You Majored in What?!

The path from college major to a professional career isn't always linear; in fact, it's a journey of experiences that build on top of one another creating new opportunities for growth and fulfillment. These Brandeis alumni have shifted their career paths since graduation and dispel the myth that your major defines your career. 

Dorothy Bishop
Dorothy Bishop ’68
Math Major to Professional Cellist
Location: Calgary, AB, Canada Industry: Music

 

 
In what ways has your career path since Brandeis been unexpected/nonlinear? How did your Brandeis experience inform this path?
Other than six weeks of programming computers, I've never worked in anything related to math. I am a professional cellist with performance and recording experience on three continents. I have also taught hundreds of students as a Reiki Master and Quantum Touch instructor.

What advice or insights do you have for others with a similar background or pursuing a similar path?
Doors open, walk through them! Don't be bound by your "plans."

Arnold Carter
Arnold Carter ’72
Math Major to Legislative Aide
Location: Huntington, NY Industry: Government
Current Role: Legislative Aide, Town of Huntington

 

Brandeis Clubs & Activities

WBRS, The Justice

In what ways has your career path since Brandeis been unexpected/nonlinear? How did your Brandeis experience inform this path?

During my undergraduate career, I was a math major and also involved with WBRS and The Justice Newspaper, which fed my interest in writing and communications. After a summer internship at Newsday on Long Island heading into my junior year, I decided I wanted to pursue a career in newspapers. Since I had already fulfilled the requirements for the math major, I spent the next two years taking a variety of courses (heavy on economics) that helped me better prepare for a journalism career. I ended up spending 34 years in the newspaper business as a reporter, editor and columnist before changing careers again. For the past 12 years, I have worked in government communications; running the press shop at a state agency and serving as the spokesman for a town of 200,000 people on Long Island.

What advice or insights do you have for others with a similar background or pursuing a similar path?

Never underestimate the value of what you can learn from an extracurricular activity at Brandeis and take advantage of the broad range of courses. It's good to become an expert in your chosen field through your coursework, but taking the time to explore different subjects and different disciplines may uncover some hidden talents and interests. It can open up a whole range of career options that you might never have considered.

Susan Dodes
Susan Dodes ’83
American Studies Major to Music Professor
Location: New York, NY Industry: Music / Higher Education
Current Role: Faculty Professor, Steinhardt Music Industry Program - NYU

 

Brandeis Clubs & Activities

WBRS, Women's Soccer

In what ways has your career path since Brandeis been unexpected/nonlinear? How did your Brandeis experience inform this path?

I was an American studies major with the intention of going to law school. I come from a musical family so I channeled my life-long love of music and the creative process into my work as a DJ at WBRS and a music reviewer for the Justice. The idea of actually working in the music business, a business with no seemingly viable "port of entry" at the time, seemed like a fantasy. By graduation, I decided to take a year off before attending law school, headed to Los Angeles and ultimately landed my first job in the music industry at a major music publishing company in New York. My parents wanted me to work for one year and then attend law school but after my first taste of working with artists, songwriters and the people surrounding them, I never looked back! I did receive a masters degree from Columbia in American studies some years later, which helped me transition from a long career as a music executive to a professor in music industry studies. 

What advice or insights do you have for others with a similar background or pursuing a similar path?

If you feel so passionate about something, even if it feels out of reach, do all you can to learn about it. Try talking to people who are involved and pursue it with intelligence and excitement. Just because you have no real experience in something doesn't mean you can't gain that experience. Your passion and ability to learn and be flexible will get you in the door. The rest will be up to you.

Warren Feld
Warren Feld ’75
Anthropology Major to Jewelry Designer
Location: Nashville, TN Industry: Retail
Current Role: Proprietor and Jewelry Designer, Land of Odds-Be Dazzled Beads

 

Brandeis Clubs & Activities

Orientation committee

In what ways has your career path since Brandeis been unexpected/nonlinear? How did your Brandeis experience inform this path?

After Brandeis, I received a masters in city and regional planning from Rutgers and a doctorate in public health from the University of North Carolina. From there I held various positions in the industry including working at the University of Mississippi as a professor in health planning, health planning consulting, health policy planner for the Governor of Tennessee and the associate director of the Tennessee Primary Care Association. Though I was thriving professionally, I felt distant from the field and the work I was doing and decided that my happiness was more important than money. I met my partner and we built a business around her jewelry designing where I gradually became a designer as well. 

What advice or insights do you have for others with a similar background or pursuing a similar path?

