Alumni Spotlight: Brenden Lee G’12

by Jiaman Peng

July 15, 2019

Public relations alumnus says the most fulfilling career path allows for evolving passions

Brenden Lee G'12
Brenden Lee G'12 Courtesy Brenden Lee

Brenden Lee G’12 always wanted to work in sports communications. After graduating from the Newhouse School with a master’s degree in public relations, he got a position in communications with the Philadelphia Eagles, and networked his way from there to a full-time job at the NFL. Lee had landed his “dream job,” and then discovered that dreams can change, and that’s okay.

“When I was a student, I used to be so concerned with the right path and doing the perfect step-by-step ladder [but] I learned that there's no such thing,” he said. “What you might like today, you're not going to like in five years, or you might like it in a different way.”

Lee left the NFL for Twitter, where he took a position leading sports partnerships communications.  He recently moved to a new role in corporate communications. We chatted with Lee about his career path, and the lessons he learned along the way.

How did you get each of the jobs you’ve had?

Going to [the] Philadelphia Eagles was just applying the old school way. I had, over the years, always sent letters and applied because I wanted to get into sports. At the end of [my time at] Syracuse, they called me back; I did the interview and got that job.

Going from the Eagles to the NFL was networking. Towards the end of my time at the Eagles, I was on LinkedIn looking at different people's backgrounds to see the path that they took to different jobs. I had reached out to a guy at the NFL office at the time who looked like he had a path that I would want to [follow], too. At the end of that phone call, he said, “By the way, we have a job opening up in a week or two, you should apply for it.” I wasn't even looking [for] a job and I never would have even known the job existed had I not networked and just made a phone call because they weren't going to post it on online.

Going from the NFL to Twitter was a mix of both. I had been looking around to see what opportunities were out there. I saw this one online, applied for it; at the same time, I used other contacts that I knew had connections here to pass my name to [the top of] the pile.

How important is networking in a job application process?

There’s no right or wrong way, but I like telling the NFL story because a lot of young people hate networking and are nervous to network, but I never would have gotten that job without networking.

What’s the most valuable thing you learned from your time at Newhouse?

The emphasis on learning something new, quickly, and then digesting it so that you understand it. At work, you're learning a new project or [working toward] a goal, and you have to synthesize what the actual problems are, figure out how to solve them, and then your end project or your campaign or the story that's written in the newspaper is like the final exam.

Do you think passion is something that’s fixed or always evolving?

Definitely evolving. I feel like people get so caught up in, “I have this passion, this is what I'm going to do the rest of my life.” I was a passionate sports fan growing up, always wanted to work in sports, but I realized maybe I don't want to work in sports in the way that [I worked] at the NFL. I've learned about myself, that I want to touch parts of the business that matter and how companies are perceived. I learned that I don't have to be working on sports to enjoy working at Twitter, so I’m learning different parts of the business to tell the great stories we have elsewhere and in doing that, I'm also expanding my tools and skillsets for down the road.

What’s the most important skill to have as a professional in communications?

It's important in any line of business to write well. It sticks out like a sore thumb when people cannot write well. You should be able to write well in different formats, even things as simple as well-written emails go a long way in [people’s] perceptions [of you]. I feel like I'm a pretty good writer, but I had a boss at the NFL who was an exceptional writer and would make these really small tweaks on what I write that are really smart. Some people are really blessed with it and some people struggle with it, but I think people should always be trying to strengthen that [skill].

What's your biggest advice to students?

You don't get what you don't ask for. I learned that from our head of partnerships at Twitter, Laura Froelich. What she means is that most people in the business world are willing to help you get to places, but people can't help you if they don't know what you want, whether it's a new opportunity, negotiating your salary or networking. If you're not asking for what you want, nobody else is standing up for you. You have to stand up for you.

Jiaman Peng is a junior advertising student at the Newhouse School.