Carlos Brandt on Running his Podcast Dear Queer People and being Part of the LGBTQ+ Community

An advocate and trailblazer, Carlos is taking the world by storm, opening up the conversation around LGBTQ+ narratives.

When I first met Carlos, it was clear that there was something so special about him. Carlos is an incredible human, LGBTQ+ advocate, and entrepreneur that has a calm and gentle way about him. Carlos has taken the world by storm, working for RuPaul’s Drag RaceWerq The World Tour,” creating his own social media and branding company, and starting his podcast Dear Queer People, we wonder when he finds time to sleep! I am happy to call Carlos a close friend of mine and I couldn’t be more happy to share him with you all right here. I hope this post inspires you to change our world for the better and advocate for what you are passionate about, just as Carlos has.

Carlos, my long lost brother, tell us about yourself!

My lost sister, so happy to be connected with you and be part of your wonderful family.

I was born in Venezuela and raised in Spain. I grew up in a very Catholic family and always knew that I was different from others. When I was a teenager I accepted the fact that I was gay and came out to the world. I moved to New York City 3 years ago, fell in love, made mistakes, grew as a gay man, and have never turned back. I use my past experiences to motivate me to continue to learn and grow throughout my life. Here, I built a support system that I never had in my life and I met the greatest love that I could ever feel and see- the person which I experienced many ups and downs with that has allowed me to grow and learn the true meaning of love. Here, I built a company out of my passion for journalism and audio-visuals, in a place that is not my home country and proved to myself that I could. Here, I’m learning and shaping who I am. 

What the inspiration behind starting your podcast Dear Queer People and what is the podcast all about?

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Dear Queer People is a call to action, it’s a call to be better as a community and understand the whole spectrum of LGBTQ+. I started this podcast because I wanted to ask questions and know how queer folks navigate different aspects of life. Also, the podcast served as a way for me to save myself and put my thoughts out, to claim a voice and break from the stereotype of how I look. It was to show the world that I also have a brain, passion, and things to say.

The main purpose here is to inspire people to show up better and do more, for themselves and for our community- no matter who you are, where you are, or what gender you identify with.

I bring guests from all different background, from transgender to those who are disabled, to tell their stories. The purpose is to break the bubble you live in and realized that there is more to see and learn. 

What was some of the feedback that you received from the podcast? Was any feedback surprising to you?

So far it’s been both amazing and overwhelming. Folks from Japan, Russia, Africa, and Mexico have all shared their thoughts with me, explaining how listening to the show’s has inspired them to come out to their families or get involved with local organizations. It’s a great feeling knowing that what you produce is having an impact on someone somewhere in the world. 

Are there any stories that you have featured on your podcast that changed your perspective and outlook on life?

Every story is special, every voice that you hear in this podcast means everything to me.

Carson Tueller speaking about advocating for better disability laws in his local area and how he faces love and sex as a disabled gay man. Jake DuPree, a fantastic entertainer and actor, on how he learned to overcome his battle with depression and suicide to conquer his life. Every story is a hard conversation to have, but that is where the beauty happens, because that’s where you learn. Shequida Hall, Evan Katz Ross, and Jiggly Caliente, every story is unique, starting with my own.

You were recently featured in Out Magazine– congratulations! What was that experience like and what did the feature mean to you?

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It was very overwhelming. I wasn’t expecting anything and when I saw a two-page spread in the most important LGBTQ+ print and digital magazine it was a moment that was so honoring. Being a gay immigrant and having this type of validation that what I’m doing someway, somehow is right- it’s a very cool feeling. 

What is one thing that you wish more people knew about the LGBTQ+ community and the journeys of people within this community?

Be one community. We need to learn so much from one another and accept everyone within our community. From our trans brothers and sisters to non-binaries to value entertainers, it is important not to discriminate and create separations because of labels and stereotypes. It is my hope that some day this utopia will see the light. The fight continues!

What is a dream project that you would like to work on or collaborator that you would like to work with?

 A documentary and a coffee table book. Both are in my mind already, let’s see when I am ready to sit down and work them out, but, as for now, I’m calm, working on myself and taking one day at a time!

Where to find Carlos

Out Magazine Article: How Carlos Brandt Is Helping Queer Immigrants Tell Their Stories


Dear Queer People Podcast

Colonel Dave Blackburn on being a Helicopter Pilot

Have you ever dreamt of becoming a helicopter pilot when you were younger? Can you even imagine growing up and becoming one! Read all about Colonel Blackburn’s journey, right here.

Many people dream of flying, but not very many people ever get the chance. Colonel Dave Blackburn, however, is not one of those people. From jumping out of planes, to flying all over the German countryside, to serving in Operation Desert Storm, Colonel Blackburn has done it all and then some, a wealth of knowledge for anyone looking to gain their wings. I am fortunate enough to know Colonel Blackburn through my father, who also served as a helicopter pilot in the Army. Between the two of them, I could listen to their stories for hours and hope to share some of them with you over time. For now, here are some of Colonel Blackburn’s highlights from high in the sky.

Colonel Blackburn, share with us a little bit about yourself!

I grew up in a suburb just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. My dad worked at Bethlehem Steel as a Millwright, fixing cranes on the docks where ships came in to drop off iron ore and my mom worked for AT&T.  We were working class people. We lived in a 1,000 square foot, 3 bedroom, 1 bath house. Today, you’d say wow, that’s tiny… one bathroom for four people? When you’re a kid, you don’t know what you don’t know; the house seemed fine. My eventual wife, Lisa, lived a few blocks away and we’ve known each other since 5th grade. We became boyfriend and girlfriend at the end of 9th grade. We’ve been married for 37 years and have three daughters. Two were born in Germany during two separate three-year tours there and our middle daughter, Rachel, was born in Leavenworth, Kansas. Rachel played basketball for and graduated from the University of Nebraska. Rebecca, the oldest, graduated from the University of Kansas. Katelyn the youngest is currently a junior at the University of Kansas, studying computer engineering.  

