fine arts, but I wanted to step out of that for a bit to find myself and my purpose. I knew that with a foundation in business I could specialize and go smaller, but it would be harder to go from something narrower to a business degree. It felt like the right building block at the time.

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CJ: You also received an Associate’s Degree in Fashion Illustration AAS from the Fashion Institute of Technology. What was that experience like?

MM: By the time I started my AAS in illustration I was 24 and really knew that the program was what I wanted to do. It was a highly specialized degree that offered fashion illustration as a two-year program. I didn’t want to commit to another undergrad degree, but I wanted a foot in the door in New York. I also wanted to be totally immersed in fashion illustration. I read this quote in a book about fashion illustration that advised to launch your career in a city that matters. I figured if I was educated here and given the opportunity to work here, I would be launching myself in the biggest city in the world for my industry. That’s what prompted my decision to go back to school.

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CJ: What sparked your love of illustration and design?

MM: I always loved fashion and art. I didn’t quite know that they could co-exist so intimately until I started working in the fashion industry after McGill. My first internship was at a fashion magazine and I was constantly asking questions between the editorial department and the art department to see how much, if any, traditional art they used. It was predominantly graphic design and photography, so I didn’t see myself in that world. I thought maybe I belonged in the gallery world of fine art. Somewhere between trying out a bunch of different professions in the industry and asking questions, one of my coworkers mentioned the program in fashion illustration at FIT. When I heard the profession and researched it, it felt as though a lightbulb went off. I couldn’t believe that I found something that really combined my true greatest loves: art and fashion. That’s what really sparked the passion for me.

After hearing about the profession and the program at FIT, I went to bookstores and pulled all the sources I could find on fashion illustration. I searched through the glossaries and found names of illustrators, and some were located in Toronto. I reached out to Virginia Johnson, a local Toronto illustrator and textile designer, and brought her my portfolio. I explained to her that I loved illustrating shoes, and she pushed me to follow what I loved and told me that the rest would fall into place. I’ve been obsessed with illustration ever since.

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CJ: You are a traveling fashion illustrator and recently branched out to start your own company. What does it mean to be a traveling fashion illustrator?

MM: It’s about being mobile and not just sitting at my desk pulling images off of the Internet. It’s about experiencing the culture firsthand and having that inspire my work. I have always been so passionate about travel and how that would inform my illustrations, and I wanted to be known as an illustrator at the intersection of both travel and fashion. There’s nothing like discovering a new destination and seeing how people dress in different cities around the world. I want to capture how the environment they’re surrounded by influences their style and my work. It’s the same thing when I’m at a fashion show and later do illustrations. I’ve seen the clothes, felt the texture of the fabric, heard the playlist, and felt the mood of the environment. I see the vision that the designer intends for the line. It helps bring the illustrations to life.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from starting your own company?

MM: That you never stop fighting. Every paycheck is a fight. Every project is a new hurdle. I don’t mean to sound defeated by that, but it is the most obvious and striking contrast between working full-time and working for myself. I knew every two weeks I would get a paycheck at my last job, but now I have to chase and follow-up on everything. All the work of orchestrating that and keeping projects moving can be a challenge.

I’ve also learned that it would be great to have a sounding board. The thing I miss about working with a company is having the team to bounce ideas off of. It’s always a joint decision. I love the fact that I am making choices for myself and I do have the final say, but I think it’s good to discuss the decision with someone first and come to a well-informed decision. It’s a lot of pressure to not make the wrong choice on your own.

You also have to be careful so you don’t get taken advantage of. You’re constantly looking after yourself. The momentum has to keep going and the ball can’t drop. I find that the more I’m working, the more work comes in. It’s the ripple effect. The chain reaction in itself can be exhausting because when can you ever pause and catch up on your sleep?

CJ: You have done illustrations for amazing clients including Lucky Magazine, Rebecca Minkoff, Calvin Klein, and Conde Nast Traveler. When you work with each client, what is your process and your role as an illustrator?

MM: It honestly differs with every client, how big the project is and how much they want to involve the social and illustration aspects of it. When I come into a partnership I always gauge what the client’s expectations are, the breadth of the project, the timeline, their budget, and then we work from there. It’s about finding the middle ground between what you feel comfortable with and what the client feels comfortable with.