It's difficult to keep doing things that make you unhappy, even if it's lucrative or puts you into a position of power. The corporate life gives you a title, job description and a salary which is an easy way to find a purpose in life. When on your own, you're still a very educated and driven person and you still need meaning in your life. Whatever career change you make, make it authentic and purposeful. The world doesn't end when you make the transition but you will probably lose most of your social network that is often so tied to the field you are working in. You have to be prepared to build up a new support system as well. Your friends and family may not understand your choices but they will get over it.

Amy Guttell
Amy Guttell ’99
American Studies, Journalism Major to Assistant Principal
Location: Queens, NY Industry: Education
Current Role: Assistant Principal, NYC DOE/PS 131

 


Brandeis Clubs & Activities

WBRS, Waltham Group, DPhiE sorority

 

In what ways has your career path since Brandeis been unexpected/nonlinear? How did your Brandeis experience inform this path?

I graduated and started a career in television. I worked for Nickelodeon, specifically in the production of Blue’s Clues for four years. When the show ended, I worked for Lifetime Television and after a year, I decided to become a teacher. I applied to be a New York City Teaching Fellow and started teaching in 2004. Eventually, I went back to pursue a second masters in administration and now am an assistant principal. Switching careers came quite easily as Brandeis provided me with such a broad range of skills that prepared me in this transition. 

What advice or insights do you have for others with a similar background or pursuing a similar path?

Do what you love but don’t be afraid to take a risk to find out what else you may love!
Amanda Kampel
Amanda Kampel ’98
Biology Major to Design Consultant
Industry: Software Current Role: Design Consultant, Oracle

 

 

Brandeis Clubs & Activities

Waltham Group

In what ways has your career path since Brandeis been unexpected/nonlinear? How did your Brandeis experience inform this path?

Immediately following Brandeis, I went to Boston University in pursuit of an MPH and part of that program was to do a practice placement. I fulfilled this by recruiting subjects from the pediatric emergency room to participate in clinical trials. This initially started my path of working in clinical trials and led to a career as a clinical data manager. From there, I designed databases for electronic data capture and though this path was completely unexpected, I've used what I learned in biology every step of the way.

What advice or insights do you have for others with a similar background or pursuing a similar path?

You can do more with your biology degree than be a doctor or a bench scientist. It can lead you in a lot of interesting directions!

Melissa Leventon
Melissa Leventon ’80
English Major to Museum Consultant
Location: San Francisco, CA Industry: Museum consulting and appraisal
Current Role: Principal, Curatrix Group

 

Brandeis Clubs & Activities

Gilbert & Sullivan Society, choir, theater wardrobe department 

In what ways has your career path since Brandeis been unexpected/nonlinear? How did your Brandeis experience inform this path?

I toyed with different majors before settling on English. It was a combination of my experiences during my junior year abroad at Edinburgh University coupled with advice from professor Maureen Heneghan in the theater department that helped me figure out what I actually wanted to do; which was to become a museum curator. I pursued this in graduate school and ended up as curator of textiles at the Fine Arts Museums of San Franciso for sixteen years. When I was in my early forties, I got restless and wanted change without having to leave the Bay Area. I ended up quitting my job to open my own museum consulting and appraisal business, which was unbelievably scary and had its struggles during the first few years. Ultimately I ended up landing at a local art college as an adjunct faculty to help get myself established and after seventeen years of consulting, I can say it's been an amazing ride. 

What advice or insights do you have for others with a similar background or pursuing a similar path?

It's a cliché that majors like English are impractical because they don't train students for specific careers but for me, that simply wasn't true. I am so grateful that I chose English as a major as it exposed me to great writing, taught how to analyze text and pushed to hone my own writing. No less important was that English required only 8 courses to complete the major, which allowed me time to explore courses in other disciplines and to take my junior year abroad. Without that leeway, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to discover the career path I actually took. Who knows what I would have ended up doing?!

Jennifer Press
Jennifer Press ’09
American Studies Major to Interior Designer
Location: New York, NY Industry: Interior Design
Current Role: Principal and Founder, Press Interiors

 

Brandeis Clubs & Activities

Women's varsity fencing (captain), Brandeis Intramurals (captain), Adagio, PEZ, Prevent Child Abuse and Sigma Delta Tau

In what ways has your career path since Brandeis been unexpected/nonlinear? How did your Brandeis experience inform this path?

