As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be an actress growing up! I loved performing and taking on the persona of different characters. But I had a teacher in high school who asked me if I had considered being a writer, and that opened up a whole new world of possibilities on what a career in writing might look like.
What was the most transformative course from your undergraduate education?
Introduction to Feminist Theory by Prof. Audrey Bilger (who's now the new president at Reed College, lucky students!) was transformative in the sense the course gave me the tools to look at texts, history, and politics in a variety of ways. It wasn't that there was just "one" feminist theory, but a whole range of perspectives that were informed by different experiences and lenses. It also provided the political frameworks necessary to make real change in the real world. Having a strong grasp of theory and how to apply it helped me throughout my college career, and allowed me to bring new perspectives and new frameworks to old texts, which allowed (and allows) me to create new meaning for our particular historical moment.
What was the best advice you were ever given and who gave it to you?
"Life is long." A writing mentor of mine told me this early in my career, which totally transformed how I looked at everything. She meant it as a reminder that you will run into many people in your career, and how you treat and interact with people matters for much longer than you might think. Especially as a young person with a career of 40 years ahead of her, I felt the advice was grounding and is something I come back to whenever I face challenges that seem like a much bigger deal in the moment.
You’re currently the Chief Marketing Officer at Rebel AI. What does your job entail, and what is your favorite part about what you do?
Rebel AI is a startup technology company focusing on digital advertising security. I love working at a small company, as I get to wear many hats and am constantly learning. As Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), I'm always positioning the company, writing about it, creating the brand identity, and participating in speaking events and panels to help spread the word.
I also write the monthly "Living In" column for BBC Travel, which lets me speak to people from around the world and provide insight into what it's like living in cities and countries around the world that are leading the world in terms of subjects like green living and technology trends.
How did your liberal arts education help you when you first entered the workforce? Why do you think Phi Beta Kappa and a well-rounded arts and sciences education are important in today’s society?
I graduated a year before the 2008 recession, which transformed the whole economic landscape. I started my career in print magazines and was able to navigate the digital transformation successfully in part because I had such a well-rounded education that didn't overemphasize any one topic. There will be jobs in the future that don't exist today, and no single-track of study can prepare you for what the future might bring. Facebook and Twitter didn't exist when I started college (both were launched during my college career), but have created hundreds of thousands of jobs in social media since I graduated. Having a broad education allows you to be ready for those shifts.
Do you have any advice for young Phi Beta Kappa members?
I have always appreciated how much PBK values and supports the humanities. There's a drive even within liberal arts colleges right now to push toward more career preparedness, but I would stress to young members not to lose sight of how a broader liberal arts study makes you a better global citizen, not just a better worker bee. The best and most fulfilling conversations I have today still revolve around history, writing, economics, and politics, the same topics that I loved studying in college.
What books are you reading currently? Are you listening to any podcasts? Anything you'd recommend?
I am reading the sequel to the Handmaid's Tale, The Testaments. It really opens up the world of Gilead and the power structures that need to be enacted to create an oppressive regime, but also delves into what is needed to resist it. Margaret Atwood has such insight into gender & power dynamics in all her books, and her writing is as sharp as ever.
As for podcasts, fellow PBKers will love Longform Podcast. They interview non-fiction authors and writers every week across so many subjects. I've found so many good and diverse books through this podcast, and the hosts are some of the best interviewers I've ever come across. They also ask questions about the process of writing itself, which I especially enjoy as writer.