I have a clear vision about the brands I want to work with and how they align with the vision I have about being a traveling fashion illustrator. I don’t take on every project. If people want to sponsor things on my Instagram, I don’t take every product. Every partnership is very authentic. I don’t ever take on a job just for the money; I only do it when I believe it’s genuine and it makes sense.

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CJ: How long does a piece take to create from start to finish?

MM: It varies per project and per client. For instance, my Calvin Klein job, I was at the show illustrating live. I could feel the fabrics and speak to the creative director, Francisco Costa, about his vision. I had about two days to turn around finals, but it helped to see the actual clothes. The pieces themselves takes me about three to four hours to complete, but that varies depending on how detailed each piece is. Then I scan the paintings, clean them up in Photoshop, and send the JPEGs to the client.

If it’s a customized piece or if I’m designing something from scratch, that requires a lot more preparation. I’ll do pencil sketches and color comps and then take it to the final round. Some are more laborious and expensive and others are just straight to final.

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CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be a fashion illustrator do to set themselves up for success?

MM: Start asking questions and get a portfolio together. Also, don’t lose your voice. When people are younger they start to emulate the top people, but that’s not an advantage. People don’t want to hire a second rate version of someone else, they want to hire the first version of you. I’ve seen it on social media where people’s styles are so different, and that’s what’s standing out. It’s a saturated market. Keep true to you and keep your voice and style genuine. Embrace the quirks about your style.

There are tons of free websites out there as well where you can put your work online. Keep it clean and simple so you can showcase your work. When I was younger I was constantly illustrating to keep perfecting my craft and finding my voice. I wasn’t thinking about gaining clients just yet. Build your social awareness and share your journey. Then, when you are ready to work with clients, people will already know about you.

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

MM: I have a massive planner that is 8½ x 11 inches. I write lists every single day, and everything that doesn’t get accomplished the day before gets carried over to the next day. It’s blinding because I highlight everything. I also use whiteout so there’s nothing unnecessary on it. I start and end my day with that book.

From the planner I move to emails. The luxury of working for myself is that I can answer them when I’m in still in my pajamas. I get breakfast and then do errands. I want to get all my errands finished before I start painting, because once I start painting I lose track of time. It’s nice to have everything else taken care of so I feel at ease when painting. I don’t want stress to show through in the work. I often work pretty late into the evenings. It depends on how intense the turnaround time is. I like to end the day seeing a friend or unwinding watching Netflix.

One thing I’d like to do more of is exercise. You have to take care of yourself when running your own business. If you run yourself down there is no business. I don’t have weekends. I haven’t taken a proper vacation when I’m not working. For better or worse, travel has become part of my brand so I feel a sense of responsibility to cover what I’m doing and share it on social media even on my downtime.

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CJ: What spring break experience has been memorable for you?

MM: I remember the spring break in my senior year of high school. I traveled with my class to France and Italy. That trip stands out to me because we had a small group of students in my high school, and we were combined with another high school group from the Ontario area. We got to meet new high school students on the trip and it was a prelude to university and meeting new like-minded people. I love how traveling and meeting new people expands your vision.

We started in Paris and hopped over to Florence and Rome. I had the time of my life. It wasn’t about the accommodations or amenities at all. It was about being with people you cared about, having a blast, and laughing a lot.

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

MM: Changing the perceptions on mental health, depression, and anxiety is important to me. I don’t think people should be scared to talk about it. Being open and dealing with it as you would your physical health is important. There’s more people suffering from anxiety and depression in the country today than there has ever been. Why is that? It’s a blessing and a curse that we have social media, but it also gives people a sense of inadequacy all the time. You’re constantly faced with what other people are doing and how much more you should be doing.

I’ve had to really practice changing my mindset about that. By nature I’m very anxious and hard on myself. I practice gratitude. My anxiety can be so bad that it could hinder my work flow. When things aren’t totally concrete I’m at my worst. The grey area is the hardest area to live in, but that’s life. Rarely is anything concrete.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

MM: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert.