 I went to Towson University in Maryland where I joined ROTC. I was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant 1983.  After going to Infantry School, I went to Flight School. Flight School was nine months. Our first assignment was Germany.  We went back to Germany a decade later (six years total). I served in South Korea, I was in operation Desert Storm with the 82nd Airborne Division. I was a Lieutenant Colonel and new Battalion Commander at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on 9/11. We eventually deployed the battalion to Afghanistan and a few years later I spent a year in Iraq. I retired from the Army as a colonel. It was a tough life with a lot of separation.  

What was the training like leading up to being able to fly solo?

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Flight School started at Fort Rucker, Alabama on November 25, 1983.  It was a big deal to finally get our flight suits, it meant you were some kind of aviator. We had about 2 weeks of class work before going to the flight line, this part of the training was called Primary. It was out at Hanchey Army Airfield. We met our instructor pilot (IP) and got paired up with a fellow student, this guy was called your “Stick Buddy.” I was paired with 2LT Tom Charron,  we were rare in that we remained “Stick Buddies” all the way through flight school. Tom was a great American and we got along so well. Our IP was a retired Major named George Reese who had flown helicopters in Vietnam; I think we were his first students. Mr. Reese took us on our “Nickel Ride” (your first ride in a helicopter) in the TH-55, Osage Helicopter, which was a very small two seat helicopter. Hovering was hard.  We’d fly out of Hanchey AAF to what was called a “Stage Field.” A stage field was a small airfield that had several runways or lanes.  We would do hover and traffic pattern work there.  You’d practice maneuvers like a normal approach, normal takeoff, steep approach, running landing, autorotation, slope landing and hovering autorotation.

It was cold when we were practicing hovering. However, I remember sweat rolling out of my helmet. I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to master it, and I’d have to revert back to being an infantry officer.

After several hours of practice… (maybe 6 hours) It just happens, it’s like learning to ride a bike. Once you can hover, you can hover. It’s magical…

The aircraft is suddenly just steady. After about 10-12 flight hours we soloed. The IP would just get out and we took the aircraft out to the active runway and we’d do one traffic pattern (Traffic Pattern = up-wind, crosswind, downwind, base, & final).  Eventually, we soloed out from Hanchey to the stage field.  Flying straight and level is easy.  I remember early on…  You’d call Air Traffic Control(ATC) at a reporting point saying you’re inbound.  ATC would say… Roger, whatever callsign, runway 27 in use, report entry left downwind. I remember Mr. Reese telling me to look at the airfield’s windsock and figure out the landing direction… I was thinking Hey buddy, I’m just trying to steer this thing… I have no idea about wind direction, but eventually you get it. Mr. Reese was always on the flight controls, so I never knew if I was doing the auto or was he moving the flight controls.  At the end of what was called “Primary” we took our first check ride. I flew well on my first check ride. I still remember the IP gave me a 92.  Mr. Reese was surprised I scored that high- he didn’t say it, but I could tell.   

How did you first become a pilot and maintenance test pilot?

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After coming back from Germany as a young captain, we went to Fort Rucker for the “Advanced Course.”  Today, it’s called the “Captain’s Career Course,” which takes six months. I knew the army was always short aircraft maintenance officers and I saw it as an opportunity to stay in a unit rather than going off to what commissioned aviators called the “3-Rs” (Rucker, ROTC, or Recruiting). So, I volunteered and after the Advanced Course we went to Fort Eustis, Virginia for the AH-1 maintenance test pilot (MTP) course. The MTP course was 12 weeks long; the first part was 9 weeks of classroom, and the final 3 weeks was learning to test fly the aircraft. The final part of the course was very difficult… I don’t know how tough the other aircraft courses were, but the Cobra course was tough. There were only 4 of us in the Cobra course.  We had to memorize the maintenance test flight checklist. So, the instructor pilot (IP) is in the front seat reading the checklist step and you have to repeat it and say what you’re doing and looking for, as spelled out in the checklist. Example…IP says:  DC Generator switch. Student replies… DC Generator to DC Generator, note no change…  It has been 30 years and that was an easy task that has been seared into my mind. I still remember other checklist items. I went to South Korea after the course and my wife, Lisa, and our first daughter stayed in the United States. I was there 21 months in the 2nd Infantry Division’s attack helicopter battalion in Uijeongbu, South Korea.  A normal tour is 12 months, but I extended for an opportunity to be a company commander. Upon return to the United States, I went to Fort Rucker for the OH-58D transition course and after that course I went to the OH-58D MTP course at Eustis. After the course I reported to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg and a few days later I was headed to Operation Desert Storm. 

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How many flight hours do you have and is it difficult to learn how to fly a helicopter?

I was a maintenance guy and maintenance guys don’t usually get nearly as many hours as line pilots or operators get…So, I don’t have many hours. I have 1,083 hours. 

How many different helicopters have you flown and do you have a favorite and why?

I flew the UH-1H, Huey, the AH-1F, Fully Modernized Cobra, and the OH-58D, Kiowa Warrior.  

