Femi Brinson is an extraordinarily talented young professional. Traveling around the world -- consulting for Deloitte while also giving back to over 4,500 students in 4 key areas in Africa via his family's non-profit, Seeds of Knowledge. Read about our #MCM and his inspiring advice:
1. What's your story? What makes you unique?
I was born into a bi-cultural household that (thankfully!) never lets me forget where we've come from. My mother, from Benin, and my father, from Florida, both came from humble beginnings and have taught my brother and I the value of hard work and education. My brother is now a senior at UGA; I'm incredibly proud of him and what he's been able to accomplish. He's what keeps me going - we have a great, supportive relationship and he's without a doubt why I work so hard.
I'm a product of great patience (from those who've had to put up with me :) ) and mentorship. I've had incredible friends & mentors, who all come from different walks in life, and I feel that I get better with each conversation because I'm able to "steal" some wisdom and insight from them on a constant basis. I believe that makes me and everyone else unique - we are all a compilation of the unique experiences and people in our lives.
2. What motivates you?
What motivates me is my family - a boring answer, but I've seen the sacrifices and tough times my parents have endured in order to provide my brother and I great educations and experiences. They've worked hard to provide and be good role models, and I hope to be half the parents they have been to my own children one day. Additionally, being a person of color in this country, I'll always feel a sense of duty to do well so that I can pull others up and provide words of encouragement and advice.
3. Who is a hero of yours?
I'm going to cheat a little bit - and name two. The biggest heros and influences in my life have been my grandparents. My grandfather was a quiet man, who worked in a Coca-Cola packaging plant to support his children and help put his wife through her Master's Program. My grandmother, definitely the more tenacious & outspoken of the two preached about the value of education each and every time we spoke. They both were huge on ensuring that my father & his siblings were in church & in school. Those lessons have definitely been passed down and the importance of faith and education in my family can be traced to Leonard & Willie Mae Brinson. While they are no longer with us on this earth, I like to think a little part of them will always live in me, and I'll work to make them proud.
4. What's your future plan? Your goals?
So far, I really do enjoy my job. I work on challenging problems with incredibly smart people - and I'm hoping that some of the brain power and knowledge rubs off. Something that's great about the firm I work for is that there are a number of ways for me to use the collective brainpower of my peers and the firm's resource to bring about change for causes that I care about. Looking forward, I want to go to business school and return to consulting and continue on this path of learning. In the future, I want to start tackling issues in low-income communities through economic & political empowerment, seminars, micro-financing, and pro-bono consulting. Additionally, I want to be involved in mentorship and career development at colleges across the country, specifically for low-income / minority students who may not have the institutional knowledge on hand to understand the career moves to make while they are still in college. I was extremely blessed to have parents and mentors give some great insight, and even then there was a lot of digging and learning I had to do independently to get the most out of my college experience from a professional development standpoint.
5. If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
Again - cheating a bit because I realize that with my limited time on this earth, I'm probably not qualified to be giving life advice! But, my parents definitely preached the following (and I'm paraphrasing a little bit):
Realize that learning opportunities don't stop - never be too stubborn or closed off to absorb what the world gives you. Whether that be new experiences, fresh conversations, or challenging situations, there is so much to learn. Listen, not hear. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
I think that those lessons are really important because it allows you to become a better version of yourself each and every day.
6. What is something you feel strongly about (a cause, belief, etc.)?
I'm extremely passionate about education, and I mean that in a broad sense. I categorize education in three ways: 1)formal academic training, 2) professional development, and 3) personal development. I really hope to either start or be heavily involved in organizations that support all three of these areas throughout my life. Something I'm very involved in now is Seeds of Knowledge (SOW), which is a non-profit started by my family. The organization is dedicated to supporting the educational needs of children in Africa - to date, we've helped over 4,500 children in Benin, Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Ethiopia. We help by building relationships with schools and understanding their needs. Following these sessions & conversations, we start to help by either providing textbooks, supplemental materials, or even building or repairing libraries or infrastructure in the communities we serve. I'll continue to be involved in SOW because I feel that with just a little bit of help and love, we can dramatically change the futures of children all across the world.
7. What's one of the coolest things you've ever done?
During my sophomore summer, my mother and I traveled to Benin - her home country in the western part of Africa. While this wasn't the first time I'd been, it was the first time I had the chance to go on behalf of UGA & Seeds of Knowledge to support our partner schools. Being in Benin was, as always, a blast! From traveling to the capital to my family's house to the country's main attractions, there was a ton of culture to immerse myself in. I've always known about the work we do, but to go to Benin and see kids awaiting for their books and pencils, or to see to hundreds of kids running to get in position for us to distribute textbooks was a goosebumps moment for me. It clicked. This is why we work so hard. This is the labor of our love. To be able to share that moment with my mother was incredible, and it is a memory that I will cherish forever.
8. Anything we haven't asked that you'd like to talk about.
I think it's extremely important to give back to institutions and programs that invest in you. Mere Bear (Dean's List very own Meredith Dean) and I met through SAC, and through that organization I was able to see firsthand how donations of time and finances can improve programs that give us so much. For me, the Institute for Responsible Citizenship changed my life. For two summers in the capital, I was surrounded by incredibly smart and gifted black men from around the country. While I went in nervous & intimidated, I graduated the program feeling that I could do any and everything. For that reason, I'll always support the Institute financially and with programming efforts.
So if there's an organization or program that you love, consider giving back by donating or offering to help out with programing!