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

MM: I’d say not to worry and that everything is going to work out just fine. I feel more confident now than I ever have. Looking back at all the things I didn’t think I could get through, that I have since surpassed, helps me to remember that everything will always work out. I didn’t know then that I’d be able to build a life that I love so much.

I would advise people in their twenties that nothing is handed to you. You have to practice happiness. It can be tough but you have to practice that in the same way you train for a marathon. Rewire your brain to think positively. Also know that happiness isn’t at the other end of success. You can start with happiness and then everything else doesn’t have so much weight on it. If your happiness is contingent upon getting into a certain college or winning a certain award or landing a client, then you’re never going to get there because the benchmark is always raised.

But if you start with being grateful with what you have in the moment, then you’re already working at an advantage. Be grateful for what you have because it can all be gone tomorrow. I feel infinitely happier now than I did way back then, even though I have tons more responsibilities. It’s been a matter of self-awareness and rewiring the way that my mind works.

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Images: Illustration Images by Meagan Morrison; photos of Meagan by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When we first saw Alexander Chinnici’s film reel, we were blown away. You hear a lot about actors, actresses, and directors, but rarely do you know a lot about those who are in charge of the artistic and technical aspect of the image, the cinematographer. Having watched movies such as Aliens, Predator, and Apocalypse Now growing up, Alex learned early on good films can influence you. Alex pursued film in college and by the time he graduated, he knew that cinematography was what he was most passionate about.

Alex is thoughtful in his artistic and technical approaches. He emphasizes the importance of building a solid foundation of knowledge and technical expertise, as well as highlights the value of collaboration, whether it’s with directors, producers, or the team he manages. These days, Alex spends a great deal of time on airplanes traveling between coasts for shoots. We were fortunate to meet Alex before he jet off for another shoot the next day, and he shared with us what it means to be a cinematographer, what films and which directors deeply influence him, and how he seizes his youth.

Name: Alexander Chinnici
Education: Film and Video; Cinematography from the School of Visual Arts
Follow: AlexChinnici.com

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

Alexander Chinnici: Seizing Your Youth, to me, means “breaking convention.” First off, youth is subjective in and of itself. To me, a child, a teenager, or even someone in their early 20s is expected to do certain things. Depending on where they’re from, their race, gender, etc. …It’s expected that they do certain, specific things that are molded for them before they’re even born. Seizing that is about control. You can do whatever you want; you just have to want it badly enough.

For some people the stakes are much higher and the obstacles may be much greater, but anything is possible. I don’t mean to make it sound easy – sometimes it is, some people are born privileged. For others it can be very difficult. I’m very fortunate that I didn’t really experience that difficulty. Seizing Your Youth is about taking control of what’s yours and not giving in to conventions. They’re usually connected to fear and it ultimately hurts our culture. I’m very lucky to have grown up in a home and an environment that encouraged the opposite of convention. I have very little patience for excuses. Seizing Your Youth is about throwing those excuses away and taking control of what you want.

CJ: You majored in Film and Video with a concentration in Cinematography from the School of Visual Arts. How did you decide what to major in?

AC: The School of Visual Arts Film & Video program is set-up in such a way that your first year is an overall review of the general aspects of the film industry. They teach you the basics, but most importantly you can get your hands on cameras and just shoot away. At the end of the first year you have to choose a focus: Directing, Writing, Editing, Cinematography, etc.

My friends and I made many movies together in high school – basically since 6th grade – and I naturally gravitated to the camera. (I should also mention that my Dad is a photographer). Toward the end of high school we got more and more serious. After three of us went to SVA together, I naturally took over when it came to the camera. 16mm was introduced into our lives and we were terrified (“Wait, you can’t see what you’re doing!?”)

I can’t really say why, but when students in the class (and my collaborators and best friends from high school) asked “Can someone shoot my film?” I jumped at the chance. I had never shot film before and admittedly I was very scared of it. At the time I was struggling with the idea of becoming a director simply because in the world of film you’re told that’s exactly what you should be, especially in film school. Not having full control worried me but in the end I continued to gravitate toward the camera. This was also my first experience with lighting. I simply had no clue about it beforehand and now a brand new language was being introduced to me.