The AH-1F, Fully Modernized Cobra was my favorite aircraft.  It has guns, it has air conditioning (as long as the Turbine Gas Temp. was below 820 degrees centigrade), and it just looks cool- it’s sleek looking.

What is the best piece of advice that someone has given to you in regards to flying?

The internet didn’t exist when your dad and I went to flight school. Today, it’s a tremendous asset. I’d study everything you can find about flying. If you have the money, take private flight lessons in a fixed wing aircraft.  If you don’t have the money for lessons in an aircraft, buy the best computer based flight simulator you can afford.  You can learn a lot about how to fly instruments. Back then, 95% of us knew nothing about flying instruments when we started.  

If you’re going to fly for the Army you’ll have to take the Flight Aptitude Selection Test(FAST). I recommend finding out everything you can about the FAST. Check your eyesight and see what the Army requires. For us, it was 20/20 uncorrected. Today, you may be able to get Lasik to correct to 20/20, but a flight surgeon will know. Check to see if you’re colored blind, that can eliminate a candidate too.   

Do you have any memorable stories from your years flying?

Screen Shot 2020-09-20 at 9.29.25 PMI remember doing a test flight in a Cobra at Ft. Brag. I was in the 82nd Airborne Division, so the aviators also conducted airborne operations. Why aviators jumped is a good question, but back then we did, but not anymore. I was flying a Cobra in Test Flight Area 2 and we were doing a “Topping Check.”  It’s a test flight maneuver where you fly up to 10,000 feet and pull the aircraft’s maximum power… The intent is to get the main rotor rpm to bleed off.  So we’re up at 10,000 feet and off in the distance you can see Fort Bragg’s four biggest drop zones… Sicily, Salerno, Normandy, and Holland. They’re huge. That same night we had a “midnight ride”… meaning we had an airborne operation with a time on target of around 24:00. I walked out the door of an Air Force C-141 over Holland DZ and as I flew that afternoon, I thought to myself I’m in the only Army in the world that I can fly a Cobra at 10,000 feet in the afternoon, and jump out of a C-141 at midnight at 800 feet.  

Was there a time where you were ever apprehensive about being a maintenance test pilot?

Apprehensive? No. A general test flight is set up so that you do run up checks first. If everything is ok, you do hover checks. If everything is ok you do flight checks.

If you could choose one person to fly co-pilot with you (disregarding their flight qualifications) who would it be and why?

Your dad and I never flew together. That would be very nice.  

What advice would you give someone who is interested in learning more about aviation and maybe getting their pilots license?

I can only recommend from an Army perspective. If you want to fly Army helicopters and flying is your thing, I recommend you become an Army Warrant Officer. Warrant Officers remain in flying units doing flying jobs almost their entire career. You won’t make as much money, but you’ll fly. If you want to fly during some assignments, but want to lead people, become a lieutenant and go to flight school.  

Check out universities that offer flight degrees. Embry Riddle is one. You can graduate there with an instrument rating (ticket). I think a university in South Dakota has a flight degree as well.  

Kate Sienko on Working in Publishing at Condé Nast

Even wonder what the day-to-day at Condé Nast looks like? Yeah, me too! Read all about Kate’s experience working for one of the biggest names in publishing.

When I tell you Kate and I got back, we go way back, having known each other for just over 8 years now! Kate is such an inspiration to me, having taken the working world by storm after graduating from Tufts University in 2017. She has worked on marketing campaigns for the magazines that we all know and love, including Vogue, GQ, and Glamour. Yes, you have 20/20 vision I wrote Vogue! An incredibly kind, driven, and hard-working, powerhouse woman, Kate has kindly offered to share with our blog community her experiences working at one of the biggest names in publishing. Take it away Kate!

Kate, tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Kate Sienko and I’m a twenty-something navigating the trials and tribulations that accompany adulthood in New York City. I work on the post-sale marketing team at Condé Nast, specifically producing branded content for brands such as Vogue, Glamour, Allure, GQ, Bon Appétit, and more. Prior to working at Condé Nast, I attended Tufts University and The Pingry School. 

When did you first start working in publishing and how did you end up at Condé Nast?

I graduated from Tufts in 2017 with degrees in English and Communications/Media Studies. Throughout my internships at Bustle and Time Inc. and college experiences, I connected with colleagues, mentors, and leaders alike, who shared insights and learnings about the media industry and continued to connect me with key contacts that would lay the foundation for my career at Condé Nast. 

Perhaps the most formative experience was a series of courses that I took at Tufts entitled “The Future of Magazines.” The instructor during my senior year was the most chic, sophisticated, and all-around brilliant woman who had worked at Condé Nast for many years (and was also an alumna of Tufts!) – as she spoke about the magic that transpired between the walls of Condé Nast and brought in guest speakers from the company that shared similar experiences, I knew that I needed to experience that for myself: to experience the power of storytelling so deeply with the brands I had loved my entire life.

I graduated without a job, as the media industry is different from other industries and often only hires within two (2) weeks of start date – but I worked diligently within my network of mentors, who connected me with the people I needed to know to interview and ultimately secure a job at Condé Nast during July of 2017.   

What was your first role at Condé and how does it differ from what you do now?

For the past three years, I have been on the marketing team at Condé Nast, specifically working with beauty clients such as L’Oreal, P&G, Johnson & Johnson, Estee Lauder, and many more. I was first hired as a pre-sale marketer and have since transitioned to a post-sale role. As a pre-sale marketer, I was the brains behind the idea, strategizing with teammates to craft stories across platforms: branded content, experiential, video, print, podcasts, and more. As a post-sale marketer, I am the quarterback working cross-collaboratively to bring campaigns to life. Internally, I partner with sales, talent, and creative counterparts to ensure that we produce the best content possible. Externally, I manage all communication with our agency and client partners to ensure that the creative vision is coming to life as it should. 

