My parents came to America as young adults — my mother from a dairy farm in Ireland and my father from a subsistence village in Pakistan. They guided me to cultural and educational opportunities they never enjoyed growing up. While I played the violin quite seriously, in boarding school my interests turned towards the hard sciences and Latin curricula.
These pursuits continued through graduate school, where I pursued a PhD in Sociology. Sociology combines my interests in math and science with a more humanistic impulse that helps me feel my work is connected to the everyday lives of people.
At the age of 27 I began teaching at Columbia University. My area of expertise is studying Elites in both the U.S. and abroad. I define Elites as those who have vastly disproportionate control over or access to a resource. That resource could be money, but it could also be cultural influence or even social status. I study Elites and all their dimensionality to understand poverty. Because while the poor have been stuck in place for decades, the rich have been getting much much richer. Within this are lessons for addressing the phenomenon of growing inequality.
I’ve used a range of methods to explore this interest from ethnography to history and network science. To do my work, I’ve had to develop expertise in a range of methodologies, both quantitative and qualitative. I teach these methods at Columbia as well.
As time progressed, I have become more involved with commercial enterprises. I enjoy it because it yet another way besides Academics to find clever solutions to difficult puzzles. I like inhabiting the particular and knowing the gritty details that give an idea its life.
I grew up in Minneapolis. When I was in high school I was strong (or thought I was) at math and science so enrolled in college to become a doctor. All it took was one 7:00 AM biology course to convince me that my medical ambitions were misguided. I ended up earning a degree in English Literature, and began dreaming of a glamorous, luxurious career in advertising.
I started out at a small agency that had a surprisingly diverse and prestigious brand roster. I quickly learned that advertising was neither glamorous nor luxurious, but I loved it. My ambitions grew, and I began graduate work to enhance my school-of-hard-knocks experience with formal business training.
Midway through my degree, I was recruited by an agency run by brilliant, experienced packaged goods marketers where they trained me in classic marketing tools and techniques. It was sink or swim, so I swam. I wrote plans that I had no business writing or presenting at that age, but they somehow earned me a promotion. I feel in love, and moved to New York. I landed a job in the direct marketing division of Ammirati Puris — which was like the Calvin Klein of agencies at the time.
I wanted to add general advertising and digital experience to my résumé so I went to at Ogilvy to work on a big global account: IBM. The agency team was massive (1800 people) and over time it felt like a distributor of advertising versus a creator of advertising. Uninspired, I joined South African Airways, working alongside McKinsey consultants to build a new subsidiary designed to increase international travel to Africa. I hired 8 agencies, built a brand, and worked like a dog across multiple time zones.
Three months before launch, the funding was pulled. I paused briefly to recover from start up mode, considered my next move, and then watched the .com bust unfold. Twenty thousand advertising professionals were out of work in New York, so I didn’t bother looking for a staff job. Instead, I started fielding consulting assignments from brands and agencies. I’ve never looked back.
My formative childhood years were spent in a stereotypical American suburb outside Detroit. From my prep school days, I developed an abiding passion for the history of ideas and a love of the historian’s complex engagement with the past. As an undergraduate, I studied literature and philosophy and I was fascinated by the often contradictory ways distinct disciplines organized knowledge.
My graduate school career began in philosophical aesthetics and with a consideration of the relationship between film and the world. My studies quickly expanded to filmmakers and their organizations and then to media industries and creative economies. I ended up earning an interdisciplinary doctorate combining sociology and media studies.
I spent ten years at New York University teaching the history and sociology of creative organizations and industries. I published four books examining the organizational evolution, productions, and social roles of the film, media and entertainment industries. They rely on a range of methods, including archival research, content and textual analysis, ethnography and interviews, and often consciously employ cross-disciplinary approaches.
For the past six years my teaching and research have focused on leadership, organizational cultures, and the nature of work in creative industries and economies. I am currently writing a history of creative leadership beginning at the turn of the twentieth century. I am a firm believer that thinking more critically, creatively, and historically are undervalued resources for business leaders striving to build advantage and to make a purposeful and positive future.
I began my career in London where I worked for the creative agencies Saatchi and Fallon. I was fortunate enough at that time to have my work described in the UK advertising press as “inventive and open-minded … advertising’s future.”
