For the English Major with No Plan: Alumni Interview with Brooke Furry ’13

Hope graduate Brooke (McDonald) Furry shares her surprising journey into the world of marketing, and how her English degree prepared her to thrive in business and leisure.

Thanks for speaking with us, Brooke. So, what do you do now? And we’ve love to hear about how you got there, as well.

I’m a marketing manager. It wasn’t my plan, but here I am.

Like many English majors, all I wanted after graduation was to get paid to write! For my first job, I worked at a tiny web development agency in Minneapolis writing web copy for small businesses. I left after a year for a larger digital marketing agency, where I started out writing but ended up managing projects and working with clients. As the business grew, the pace sped up. I worked longer hours, ate too many Twizzlers, and cried a lot. Despite the stress, the lessons that agency life taught me — in advertising, strategy, creativity, quality — should count for a mini marketing degree!

When the time felt right, I took a new writer gig at a software company. It was comfortable and wonderful. As doors opened to new opportunities, however, I felt ready for something more. So I started walking through doors until I stepped into my current role managing a team.

Marketing is all about telling stories that resonate with people (and getting those people to act). Management is all about helping people succeed and grow. Blending the two has been a surprisingly good fit for me. I could not do this without both my English background and also those first few grueling years of agency life that filled the gaps.

How did your Hope English education shape you?

At a very basic level, it humbled me! I will never forget sitting in class my freshman year hearing classmates drop names I’d never heard of, like Toni Morrison and Aldous Huxley. These bright kids were far beyond me in their ability to articulate opinions and reach conclusions. Daily immersion with them (and the brilliant, thoughtful professors who guided us) sharpened and challenged my brain.

Exposure to the world’s best literature also refined my palette. I’d like to think I’m a more discerning reader now. Like people who love craft beer or making homemade pasta, once you’ve tasted what’s truly good, it’s darn near impossible to go back.

Creative writing classes taught me how to tell the truth, avoid the saccharine, and bring my “best whiskey” to the table (your metaphor will forever stick with me, Heather Sellers). I use these skills every day, in both professional and personal writing. 

Did you study off campus? And if so, what did it mean to you?

Yes! Junior year, I spent a semester participating in The Philadelphia Center (TPC). For 16 weeks, I interned at a legal newspaper, took urban issues and marketing classes, lived in Chinatown… and sampled all the cheesesteaks.

Living and working in the city was immensely practical. My fellow classmates and I learned to balance career, class, and tourism. We dealt with landlords, public transportation, and bosses — all with TPC as our safety net. And we gained what was, for most of us, our first real job experience. Personally, living downtown and mixing with students from other institutions exposed me to new viewpoints and helped me define my own values more clearly.

If I ever had a doubt beforehand that my liberal arts education wouldn’t translate to the “real world,” I left Philadelphia confident that it would. For any student who wants a trial run at adult life (and an excellent addition to your resume), I can’t recommend a program like this more highly. 

If you could start a nonprofit, who would it help?

Low-income mothers! Pregnancy and parenting are overwhelming enough for people with plenty of resources and quality healthcare. So many families worldwide want to care for their children but lack basic necessities, and it’s heartbreaking.

I say this because my husband and I are about to welcome our first child into the world, so motherhood is top of mind for me! As is reading all those books on my shelves that I haven’t had time to tackle. It’s going to be a lovely maternity leave.

Favorite book read recently or in college?

My book club recently read Tara Westover’s memoir Educated. What an unbelievable story of overcoming, told with such insight.

In one of the story’s defining moments, Tara finds herself at Cambridge University, far from home, dealing with major self-doubt. Despite high praise from her academic advisor, she attributes her success to “the Cambridge effect” — that at such a lofty institution, everything, including herself, appears more impressive than it really is.

And her advisor tells her this:

“You are not fool’s gold, shining only under a particular light. Whomever you become, whatever you make yourself into, that is who you always were.” 

I believe the gift of college is time and space not only to discover who you truly are, but who you can be. To help you shine for the rest of your life… whether you pursue grad school, the corporate world, teaching, starting your own business, or whatever path you choose. What a privilege!

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