Although hard to pick a favorite between the two – I will say that I am tremendously fortunate to have learned about the campaign process from conception to completion so early on in my career. With this holistic experience, I feel well-prepared and poised to address anything that comes our way in the branded content production process. 

What is the most challenging part of your job?

No two days are the same – especially during quarantine. Every day brings a new insight, challenge, or ask and it’s my responsibility to keep everything going, no matter what. In post-sale, we are continuously problem solving (I often joke that I’m a firefighter), and no matter how difficult a situation may be, we always strive to be as positive and solution-oriented as we can in order to ensure the success of a campaign. From sourcing last minute product for a next-day shoot to learning back-end technical logistics for a virtual event to negotiating with edit and clients to achieve a balance of client + brand POVs, we do it all and apply our problem-solving skills to whatever is thrown our way.

What does a typical day look like for you?

During the pandemic, keeping to a routine has been key. My day-in-the-life goes like this: 

7:30 AM Wake up 

8:00 AM Work out with my mom (Monday & Wednesdays = Cardio, Tuesday = Arms, Thursday = Legs, Friday = Kickboxing) 

9:00 AM Start the work day while eating breakfast (eggs, Ezekiel cinnamon raisin toast, and fruit) and having coffee: read emails, write out the daily to-do list (I’m old fashioned), prep for meetings

10:00 AM – 5:30 PM Zoom Client and internal meetings to review status of current campaigns. (Some days we’ll have shoots – these are a full-day occasion!). Review rounds of creative and route for approvals. Although I do miss the serendipitous nature of the office and seeing familiar faces in the halls and elevator, I will say that my team and I have managed to be quite productive. (Note: As great as Zoom is, I am actively campaigning to bring the phone call back).

5:30 PM – 6:30 PM Walk around the neighborhood to get some fresh air  

6:30 PM Help my parents cook dinner. I’m extraordinarily lucky that both my mom and my dad are excellent cooks and we’ve been eating quite well these past few months. 

7:00 PM – 8:00 PM Dinner with my parents and my younger brother who is also home for the time being. Although I do sometimes feel like I’m 18 again living under my parents’ roof, I will say that I am cherishing this extra time we all have together as a family. 

8:30 PM – 10:00 PM Read or watch TV to wind down from the day. Recently finished reading The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer and watching Love on the Spectrum on Netflix – both excellent!

What is the most compelling project that you have worked on in your career?

The times that I have felt most alive during my time at Condé Nast have been at our tentpole events, such as Glamour Women of the Year and Teen Vogue Summit. They are a celebration of each of the brand’s ethos – who we are, what we stand for, and what we believe in. 

At Glamour Women of the Year, we honor the game changers, the rule breakers, and the trailblazers who have paved the way for women across the country and around the world in their respective fields. Over the past three years, we’ve honored: 

  • Megan Rapinoe
  • Margaret Atwood 
  • Greta Thunberg 
  • Emma Gonzalez and the women activists from the March for Our Lives movement
  • Tory Burch
  • Chanel Miller 
  • Yara Shahidi 
  • Kamala Harris (Fun Fact: I was her seat filler when she went up to accept her award!)
  • Viola Davis
  • The Women’s March Organizers

One of the most special moments from WOTY 2019 was when Chanel Miller accepted her award on stage. Glamour had named Emily Doe, the anonymous sexual assault victim a WOTY honoree in 2016, and unbeknownst to the team, she had been sitting in the audience all along, listening to every word. For Chanel to come forward to the world, and then later on the stage at Glamour Women of the Year to publicly accept her award was awe-inspiring. As she emerged on stage in her golden gown, she immediately received a standing ovation – and when she proceeded to recite her acceptance poem: “I Don’t Give A Damn” and there was not a dry eye in the house. I still get goosebumps thinking about that very moment and thinking this is what it’s all about.

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At Teen Vogue Summit, we engage in conversations and live workshops with leaders from fashion, politics, beauty, wellness, and activism for the next generation. I love being on the ground with these young people and hear firsthand what they’re doing in their own communities to change the future. At Teen Vogue Summit 2019, Demi Lovato made her first public appearance post–break and the energy in the room shook when she made her way to the stage. 

WOTY and Teen Vogue Summit are two of my favorite events of the year because the spirit of empowerment is absolutely tangible and awakens everyone sitting in the room to go out and do good for themselves, for others, and ultimately the world.

How has your role needed to adapt as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The names of the game in media are speed, creativity, and agility – and this is true now more than ever. So much of what we do is people-driven – be it photoshoots, video shoots, events, traveling, or client dinners where we’re interacting, collaborating, and partnering with producers, directors, videographers, clients, talent, and more. And although things may look a little different now, the show must go on. And if there’s a will, there is always a way. 

In May, we worked with a client for Teen Vogue Prom and we filmed three videos with teenaged talent. Since this was the beginning of the pandemic, the shoot was entirely remote. We shipped product and equipment to the talent across the country and the director, producers, program managers, and clients all sat on a Zoom directing each talent as they captured their getting ready looks. The casting was incredibly important for this particular program because we needed to enlist talent that were skilled in capturing their own content – and they did beautifully! 

