Leigh Browne


Location: Austin, TX

"Julia Child didn’t learn to cook until she was 36. And I really doubt she wasted time worrying about wasted time."

I started out as a newspaper reporter. When I decided to leave journalism, I had no idea where I’d end up. I just knew that newspapers were struggling and that I was burning out. I needed some time to figure out what to do next, so I took a marketing job and even explored an MBA. That's how I discovered the creative advertising sequence at The University of Texas. It felt like just the right balance of business and fun, so I decided to go for it.

Still, it was going to be a big investment of money and time. Plus, I’d be almost 31 by the time I graduated. But I kept reminding myself that Julia Child didn’t learn to cook until she was 36. And I really doubt she wasted time worrying about wasted time.

I studied like mad for the GRE, wrote my application essay and reached out for recommendations. I not only got in; I also got a fellowship that covered my first year of tuition.

I worked remotely for the first year, which was stressful. Weekends became just another time to work. Many nights my husband would go to bed, and I’d stay up working into the next morning.

I had a mantra that kept me going, "When you’re green, you grow. When you’re ripe, you rot." Repeating that helped me remember that if I wasn’t in over my head at least some of the time, then I probably wasn’t getting any better. I also realized that I couldn’t focus enough on my new career when I was still using up so much energy on my old one. So I put in my notice.

A month before graduation, I became the first member of my class to get hired by an ad agency, GSD&M. Since then, my age hasn’t held me back. Even though sometimes I wish I'd found copywriting at 22, I don't know if I would have been any good. Everything that led me here makes me who I am today.

At times I feel like I wandered into my career because my path has curved so much. But I’ve learned that if you stay flexible and open to what the world offers, detours can get you exactly where you need to be.