Combine the romance of film (like a first love), discovering the language that is constant lighting, my natural instinct, and the older thesis students telling me that graduating without a focused skill would mean certain death led me to the choice of majoring in Cinematography. Needless to say it was the right choice. It is a skill that takes a lifetime to learn and I plan on doing just that.

You are also a cinematographer for narrative and commercial work. What does it mean to be a cinematographer? What do your daily tasks look like?

AC: The Cinematographer is in charge of the overall visual language for the project. It is always this person’s task to put story first and foremost with the directors vision in mind at all times, to serve them, and to collaborate with them (the amount is usually dictated by the director). Consistency is also very important; making sure that the style stays consistent throughout and only changes when necessary. A cinematographer is one part technical, one part artistic. It is a wonderful meeting of the two. The goal is to achieve an image that the audience doesn’t think about. The technical becomes hidden in the background and the emotion of the image takes shape, hopefully affecting the audience in the exact way that the two of you conceived. In my personal opinion, this is when it is most effective.

The Cinematographer works with other department heads to strive for that consistency. Collaborating with them is extremely important and I try my best to make this happen each and every time. They’ve also spoken with the director and usually we’re all on the same page. We work hard to make the director’s vision come true, but we’re hired as the experts in each of our respected fields. We’re also usually hired because of a particular ability, style, technical know-how or even personality. We spend a lot of time together on set; you have to respect and trust the people you’re around. It is filled with constant decision-making and compromise. Those tasks are not easy if you don’t get along.

My daily tasks depend on what’s going on with the project. While in pre-production, my life is about preparing for production. Seeing locations with the director, locking in my crew, shaping the schedule with the AD and working within the budget constraints. I do my best to squeeze the most out of the amount that’s been allotted to me. The director and I work closely to discover the style of the film. We may watch films; review photos or works of art, discovering the right references helps us get on the same page. We also work hard to choose the correct camera and lenses. This is based on a desired look, the budget and specific logistics often shaped by the script. Often we compare past experiences and watch projects shot with similar combinations. The camera and lenses is arguably the most important choice before we get to set.

On set my daily tasks are always very different each and every day. That is one of the most exciting aspects of the job. To be broad I’d say that it usually begins with a strong plan that we had settled on the day (or days) before. I meet with the Assistant Director (AD) and the director to discuss said plan and we see if we can improve it. Or if a disaster has struck, how do we deal with it? If I’m lucky the AD will get a blocking rehearsal going and we can watch the scene. This will inform everyone of what’s happening. Not every set is so organized, but when it is you can do your job much better. I’ll quickly review this with the heads of my team and they’ll delegate and convey what needs to happen to their crew. After that it often comes down to maintaining a groove, time is extremely important on set.

We usually have 12 hours per day to get everything we need. We face many obstacles like the movement of the sun, actors and/or actresses becoming restless, locations only allowing a certain amount of time, etc. The clock is always running and you have to race against it. It’s often my job to keep us on track and constantly make sure that the shooting order is correct. I need to be thinking five shots ahead at all times. While this is happening I’m placing the camera in the correct place for said moment, with the correct focal length and such. These decisions are often shaped by the location and the blocking of the actors. I work simultaneously with the Gaffer on the lighting of the scene.

Moving a camera around is one thing but lighting a set or a real location can become very complicated. The two are strongly connected and affect one another greatly. The order of how all of this works must be taken into account. The director and I often discuss the editing as well. How is this scene going to take shape? This certainly informs the decisions we make. “Making our day” as we call it is extremely important. If we love the footage and we’ve made it, it’s considered a success. My day is about making those two things happen.

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CJ: When you’re on set, what aspects of the story and the characters’ movements do you have to consider? At what point do you come in – has the scene blocking been done, do you work with them while doing that?

AC: I think it’s very important that everyone witnesses the blocking rehearsal. Doing any job well is about education. Without knowing what’s happening, you’re only guessing. This only wastes precious time and ultimately hurts many aspects of the day. I often find myself compromising simply due to a poor management of time on someone else’s part. It eats into my shooting time, thus forcing myself to set-up faster. It also forces the director to make faster decisions, do less takes, etc.