Teen Vogue Prom was the following week and we had the time of our lives. Teen Vogue was the first brand to publicly announce that we would host a “virtual prom” for high schoolers and we had exactly one month to pour all of our passion into the program to bring it to life. We curated an evening with hybrid programming, allowing time for attendees to hang out with other classmates from their schools within individual Zoom rooms – and then we would broadcast the national livestream that featured drop-ins from celebrity guests like Charli & Dixie D’Amelio, CNCO, Emma Chamberlain, Lily Collins, Madelaine Petsch, Chloe x Halle, Becky G and more. Nearly fifty members from the Teen Vogue team volunteered their Saturday evenings to “chaperone” the prom, work the back-end technical logistics, and create a night to remember for thousands of high schoolers across the country – all while dressed to impress. I even squeezed into an old prom dress!

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Most recently, we had a branded Vogue video shoot. Although finally able to get back on set, our video team had mandated strict guidelines to ensure the health and safety of both talent and crew. We were only able to have three people TOTAL on set – talent, director, and cameraman – (when there are usually 20+!) and thus took an incredible amount of preparation and coordination both before the shoot and during the shoot. On shoot day, the rest of the crew and clients dialed in from across the country, providing feedback while viewing the livestream link. 

As the mantra goes, teamwork makes the dream work –– and as we continue onwards in this new normal, it is as important as ever to have a team that is both conscientious and committed to bringing a vision to life, no matter the circumstances – and I couldn’t be more grateful to have just that.

If you could choose anyone or any company to work with, who would it be and why?

My dream client would have to be Nike. I grew up playing pretty much every sport – basketball, swimming, soccer, water polo – and the values of hard work, competition, perseverance, teamwork, and leadership have served as a foundation for all that I do, both personally and professionally. I grew up with a pinboard in my room with pages of old Nike advertisements from magazines and even today, they never cease to inspire, invigorate, and empower me to be the best version of myself. 

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone interested in working in publishing?

Change is inevitable. The media landscape is evolving every single day – and even over the past three years, I’ve experienced those shifts firsthand. Although countless headlines declare that “Print is Dead,” I’d argue that perhaps the more accurate way to position this is “Print is Changing.” The golden age of traditional publishing was marked by plentiful paging across books – particularly in September issues. I still have an archive of old issues of Glamour, Teen Vogue, Bon Appétit, Vogue and more – and some of them are as thick as phone books. While print issues may look a bit different now, especially with several titles shuttering their print editions (i.e. Glamour and Teen Vogue) – it’s important to understand that print is only one component of a brand. With the introduction of technology advancements across digital and social media, print is no longer the sole star of the show; each brand that we work on within the Condé Nast portfolio consists of print, video, articles, social, podcasts, events, and so much more. 

So yes, print is changing, but the tactile and immersive experience of print is so unique that print will never fully “die” in my opinion. As audiences and consumers alike continue to change how they consume content, we have a responsibility to continuously adapt and evolve to not only reach them, but perhaps more importantly, to resonate with them, too. 

What do you think the future of publishing looks like?

Mark my words: the future of media is bright. Print may be “changing,” but media and publishing are not going anywhere. The media industry is fueled by the power of storytelling – and as human beings, we crave stories that tell the experiences of ourselves and each other. My hope is that the media industry continues to work to be more inclusive, sharing real and raw journalism from people of diverse backgrounds – across race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, identity – and that technology helps us tell these stories in the most innovative and creative ways possible.

All About Coffee with Tim Braatz

Coffee, coffee beans, coffee shops! Tim shares his knowledge on all things coffee and his future plans to open a café of his own.

Tim has been a long time friend of mine, who has been obsessed with coffee ever since I have known him. Having traveled the world to experience and taste all the coffee there is to offer, Tim has accumulated a depth of knowledge around the café experience, barista techniques, bean roasting, and coffee quality. Tim has also worked as both a dishwasher and a barista, acquiring that much needed experience “in the field,” working hard to learn about how to run a successful business. After years of exploration and long hours spent in the café, Tim is finally opening his own coffee place next year- congratulations Tim! When I return to Hamburg, I cannot wait to pop in for a delicious cup of coffee and I hope you’ll join me in supporting Tim very soon!

Hallo Tim! Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I’m 23 years old and was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. Besides my passion for coffee, I enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and family, traveling, especially to the US, driving and reading about cars, and learning more about nutrition and the plant based lifestyle.

 How long have you been interested in coffee and what has sparked this passion?

Believe it or not, my parents always tell me that I had my first coffee at the age of five. My first job in coffee was working as a dishwasher for a bigger local roastery and café. This is where my passion for specialty coffee really took off. After graduating from school, I visited different states on the east and west coast of the United States and explored different concepts and business ideas. After many years of refining my idea of what I want to achieve with my concept and writing a business plan, I finally signed a lease for a space to open my own café in the heart of Hamburg in Spring / Summer of 2021.

 What are your favorite coffees and coffee chains or shops and why?

Funny enough, most of them are in the U.S.! Heart Coffee in Portland, Oregon is probably my favorite coffee shop because the staff is very knowledgeable and the drinks are consistently high quality. I’ve had some of my bests coffees there. I also enjoy going to the Starbucks Reserve Roasteries because the interior design and aesthetics are mind blowing and the coffee is decent too. Coffee-wise, I prefer washed coffee from Africa. Kenyan coffees are usually very sweet and juicy. 

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I know you are opening your own coffee shop next year (how exciting and congratulations). Tell us a little bit about this new venture and what will set it apart from other coffee shops?

Thank you! I have always wanted to open my own café because most of the ones I’ve been to lack the basics of what makes a good experience to me. I think if you can provide consistently great service and high quality products in a beautiful and clean environment people will come back. Every decision I have made considers all of the above and we-my father co-owns the company- have put  a lot of thought into the design process of the space. I can guarantee you it will be like nothing else in Hamburg.