I've always been interested in all things design but Brandeis felt like a second home more than any other school I visited (including those with design programs), so I decided to attend and later go to graduate school for design. In between undergrad and graduate school, I worked mainly in education and politics and it was my Brandeis education and my non-academic experiences, that allowed me to be successful in those fields. Still yearning for a career in design, I ultimately applied to graduate school and will graduate in May 2019 at the top of my class with high honors. My strong work ethic coupled with the desire to break any and all glass ceilings instilled in me as a Brandeisian is what ultimately inspired me to start my own company, Press Interiors, while completing my graduate degree.

What advice or insights do you have for others with a similar background or pursuing a similar path?

Don't worry if Brandeis doesn't offer a comprehensive study of what you're ultimately interested in pursuing in your professional career. I spent seven years post-grad working in fields somewhat related to my major and minor, none of which had anything to do with my career today. During that time, I was promoted three times, lived in three different cities and gained invaluable knowledge that would not have been possible had I attended a different university. Unfortunately, as an interior designer, I've learned it's not uncommon for "outsiders" to assume my intelligence is average and even equate my career with a hobby. When new clients learn that I graduated from Brandeis, their tone immediately changes and my role as a designer is taken more seriously. The name "Brandeis University" carries weight and it means something, and for that alone, I will forever be grateful.

Kirsten Robbins
Kirsten Robbins ’01
Psychology Major to Associate Chief Counsel
Location: Washington, DC Industry: Financial Regulation
Current Role: Associate Chief Counsel - Division of Clearing and Risk, Commodity Futures Trading Commission

 

Brandeis Clubs & Activities

Psychology Club, Adagio Dance Company, Roosevelt Fellow

In what ways has your career path since Brandeis been unexpected/nonlinear? How did your Brandeis experience inform this path?

I went straight from Brandeis to Harvard Law School and then worked for two different law firms as a litigator on a wide variety of matters, which was itself unusual at that time. I moved to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a federal agency in 2012 without ever thinking that I would be involved in financial regulation as I had no interest and actively avoided such classes in law school. Starting in 2017, my work took another left turn and I started doing a lot of international work and travel; representing the agency abroad. I've come to find that this work is very fulfilling and I very much love it.

What advice or insights do you have for others with a similar background or pursuing a similar path?

Be open to new opportunities when they present themselves because career paths are often non-linear and surprising. Be proactive and take charge of your career and define your place. Reach out to alumni to see if you can have a conversation with them by phone or over coffee and ask if they can introduce you to someone who might take you closer to where you ultimately want to be.

Rob Sherman
Rob Sherman ’98
Sociology Major to Chief Information Security Officer & Vice President
Location: Boston, MA Industry: Real Estate and Telecommunications
Current Role: Chief Information Security Officer & Vice President -IT, American Tower Corporation

 

Brandeis Clubs & Activities
Hillel, Family Weekend, Office of Campus Life (Community Advisor)

 

In what ways has your career path since Brandeis been unexpected/nonlinear? How did your Brandeis experience inform this path?
 
I entered Brandeis expecting to be "pre-Rabbi" and spent most of the first year in NEJS classes. By sophomore year, I switched to sociology & legal studies/HLS and thought I was "pre-law" and then as a senior, I decided to enter the workforce instead of attending law school. I had interned (as part of the HLS minor) at Health Care For All, a Boston nonprofit health care consumer organization and they hired me after graduation. Through a series of subsequent events, I ended up in the telecommunications space, focusing on cybersecurity. First at a large internet service provider, later a software company and now, a senior member of management at a Fortune 500 / S&P 500 publicly traded company.

What advice or insights do you have for others with a similar background or pursuing a similar path?

The path from Brandeis classes to career will rarely be linear. Treat each as a building block/path to the next step. Studies show that many of the careers that will be necessary for the next 20-30 years (and likely filled by the type of students that Brandeis attracts) don't even exist today - so be flexible and leverage past experiences. As a leader in the cybersecurity space, I often find myself in conversations about societal changes/behaviors that lead to cyber breaches and pull out some knowledge from a sociology class 25 years ago. Being successful in a career is all about bringing your collective experiences together and formulating a solution and that includes Brandeis classwork.

Alison Simon
Alison Simon ’17
Computer Science Major to Marketing Coordinator
Location: Bethesda, MD Industry: Consturction
Current Role: Marketing Coordinator, Donohoe Construction Company

 

Brandeis Clubs & Activities

Ballroom dance team, Brandeis in Siena, Hiatt Career Center staff

In what ways has your career path since Brandeis been unexpected/nonlinear? How did your Brandeis experience inform this path?