To answer your question, no, I am not that involved in the blocking. It is a time for the actors and director to thoroughly discuss the scene and to discover new things. We always come in with a strong plan but you quickly realize that certain things won’t work. You must be nimble and quickly change your approach. Sometimes it’s the location and sometimes it’s the blocking. Often the scene gets much better. If you have a specific idea that you come in with you can manipulate the situation to fall into it. This happens sometimes and it is usually a technical approach that can be effective. It’s important for us to know the difference between the two and when not to get in the way. I constantly try to pick my battles and know when the blocking of a scene has gotten better for the story and/or actors. If a “baby” of mine has to go, then so be it. The scene is usually much better this way. However, I will step in when necessary but only after they’ve discussed it a few times.

As for the characters’ movements and such, this is usually determined by the directors and actors discussions that they’ve had before and even throughout the scene. I often work around this and find a lot of inspiration from it. When an actor is cast so well you inherently trust them right away. If you’re fast enough, you can keep up and come up with new ideas on the spot based on what they’re doing. They know the character better than you so you better trust them and revolve the ideas around that. I always have the story in mind. The director, actors, and I will often collaborate on what’s happening in the scene since they constantly affect one another. With that said, marks can be very important, especially when it comes to lighting. Unfortunately, we’re in a time right now where the craft is being threatened due to the ability of how fast the cameras are and their ability to work so well with natural light. I believe that a combination of the two is the best recipe. Take advantage of what the new technology has allowed us to do, but don’t lose sight of the potential that film language holds. I see A LOT of movies nowadays that simply ignore that. They excuse their lack of ability, low budget, and poor planning as a “style” that is just plain bad.

I do personally like a moving camera (when necessary of course), but I do my best to make sure that the movement is correct for that particular moment. It can be hand-held, a dolly, a Steadicam, a jib, etc. …These are all tools that convey different emotions. It’s up to us to choose what’s right and to execute it correctly. This is directly affected by the blocking and that dance can be one of my favorite parts about cinematography.

CJ: When starting a new project, what does your process look like?

AC: I read the script a few times so that I can have shorthand with directors. You better bet that they know it a whole lot better, and they’ll feel a lot more comfortable if you know it well. This also helps me make fast decisions later on. I need to be very close to it, I need to care about it very much. When my instincts take over, they’re often the right ones because I know it so well and I care about it so much.

I like to meet with the director often. Getting into their head is very important for me. I need to have a very good understanding of what they want. Most aren’t that technical so they describe things in broad strokes. I have to be careful because I may take one sentence as meaning a very specific technical solution, but the director may mean something else entirely. I’m not at a point of being able to afford tests in pre-pro, so if I read that incorrectly we’ll often find out when it’s too late.

Showing examples and explaining things thoroughly often solves any issues. But it’s my goal to learn these things so that when we’re on set I can turn from the eyepiece and say “You happy?” When a director looks back with a huge smile, you know that you did your job right. I love that moment and I strive for it. I trust my director and if that smile is genuine then I know that we’re doing good work together. Ultimately that leads to a good movie, which is always the goal.

CJ: What is the most difficult part about being a cinematographer? The best part?

AC:  The most difficult part about being a cinematographer is the lack of control. You’re constantly striving to achieve as much of it as possible, but it’s constantly slipping through your hands. You have to pick your battles and know what (and when) to fight for what you feel is necessary to have control over. At times it can be liberating and exciting, your old ideas become new ones, often better ones. However, it can also crush your ability to do your job well. But if good people surround you and if you’ve come fully prepared and made the right decisions beforehand, you should be able to avoid this issue. Filmmaking is about constant compromise and working to react the right way so that you can make the most of it.

The best part about being a cinematographer is that you have the chance to live many lives. This is actually a direct quote from filmmaker Robert Altman. It’s stuck with me for years. I constantly travel, meet many different people from all walks of life, and immerse myself in the subject matter, which educates me and opens the way I look at the world. Sometimes the projects are set in different time periods and I get the chance to live in that time between action and cut. It also just feels right; many pieces have to come together. When you witness the best take you see all of your planning come together to make a great shot or sequence, its incredible exciting. We work in a 3-dimensional space for a 2-dimensional presentation that has constant movement. It’s absolutely fascinating. It’s the best job in the world.