To you, what makes a good coffee shop experience?

Like I said, people want a great product, served with a smile, and fast. It’s really hard to consistently achieve this level of service, but the whole concept is built around these three factors. 

How has your previous experience as a barista helped you in building your new business?

Over the years, I was fortunate enough to gain many insights relating to the processes, finances, staff, regulations and of running a coffee shop, simply by learning from others peoples’ mistakes. I wouldn’t be as confident as I’m today without my experience as a barista. I’m convinced you can only be a great entrepreneur and employer if you’ve worked through the ranks.

What is one challenge that you have faced in starting your new coffee shop?

Convincing the banks it’s not just another coffee shop. Specialty coffee is still relatively unknown in Germany and it’s hard to convince people of something they’ve never tried themselves before. Also, finding the right space that checks all the boxes. It took me four years from starting to look for a space to signing the lease.

If I have learned one thing from this process: never give up and follow your dreams!

Last question, what do you think the future of coffee consumption looks like?

Due to climate change, the world will have 50% less land available to grow coffee by 2050 than we have today. This will hopefully bring the price of commodity coffee up so farmers can make a sustainable living from their work. Also, I think the consumer will make more informed buying decisions and especially look for high quality coffee. I’m definitely excited what the future holds for specialty coffee!

Dayne Brown on Being a Business Attorney

Ever wonder what it is like to be a business attorney? Well, now you know.

When asking Dayne Brown about her experience as a business attorney, I thought it best we start at the very beginning: how she ended up sitting down to take the LSAT in the first place.

Dayne first mentioned that she always wanted to work in book publishing and moved from her home in Seattle, Washington to New York, New York to start her first career working for Oxford University Press. Dayne specialized in historical non-fiction while working at Oxford University Press for four years, earning $30,300 a year. Even in 2007, this was barely enough to get by in New York City. When her apartment got bed bugs (eep!) that wouldn’t leave, Dayne found herself stuck. She had no savings and she did not have enough money to move out of her apartment and replace all of her things, so she was forced to move back home to Seattle. Before bedbugs, Dayne had been reluctantly exploring other careers that might provide a more sustainable livelihood. Fortunately, one of her friends (a former NYC public school teacher) was in his last year of law school at Columbia at that time and was quite candid about his move into law. He shared the fact that he would be earning a six-figure income right immediately upon graduation. However, he also mentioned this sort of position was really only available to people who attend one of the top ten law schools in the nation. Admission at those schools is based almost entirely on the applicant’s Law School Admissions Test, or LSAT, score. Dayne then spent hours during her lunch breaks, on weekends, and in the evenings self-tutoring to take the LSAT. When she received her score, Dayne knew that she would likely receive admission to at least one of the top schools, and she ended up attending The University of Chicago’s Law School.

While attending The University of Chicago, Dayne soon realized that she was more interested in business law as opposed to other forms of law such as litigation. Dayne was more passionate about the collaboration that working in business law involved. She noted that, often in business matters, lawyers are interested in helping achieve what is in the best interest of everyone, while litigation is often a zero-sum game.

Having worked in business law for six years, Dayne is currently an associate at a large law firm, Cooley LLP, that specializes in representing high-growth technology and life sciences companies. Dayne’s clients are most often pre-revenue and raising capital from venture capital funds that specialize in early-stage investments. Dayne has worked on many private financing deals as well as biotech initial public offerings, or IPOs. She also assists her early-stage clients with corporate governance, employment, and equity compensation issues.

For Dayne, a typical workday involves checking her email first thing in the morning in order to gauge the business of her day. On a busy day when she is involved in a couple of active deals, Dayne might receive more than 200 emails. The volume of email traffic is a result of her role as a filter, both for information that needs to flow upward to partners and downward to paralegals and junior associates. Dayne first answers the most urgent emails and then often spends an hour or two on client calls and in administrative meetings. In the afternoon, Dayne drafts documents, provides feedback on the work product of more junior attorneys, and she might have a call or two with opposing counsel. Most days, Dayne is able to take a couple of hours off in the evening to spend with her young children. Dayne then usually gets back online at around 8:30 pm to finish any outstanding projects and to correspond with clients, partners, and associates.

asole grey 🕊 (@asolegrey) _ Twitter (1)

Another aspect of Dayne’s work is finding clients for Cooley. One way to do this is through a strong social media presence, for instance through LinkedIn, her personal bio on the firm’s website, speaking on panels, and participating in networking events. Thus far, however, Dayne has been most successful in acquiring clients who are also personal friends. Even when they aren’t friends first, Dayne’s client relationships often last for years as she and the other attorneys she works with will support a company as it grows and its legal needs become more complex.

A typical venture financing deal that she works on takes about three to six weeks and involves a relatively small investment (usually between $2 and $10 million). Mergers and acquisitions, or M&A, deals typically take six to twelve weeks because of the higher level of due diligence that is required, and an IPO takes about six to nine months.

Dayne notes that the most challenging part of her work is getting to the right answer in an efficient manner. Many of Dayne’s clients expect her to be an expert in the specific law and technicalities of their field. Dayne mentions that it can be challenging to become familiar with the specifics of each deal, work on the legalities of the deal, and communicate this effectively to the client, and fast. Her clients pay on an hourly basis, which makes executing a deal in a timely manner for these companies very important. Associates on Dayne’s level are responsible for transforming a three-page term sheet–which outlines the principle agreement between parties–into a hundred pages of documents that lay out the specifics of what is being agreed upon. This ties into the greatest misconception that Dayne believes people have about lawyers–that lawyers are made to throw up roadblocks to hinder their progress. As Dayne highlights, lawyers are there to assist growing businesses to thrive and prosper in the most effective, efficient, and legal (of course!) way.

