Summer Spotlight: Julian Brown (B’23)

Julian Brown

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Each year, Georgetown McDonough students spend their summers working with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations, volunteering, and pursuing their passions. While summer 2020 presented never-before-seen challenges, McDonough students rose above and made the most of an unprecedented summer.

Tell us about your summer.

This summer was one of unique growth and opportunity for me. With a bit of luck, and a lot of coffee, I was able to take part in multiple opportunities that helped me grow both personally and professionally. My primary experience was serving as a marketing intern for United Way Worldwide’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team. For those who may not be familiar, United Way is the world’s largest privately funded non-profit, that focuses on education, income, and health to advance the common good in communities across the world. 

My primary task was curating a 21 Day Race Equity challenge for United Way’s U.S. network. Alongside my experience with United Way, I worked with a student-led pro-bono consulting organization called Novaris, where students from throughout the country worked with small businesses to provide business strategy recommendations to help them stay afloat during the pandemic. My last big commitment for the summer was participating in a Career Institute led by Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA). Through this experience, I learned about potential career avenues through networking with professionals in various business industries, along with (virtually) meeting other students from throughout the nation! 

How did your summer relate to your professional or personal interests or aspirations?

This summer served as a strong confidence booster for me in terms of career preparation. Currently, I am interested in pursuing a career in consulting alongside community impact work (potentially akin to the revolving door). As a rising sophomore with a semester’s worth of work with Hilltop Consultants, a fantastic student-led non-profit consulting group on campus, I had developed a fundamental understanding of the consulting practice and what exactly went into developing strong projects. Following that with another client project with Novaris allowed me to reflect on my prior experience with Hilltop, and then improve upon it to better understand the consulting industry and improve my personal work. Alongside that improvement, the networking opportunities with United Way and LEDA introduced me to alternative methods of pursuing my passions. I’d never considered working on the Hill previously, but after conversations with individuals from both organizations, it seems like a realistic option that could help me pursue my passion for social change.

How did you find these opportunities? 

Here I will emphasize the importance of networking! I actually heard about all three of these opportunities from friends of mine! Novaris was spearheaded by an upperclassmen friend of mine, Liana Wang (C’22). I met her through participating in ESCAPE, as well as weekly Cornerstone dinners for the freshman class. When recruiting for Novaris, she remembered our previous conversations where I expressed interest in consulting and generously offered me an opportunity to work with her organization. A few weeks later, she also offered to refer me to United Way to take her place as a marketing intern there after she’d come upon another opportunity. For LEDA, I heard about the Career Institute from a great friend of mine, Patrick Brito (B’23), a current LEDA scholar. All of this goes to say that networking is very important!

What was the most interesting or impactful thing you worked on?

The most impactful thing I’ve done was curating the 21 Day Race Equity Challenge with United Way. This opportunity was impactful for me as I’d never done work on a national scale before. To be quite frank, when I was told that my work would be distributed on a national scale, I was absolutely terrified! However, I have learned from past experience not to turn down opportunities out of fear. 

Considering that, I took the project head-on and garnered great results! I currently have over 1,000 people from throughout the country (plus over 50 Canadians!) registered to take part in the challenge and have been getting great engagement and feedback on it. It has been fantastic seeing what I am capable of, as I never imagined myself presenting work to such a large scale of people, and learning that I can do so effectively has been very encouraging. It also has been interesting seeing how my work has impacted the network. There have been multiple United Way representatives who have participated in the challenge that I curated, and have been inspired to push on and develop their own! Seeing this impact has pushed me to continue to do more. 

How was your summer plans adjusted because of coronavirus?

My summer plans were adjusted drastically as a result of coronavirus. Before the virus hit, I was set to study abroad in Spain, and then take a few additional summer courses to get a leg up on my course requirements. Unfortunately, the study abroad programs were cancelled, and at that point I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my summer. I had been thinking I’d try to pick up a small job to at least make a bit of money over the break, but fortunately for me, I had some great friends who provided me with the amazing opportunities that I discussed above.

What did a typical day look like?

My days were for the most part split between working for United Way and then researching for Novaris. 

I woke up at 8 a.m. each day to prepare to start my internship at 9 a.m. with United Way. There, I spent a majority of my time working on my individual assignments, mixed in with team meetings, supervisor meetings, all-staff engagements, as well as networking opportunities and the occasional odd job, such as providing tech support for a conference. I did that until 1 p.m. most days, although I did work overtime at times whenever my workload began to pile up. 

Following my internship, I would take a quick break to relax, eat lunch, and de-stress a bit, before getting started on my Novaris work. With that, I was primarily focused on conducting research and developing slides for our final presentation deck at the end of the project, alongside team meetings to keep things running smoothly. My time commitment for this varied throughout the summer depending on what phase of our project my team was in and what was required. I did put a bit more time than necessary into this, looking to develop good practices for the future. For example, I focused on finding go-to websites for conducting research, developing a personal list of websites that I am comfortable with and can utilize for future research projects. I also dedicated time to improve my slide-making skills, as they are key in consulting and also can be used in class projects. 

After I wrapped up my Novaris work each day, I took time for some R&R, watching movies and playing video games before going to sleep early to get started again the next day. Fortunately, the Career Institute took place after my work with Novaris wrapped up, so I essentially replaced my time dedication to Novaris with the Career Institute. (I would highly recommend freshman look into the Career Institute with LEDA!)

Any advice for other students?

My advice for other students is to be unafraid and to look at the positives in opportunities! Going into each of my summer activities, I was afraid of something, whether it was communicating on a national scale, presenting high-quality work for clients, networking with CEOs and business leaders who I’d never met, or simply overwhelming myself. However, I learned that you can’t knock yourself on something until you try it. I cast aside my fears with all three opportunities and did my best, and it was thoroughly rewarding! It’s also important to realize that even in failure, there is learning that can be done, making failure a valuable learning experience as well. To close, I’ll include a quote from Leo Burnett that stuck with me from a young age: “If you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”