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

AC: This is said pretty often but it’s true…shoot, shoot, shoot. Pick up a camera and go for it. The beauty of film school is that it gives you the freedom to fail. You have the equipment, the faculty and the crew ready to make anything and everything. Unfortunately, at the time the projects are naturally seen as the most important thing in the world. It’s hard to understand at the time, but the stakes are actually very low and this should be taken advantage of.

With that said don’t ignore the technical knowledge that’s needed. It’s great that anyone can get their hands on a camera, see the results immediately, make a decision, and be able to hit the record button for very cheap. But it’s so easy that it has put the technical know-how at risk. It has simply made people lazy. This element is essential since it is directly connected to the creative decisions that you make. You simply cannot pull off certain techniques without understanding how and why and what tools you need to do so. Not to mention the time and cost it takes. It’s one thing to be able to shoot, but to be able to manage a crew, understand a budget and run a set…that’s really what a Director of Photography (DP) is, it’s not only about having a good eye. You’re the head of a very important department that interacts with everyone at all times. You can’t be an introvert behind your small camera. If you want to be a real DP, you need to learn how to delegate and manage. Film school allows for this experience early on.

I’d also recommend purchasing a photo camera. Learn how everything affects one other. First learn the different aspects of the camera. Shoot in manual and experiment with different ISO’s, apertures, shutter angles, color temperature, and focal lengths. You can learn all of them specifically with something you can carry in your bag. With digital, you can see the results right away. Once you start to truly understand these aspects you can try different combinations and understand how they affect one another.

Editing in Lightroom or Photoshop is also very important since color correction is a huge part of my job that I take very seriously. Actual movement and frame-rate can’t really be understood as well when practicing this, but the other aspects can be constantly educational throughout your day. You can learn A LOT from photography, certainly the basics. You need a good foundation to become good at anything.

It’s just as important to educate yourself as much as possible. Actually shooting is the best form of education but you also need to read about it. Get a subscription to the American Society of Cinematographers magazine and the International Cinematographers Guild magazine and read it front to back. Google everything you don’t understand. At first it will be very daunting, but in time you will start to understand more and more. There are many blogs and websites that discuss all sorts of aspects of cinematography and you can learn a lot from them.

I’d also tell them to consider film-school. I have issues with the current model – it’s very behind and needs a major revamp. The film industry has changed drastically and they haven’t caught up. However, I still advocate going and making the most of it. Trust me, the school will fail you in certain ways but you can get A LOT out of it and that is only up to you. I’ve met some of my best collaborators through film school and that was worth the cost alone. It really is an industry that depends on who you know. That’s not just a saying.

Oh and shoot film at least a few times. Trust me.

CJ: What are the three top skills you need as a cinematographer?

AC: This is the hardest question for me to answer since I think it requires many skills. Some will probably disagree with me, but I think these are the top three: Lighting, Camera placement/Focal Length, and Management skills.

Lighting: To understand the use of constant light is absolutely essential for a good cinematographer. Personally, it’s what defines the difference between the good and the great. Lighting sets the mood, time, genre, and emotion among many other things. Of course the camera can convey these things as well, but I believe that lighting is the most powerful aspect of conveying the visual image that you set and the director set out to make. I could go on for many pages, I should just stop here…

Camera Placement / Focal Length: This involves the director much more but you usually place the camera exactly where you think it should be. The director often has a very clear idea of what they want to see and when they want to see it, but it’s up to us to execute it correctly. A lot of my skill and talent is in executing these ideas well. The right camera placement comes down to millimeters; I’m very specific and exact about this placement. I often start with the farthest background, usually a wall or vista that I simply can’t change. This is because I can usually move everything else to make it work in the composition that I’m striving for. Focal length plays a huge part in this and I will often discuss this with the director. Some are very specific while others simply don’t know, luckily apps like ‘Artemis’ allow me to show them a rough idea very quickly. Depending on the format that you’re shooting (S35, Full-frame, 16mm, etc.) and your focal length combination can lead to many, many different choices. Every shot is different and discovering them is always a blast. I haven’t even mentioned moving shots and editing which greatly affect the above choices. But again, I’ll stop right here.