I started out thinking I would major in biology and work in prosthetics but walked out with a double major in studio art and computer science with a minor in English. My first job out of school was working at AT&T Public Sector Solutions. It didn't work out well for me for a host of reasons but mainly that the technological parts of the work weren't as intriguing as I hoped they would be. Motivated to make a change, I landed my current role doing marketing for a large construction firm and really enjoy it. 

If you told me when I was a freshman I would wind up here, I would have laughed in your face. I came to realize Brandeis was just the start of a super long journey. While I'll never be an undergrad again, Brandeis has been there as a resource since I graduated. I still pull from my experiences at school, they're all helpful- even if the connection between coding and construction isn't apparent.

What advice or insights do you have for others with a similar background or pursuing a similar path?

I used to think the choices I made at Brandeis would determine what I would do with the rest of my life and wouldn't be able to walk off the path I thought I had mistakenly put myself on. It took me a while to realize that I can do whatever I want. Experiences and knowledge can move outside of industries- skills are transferable, even if the vocabulary surrounding them changes. I've learned that nothing could prepare me for where I am now and I'm so far off anything I ever imagined for myself, and that's okay! Plans change as you change- and sometimes you're completely lost and that's completely okay, too. I have a few pieces of advice for Brandeis students. First, take advantage of advisors- I wish I had done that. Second, study what you love but look for work and internship experiences. Third, enjoy school- you miss it when it's over.

Eve Wexler
Eve Wexler '02
English & American Literature Major to Pediatrician
Location: Atlanta, GA Industry: Healthcare
Current Role: Pediatrician/Owner, Briarvista Pediatrics

 

Brandeis Clubs & Activities

Hillel (president)

In what ways has your career path since Brandeis been unexpected/nonlinear? How did your Brandeis experience inform this path?

I had always planned on being a pediatrician but decided to major in a non-science. I figured I had the rest of my life for the science world, so I wanted to spend my four years at Brandeis learning about other topics. I majored in English & American literature and took classes in NEJS, sociology, history and ethics. I did complete the pre-med coursework and ended up with a double major, only because I was interested in two higher-level biology courses and that was enough for the second degree. I am convinced that my non-science background helped me get into the medical school I wanted and helped me do well there and in residency. It has for sure impacted my daily life as a pediatrician. I have better communication skills than many of my colleagues and that is a big reason why my solo practice is thriving one year after opening!

What advice or insights do you have for others with a similar background or pursuing a similar path?

Non-science backgrounds make physicians better physicians. Many medical schools and residencies are now looking for applicants who explored outside the sciences; acknowledging that makes us better physicians. Students should not be afraid to study what interests them in college - the career will fall into place.

Betty Wytias
Betty Wytias ’79
Music Major to Attorney
Location: Denver, CO Industry: Law
Current Role: Domestic Violence Attorney & Policy Advisor

 

Brandeis Clubs & Activities

Coffey Prize for music, undergraduate-faculty colloquia (founder), Gilbert & Sullivan Society, early music ensemble, concert choir

In what ways has your career path since Brandeis been unexpected/nonlinear? How did your Brandeis experience inform this path?

Brandeis helped make me a singing lawyer! I am now in Colorado's Attorney Law Club that performs Ethics Revues. I graduated from NYU School of Law in 1993 and was the soloist for graduation singing the National Anthem with a 10-piece brass band. I was also in the Law Revue Show and sang front and center at Carnegie Hall celebrating 100 years of women at the law school and was the head of our Amnesty International chapter. Prior to law school, my 'bread & butter' job, while pursuing a classical-music singing career in New York City, was working for the Justice & Society Program of the Aspen Institute. Justice Harry Blackmun, the inspiration for our summer Aspen Justice & Society Seminars, became a cherished friend and was a music lover that wrote me a law school recommendation. My Brandeis singing and advocacy skills circuitously led me to be the Colorado Attorney General's Domestic Violence Policy Advisor, oddly, serendipitously enough!

What advice or insights do you have for others with a similar background or pursuing a similar path?

Keep an open mind. Don't deny yourself an opportunity for work or travel or pursuing loved interests because you think they might not lead you to the dream you have. Dreams and life-paths can and do change. Trust your instincts and don't be afraid to humbly but persistently ask questions and listen to the mentors you are going to find along the way. You have more creativity and courage than you could have ever imagined. Never would I have thought in a million years, nor did my family & friends, that I would have become a lawyer and in many unconventional ways, a successful one. I have dedicated my professional and personal life to help change lives, laws, policies and attitudes around domestic violence. Pre-Brandeis, I was a survivor of domestic violence from my first marriage and in many ways, Brandeis helped me heal.