Dayne views the healthcare industry as being ripe for disruption, which is why it has become one area of focus for her. Helping people bring their ideas to the world is what Dayne has become passionate about and what she believes makes her work compelling. Dayne represents companies that are looking to solve some of the world’s toughest problems in innovative ways, which makes her work incredibly engaging.


Her advice for anyone looking to attend law school? Dayne mentions that it will definitely be helpful to know why, specifically, you want to go to law school. For example, it is good to know whether you want to become a public defender or are leaning toward M&A transactions. Additionally, considering law school is such a capital intensive decision, you want to make sure that your investment will be worth it! Dayne advises that, if you want a job at a firm, you spend a lot of time studying for the LSAT; your LSAT score will determine if you are able to go to a reputable school and therefore have a better chance of getting a job in a law firm afterward. Graduating from second, third, and fourth-tier law schools often result in not even close to the same opportunities at firms as top tier schools, resulting in a lot of underemployed law school graduates. One tip for deciding where to go to law school is to look at the school’s post-graduate employment statistics and also some of the places that graduates from these schools are employed at. This will provide an idea of the kinds of opportunities that you will be exposed to upon graduation.

If you are interested in becoming a lawyer, I hope that you take the time to consider some of Dayne’s wealth of professional advice. If you haven’t ever considered it, never rule law out completely, you never know when and where the law bug may bite!

Starting a TikTok Empire with Julian Parra

How Julian Parra racked up over 80,000 followers on TikTok giving career advice.

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My friend Julian Parra has always been one of my go-to people in terms of who I get career advice from. Having worked in the Center for Career Development at our college and having navigated the job circuit to land a position at IBM, Julian has both incredible professional and life experience to draw from. Recently, he created a TikTok channel to share some of his advice, which has accumulated over 80,000 followers. I sat down with Julian to understand a little bit more about how he built a social media empire around his passion for helping others professionally.

So Julian, tell us a little bit about yourself!

Sure thing Ursula! So I was born and raised in Hawthorne, NJ, I’m a recent graduate from Babson College, and I’m currently an Offering Manager at IBM.

How did you first come up with the idea to start a TikTok channel giving professional and personal development advice?

I first found out about TikTok in December 2019, and immediately, I was super interested in how the TikTok algorithm worked. The app is engineered for virality and users who may not have many followers can have videos blow up on the app. At Babson, I was a Peer Career Ambassador at Babson’s Center for Career Development for three years, and in my role, I met with many students a semester to help with resumes, LinkedIn profiles, cover letters, and all things career development. This experience solidified my passion for personal and career development and mentorship, so while I was in quarantine, I decided to combine my two interests in social media content creation and career development and starting posting on TikTok!

How have you worked on growing your following?

I first focused on the career-development niche and consistently posted at least one TikTok a day related to that. I also studied the way the TikTok algorithm works, why it pushes certain content over others, and optimized my future content accordingly.

How do you keep your TikTok followers engaged?

I try to respond to as many comments as I can on my videos and am always open to suggestions as to the content they want to see. It’s been great reading comments and direct messages from people saying that my content has helped them level up in their career development journeys. I hope to go on TikTok Live more consistently and encourage my followers to follow me on my other platforms like Instagram or LinkedIn.

You currently have over 8ok followers on TikTok, was there ever a major turning point for you and your channel?

I had been posting 2 TikToks a day for a month and hadn’t seen much traction. However, in mid-July, I started an “Interviewer-Interviewee” series, in which I gave concrete examples of how I think people should respond to certain questions in interviews to ensure a successful outcome. I received a lot of engagement from those videos and continued to post that type of content. I also uploaded a “How to send work emails like a boss” TikTok that currently has over 1.5m views that helped jumpstart my growth on the platform. Finally, I was incredibly grateful and humbled to have been featured on Buzzfeed’s Facebook and Instagram platforms, which has motivated me to keep providing the best content I can!

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What are three pieces of advice that you would give to anyone currently unemployed?

First, I encourage you to do your research on what companies you’re interested in working for and get clear on what exactly you want. Think about your own strengths and align that with your interests. Knowing what kind of job you see yourself working in will allow you to have a more focused path to getting to your end goal. Second, I encourage you to focus on building out your network. Although slightly cliche, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool if used efficiently. Reach out to someone whose career you would like to emulate, and ask them to hop on a 10-minute call. You never know what can happen. Third, don’t get discouraged. Although easier said than done, be sure to set time aside every day towards your goal of getting a job. This can be applying to this amount of roles, or reaching out to this amount of people. It’s always okay to take a step back, reflect, take a break, and go back to the job search when you’re ready. Celebrate the little successes and reflect on how far you’ve come. This should get you motivated to continue seeking your dream job.

What is the most valuable piece of advice someone has given to you?

One valuable piece of advice that comes to mind is that “whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” As soon as we understand the true power our minds have, we can achieve literally anything. Moreover, I am incredibly appreciative of being surrounded by friends who support my journey and endeavors and push me to continue to reach new heights. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so it’s important for everyone to choose wisely!