Management skills: This is overlooked a lot of the time in articles and write ups on Cinematography. It is one of the most important aspects of the job. You’re running a big crew and constantly interacting with the other departments. You also need to play politician before, during, and after the shoot with the production team. You need confidence and you need to be able to delegate. Surrounding yourself with a good crew can make this part of the job much easier. Plus, if they’re great they can make you look really good!

CJ: What films or which directors have inspired your filming style and work?

AC: When I was roughly six years old my Dad showed me all sorts of movies I probably shouldn’t have seen: Aliens, Terminator 1 & 2, Predator, etc. It completely blew me away, but I was hooked. At that time I only thought of movies as very basic genres. Of course I couldn’t articulate this at the time but it was simple: Disney movies, action movies, scary movies, funny movies, etc. On our large, rear projection TV in the basement he eventually showed me one of his favorites (on laser disc!), Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. I was probably 8 years old? I had no clue what I had just seen but I fell deeply in love with it. This was unlike any movie I had ever seen. I couldn’t categorize it; the intrigue was through the roof. The film is shot by Vittorio Storaro (one of the masters of color) and he’s one of my personal favorites. I personally didn’t truly understand cinematography until the year I graduated college but the moment I saw it and all throughout the years in between the film stuck with me for some reason. I love it for many reasons, but I know for a fact that it had a lot to do with the cinematography. Coppola and Storaro’s collaboration is one of the reasons I do what I do and it had an effect on me from an early age.

Stanley Kubrick, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, The Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino are probably my favorites. I’m aware that this is a very modern, American list. My film knowledge is pretty good, but it certainly pales to some people that I know. But from the films that I’ve personally seen those people have really shaped my education, love, and approach to filmmaking. I think of them very often while making decisions and I constantly study their work.

Kubrick is my first love, and I love Paul Thomas Anderson for his incredible story-telling and use of the anamorphic format (don’t get me started, I’m nuts for it!), Fincher for his absolutely perfect execution, The Coen Brothers for being so unique every single time, and Tarantino for having the most fun. I don’t think anyone enjoys his or her job more than that guy and it comes through. I love that and I want my work to feel the same way.

Recently my girlfriend and I watched Billy Wilder’s The Apartment on Netflix. It was shot Panavision, anamorphic in 1960 by Joseph LaShelle. The compositions and camera movement were simply perfect. The use of the anamorphic format was lovely. Rarely do we see modern filmmakers hold wide shots for that long, it’s a shame. After the film ended, Netflix suggested we watch Billy Wilder’s Sabrina, another favorite of ours. Of course we couldn’t say no. Shot by the brilliant Charles Lang in 1954 and in academy 35 (a more square frame), this film was done perfectly as well. Both films we’re directed by Billy Wilder roughly six years apart, both using two completely different formats. Both were shot in lovely black and white but by two different DP’s. What we witnessed was a master at work. Wilder completely mastered both formats and used their strengths wonderfully. The locations, the sets, the blocking, everything was completely different but worked so well. Watching them back-to-back was very educational and inspiring. I highly recommend it.

Last but not least I need to mention Star Wars. Specifically The Empire Strikes Back. There’s not much to say here other than “Thanks George.”

CJ: What is your favorite book?

AC: The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

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

AC: Take more risks, loosen up, and experiment more. At the time I took each project very seriously, I always have and always will, and I don’t regret that. But in school I could have experimented more with different film stocks, techniques, and especially different lighting techniques and approaches. I could have done shoots on my own more often and simply played around more. By now I feel that I have discovered most of what I would have. But I simply would have learned it earlier thus effecting projects from years ago that could have been more well shot.

My brother is very involved in the world of racing and there’s a saying called “seat time.” It amounts to how much time you’ve sat in a racecar and actually performed in a race. Seat time is very important with any skill. I always want more and I only get better each and every time. I’m very hard on my work and I’m very rarely satisfied. It can always be better, always. The more seat time, the better.

Alexander C Qs

Images: Carpe Juvenis