Russell Simmons then recruited me to New York to be the founding head of planning at dRush, a venture that combined authentic pop culture with advertising. While there, I won the ‘Cool Brand Leaders’ award from the International Brands Council.
After dRush, I continued to consult for one of our clients, Courvoisier, and helped them create Atelier Courvoisier. Virgin Atlantic was also a client and ‘The Campaign for Little Britain’ my team created for Virgin was selected as one of the ‘150 Winning Campaigns for the New Communications Age’ that year.
At the same time, I became a frequent speaker, columnist, and blogger on creative strategy. I have also launched Byronesque.com, an editorial and e-commerce business with the aim to modernize the vintage fashion industry. I was flattered that it won an honorary WWD Clio Image Award.
I was born in New York, and whisked off to live in Rio until my family settled in London for the bulk of my existence. My parents introduced me to a European sensibility and an appreciation of how Old World/New World values can coexist.
After receiving my education at Oxford, I hoped to work in fashion, music, television or film even if it meant just making the coffee. I landed at the European outpost of MTV and was surrounded by an international team of advertising sales people. As sales people are wont to do, they were driven by the thrill of the chase but I found myself more interested in my clients’ brand strategies.
Eager to work in the emerging Internet realm, I accepted a job with AOL where I was given free reign to build online content channels and devise interactive products. It was a real change of scene — a chance to shape culture in new and significant ways and to grow professionally.
Carat, the media agency, then offered me their first strategic planning role in New York so I dropped everything and moved to the States. After 9 years there — having worked on P&G and extended my practice to automotive and spirits — I decided to leave the agency to work on other strategic engagements, including prestige brands, the arts and innovation.
After growing up in Rockland County, New York, my interest in the sciences landed me at MIT where I hopped from major to major until I took a Political Science course. The concept of understanding and predicting behavior was fascinating to me, and I felt fortunate to be at a school that was at the forefront of predictive analytics in the Social Sciences.
My first job was working for former Governor (then Senator) David Paterson, and I moved around the public policy world. I found it lacking in empirics, so I enrolled at Columbia University and their new program in Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences. I became part of one of the earliest waves of data analysts in the field.
After a short stint as an Economist, I switched to the more fast-paced world of Wall Street for applied analytical experience. A few years later, I moved to the other side of the country to earn my PhD in Political Science at the University of California, San Diego, a school known for strong analytics.
Having completed my degree, I turned to applying my skills in the real world. I find it inherently interesting, whether predicting physician prescribing behavior for Abbott Labs or evaluating the impact of sanitation programs in Indonesia for The World Bank. I enjoy trying to understand the motivations behind human behavior as well as how to elevate how organizations provide goods and services.
I was born in Asia and came to New York at age 8. I’ve either lived in or across the rivers of Manhattan ever since. Because my parents left their businesses and families in the Philippines in order to start new lives in the United States, I was programmed early on to take risks and embrace change. This is one of the reasons I’ve always been drawn to technology.
My first digital project was as Assistant Producer on an Art of the Western world series which covered Ancient Greece to German Post-Modernism. After the completion of the project I felt compelled to visit the locations of the architecture and art featured in the series. Because I was raised speaking Filipino and English (and later studied Latin, Spanish, and French), my passable language skills have made my travels more pleasant.
While working for various agencies, I built websites and online campaigns for brands from Audi and ToysRUs to Lego and Coach. In addition, I was launch CEO of one of the first e-commerce consulting firms where we built online stores for fashion brands like Nine West and MAC. After a successful run at this Rosemary Bravo, the former CEO of Burberry, recruited me to launch their online store. I was subsequently hired to build multi-national e-commerce sites for Frette and La Perla as well as run their digital marketing departments.
In 2010 I left my corporate positions to launch several start ups, including an online store that features emerging designers worldwide and an Instagram-like app that helps musicians get paid. Recently my expertise has centered on advising organizations on third screen, e-commerce, and multi-channel marketing initiatives which frequently target millennials.
Throughout my digital journey I’ve won a CineChart Online Award and been called “brilliant” by Mac Observer and Entrepreneur Magazine. I was also featured in TNW News’ ‘50 People In New York’s Tech Scene That You Need to Know’.
I am a mom to Mateo, a 13-year-old digital native who unbeknownst to him repeatedly serves as my ethnographic subject. Often, you will find us using the latest apps, platforms, and systems before others have even heard of them.