Lastly, what about the future excites you?Screen Shot 2020-08-19 at 4.35.00 PM

I am incredibly grateful for my role at IBM, as it’s allowing me to grow professionally and personally, it challenges me intellectually, and my team is very supportive. I’m also super grateful for the platform I’ve developed on social media. I aim to stay consistent and post as much content as I can on TikTok and Instagram, and hope to motivate, inspire, and educate more and more people around the world!

How to find Julian


Business Instagram:

Personal Instagram:


If I Got to Re-Write My College Essay, It Would Look Something Like This…

How taking “The Wired Ensemble” at Olin College changed my perspective on music and life.

When I was a senior in high school I struggled with writing my personal essay for the college common application. And when I say “struggled” that is even a vast understatement. I went through many drafts of different concepts, themes, and analogies to communicate who I was to an unknown entity. I specifically remember wanting to answer the given prompt:

“The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?”

At this point in my high school career, my most impactful failures revolved around performing. I had taken singing lessons since I was in the third grade, having a love for performing both on stage for an audience and for myself in the comfort of my own shower. The one thing that always inhibited me from performing for others, however, was my crippling perfectionism and stage fright. Nevertheless, despite how powerful these forces were, nothing could keep me from doing what I love: singing. On paper, the articulation of my passion for singing overriding my fear of an on stage failure was a jumbled mess, becoming an analogy about a chrysalis and an emerging butterfly.

It was not until I took a class my senior year called The Wired Ensemble, a freshman elective being taught at Olin College of Engineering- a neighboring college that Babson students are allowed to cross-register at- that my understanding of music and myself changed altogether. The Wired Ensemble is a course where students learn how to compose and perform original works for instruments and voices, develop a “Composer’s Tool Chest,” and learn how to analyze and reflect upon music pieces. I was one of two seniors that took this class and the only student from Babson College.

The pre-requisite for taking this class was a basic knowledge of music and music theory, however this was a massive understatement. I had been in an acapella group and performed in numerous musicals and performances of my own, which I thought was enough to qualify my music knowledge. Creating, writing, and performing music myself would be a completely different story. I remember walking out of many classes close to tears, not being able to understand some of the most basic concepts and consistently receiving far too many edits on my pieces. Every day in that class I felt like a complete embarrassment. Yet, despite the frustrations I felt, there was something incredibly liberating about starting from zero. I could try, make mistakes, learn from them, and slowly improve. If I made a mistake, it would not be the first one I would make nor the last. Failure became normalized for me in this class, it became no big deal. With this revelation, along with a lot of personal growth since that senior year of high school, I was able to write my final paper for this class, a rewrite of my college essay, one that I had dreamed of rewriting for a long time.

Screen Shot 2020-08-17 at 8.51.02 PMIt had been my first big failure. I was an enthusiastic third-grader, ready to take the stage to sing in my church’s talent show. I had been a bit nervous, but felt the anxiety melt away as soon as I stepped into the spotlight; this is where I love to be. My eyes were glued to the lyric prompter on the back wall, a welcome distraction. I had almost made it halfway through my song when the prompter glitched and, in a panic, I forgot the words. I stood in silence for what felt like forever. Once the prompter righted itself, I finished the song and quickly ran off stage. I sat silently crying in my seat until the show was over, embarrassed for how poorly my performance had been. When the lights came up, I rushed into my mother’s arms as she consoled me and insisted that she didn’t even notice the blunder- but that is never our impression as performers, we notice everything that goes wrong, while the audience remains oblivious. But, I knew my mistake and that was enough to make me afraid of another failure.

From that point on, whenever I got onstage, I had debilitating stage fright. I would write lyrics on my hands, have nightmares of standing on stage in silence, and needed to be pushed on stage before every show. I wanted my singing to showcase my talent, preparation, and excellence and every performance seemed like a disappointment if it did not go to plan. The pressure for perfection overwhelmed and began to cripple me. The only reason I was able to pull myself back on stage was for the thrill of performing, my excitement for taking on challenges, and my true passion for music.

In reality, music sets you up for failure, inevitably, every performance will not turn out how you practiced it. Paradoxically, in this way, music sets you free from failure, it should be expected. This became evident with every show I watched following my talent show disaster. Once on opening night, I saw the musical “Hairspray” and was shocked when the actors began laughing hysterically during one of the comical scenes. The laughter became so uncontrollable that after 10 minutes the entire theatre was giggling and clapping along, a genuine moment exhibiting the joy of the unexpected. One performance after another, I began to witness singers forget their lyrics, sing the wrong harmonies, and have their voices crack and they were always O.K.; they walked off stage, they survived failure. Observing this helped me to remember that if I made a mistake on stage again, I would be O.K. too. My performances could have mess-ups and were inevitably going to turn out differently than I had practiced, and that would be alright. Despite the challenge, every performance gradually became easier. There were still doubts, discomfort, and bumps along the way, but I used my reactions to these mistakes to gauge my maturity in accepting these errors.

The unexpected nature of live performances is what makes them worth watching. There’s a certain authenticity and vulnerability in our failures that make our work truly personal, it makes them ours. I realized that it is not really about the product of the performance itself, it’s about sharing what you love with others and the medium just happens to be the music. This idea fully crystallized when I performed at Babson’s Aman show, my first performance in 3 years. I was so worried to have all my peers and close friends see a different, deeply personal side of me for the first time. However, before I entered the stage, I felt an unusual calmness I hadn’t felt since before that horrible day of the talent show. I had practiced and knew my music- I would be singing in both English and Hindi. There was no prompter, just me and the stage. Stepping into the light, I knew that this performance wasn’t for anyone else, it was for the little third grader inside of me and if I was singing for me, everything would be O.K. regardless of the outcome. And it was.