The story that prompted my big adventure

Sitting at my dining table, alone in my apartment as usual, I was taking a quick break between Skype college counseling calls to devour my avocado BLT (key to my heart).  I decided to catch up on some reading by scrolling through my Facebook feed since interesting articles always seem to pop up based on what my phone heard me say yesterday.

That’s when I saw this:

remote year ad.png

It was like seeing myself in my living room right in that moment…but with an exciting city scape begging to be explored as a backdrop, rather than the unimpressive beige wall of my apartment that had been painted 500 times over.

I stared at the picture for a few moments, imagining that I was there overlooking the faded red rooftops. Of course I command-clicked the link, was fascinated with what I learned, and came back to Facebook.

remote year ad post.png

Boom. The thought was put into existence. The seed had been planted.

3 rounds of application later… *deep breath* would you like to see what anxiety looks like? (watch the video…I just finished working out, but still)

Sure, anyone can see the allure of seeing the world.
But what was the driving force behind my decision?
(If you’ve already watched the first video I posted on this blog, click HERE to skip what I wrote in my application)

Why Remote Year?

Remote Year is the first thing that I’ve ever purely wanted for myself. My past is filled with pushing myself out of my comfort zone mostly to make others proud of me. 4 years ago after graduating from college in Los Angeles, I left everything behind and moved to Korea alone to pursue entertainment to make my mom proud. Despite the exciting growth I experienced from adapting to a new culture and lifestyle, I didn’t feel fulfilled because I wasn’t doing it for me.

2 months ago, I made a promise to myself – that I would be completely unapologetically me and not do things just to please others. When I found out about Remote Year, a passion match was lit and I was on fire. Do I see uncertainty as an adventure and thrive when I’m exploring? Yes! Do I love to create awesome new experiences with interesting people? You bet! Have I always pushed myself out of my comfort zone, teased lessons out of experiences, and enjoyed the ride no matter how bumpy? Absolutely! So this is really the perfect opportunity for me!

I want to explore the world, and this is the first time in my life that I’m able to say I’m doing it because I want it. I’ve already committed myself to doing whatever it takes to make this happen and this program will serve as my first major benchmark to the rest of my life as being unapologetically me, Melissa Brown.

Why me?

I’d love to have a conversation with you! I find so much joy in connecting with diverse people from all walks of life because I have this insatiable curiosity of the world around me. Pretty sure “why” was the 3rd word I spoke. Now, “why” and “what if” are central to my identity. I see opportunity everywhere and I’m extremely resourceful to the point of almost preferring to have limited resources when working because it allows me to exercise my creativity, which exhilarates me.

Curiosity killed the cat. Thank God, Buddha and Allah I have a million lives. My sense of adventure and curiosity to see what’s out there led me to going on camping trips in the Swiss Alps, biking 50 miles up mountains, white water rafting in glacier water, and engaging with people in Austrian villages (Living in Germany for 9 years, I got to travel around a LOT – es war wunderbar!) After graduating with a business marketing degree from LMU, I left everything behind to pursue entertainment in Korea because I love to perform. I was alone in a foreign country and didn’t speak very well at first, but I started just talking to EVERYBODY for practice and ended up hosting a talk show in Korean after a year and a half. 잘지내시죠?

Everything I do ultimately leads to helping people develop (myself included) and helping businesses grow. I make the BEST out of every situation and will make sure that you’re having a good time ☺

“So, you’re going to work while you travel? Can you do that?”

Short answer, yes. I will have a job that will allow me to work remotely. I’ve been working remotely for the past several years, actually!

To be honest, I struggled with working remotely when I first began – not for the assumed reasons of not being self-disciplined to actually work, or getting distracted. I grew up in a military family AND got my second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, so self-discipline was never an issue. For me, the difficulty was working in isolation. I LOVE people. I love talking with people, laughing with people, eating with people, doing people things, even just being around people. I am that puppy dog that is always happy to see you! But working with College Zoom for the past 2 years, I spent most of my time alone in my apartment (which is why Remote Year appealed to me so much. World > my apt.)

But because I’ve always been so comfortable with adapting to change, I became so accustomed to working remotely that I now can’t imagine going to an office and sitting at a desk all day. My desk is now anywhere my laptop is – sitting at the dining room table, lying on the living room floor, riding passenger in the car, biking in the gym, standing at my desk, sitting on the toilet (just kidding…maybe) and even sitting in my closet where I built a sound studio for when I have to record program voice-overs. Having a team of 2 and living an hour of traffic away from each other was enough to keep the founder and I in our satellite workspaces. So rather than meet in person, we conducted all of our meetings on Skype, took notes using Google Docs, collaborated on visual concepts using screen share, and emailed when it wasn’t urgent. We actually preferred meeting online and conducting all business online because it was much more efficient with all of the tools we had access to.

What kind of work I’ve done remotely:

As the co-founder of an online program that is propelling College Zoom to become the market leader of a $252M industry, it was my mission to rapidly increase the company’s rate of growth and expand College Zoom’s reach. And in the past 2 years I’ve been working there, the company has quadrupled in annual revenue!

While helping develop the first scalable college admissions counseling model for College Zoom, I also worked 1-on-1 with high school students in China, Taiwan, Sweden, Sudan, and more, helping them build their college applications all online. Because of this, I’m extremely familiar with time zone conversions, and love the fact that I’m able to help people, even if they’re on the other side of the world. I know I said earlier that it was difficult, but now I love working remotely! It gives me an excuse to venture out into quirky coffee shops and bakery cafes so I’m around civilization, as long as there’s wifi. Work Hard Anywhere definitely helps locate those places!

Although I wore every hat imagineable, I can break down my role into 3 major categories: 1) business development/marketing, 2) product management/development, and 3) college admissions counseling

  1. Business development / marketing: before I joined College Zoom (I was the first to work with the Founder full-time), the company relied solely on word-of-mouth to acquire customers. The counseling strategies were great, the service was supreme, but no one knew about it. So, I brought my marketing/management background and my innovative perspective of systems and processes to the table. My success is derived from a lot of idea generation, strategic placement/promotion, and market analysis. I initiated the acquisition of the company’s first partners (high schools), which has catalyzed strategic alliances at a district level.
  2. Product management / development: I was originally hired as talent to create the content for the program. This meant creating a script for the program’s curriculum, recording thousands of hours of voiceovers, pairing the audio with visual examples and uploading them to the website. However, because I had developed a strong skill-set in presenting from my experience in Korea, I was able to recognize opportunities for improved efficiency in the production process and streamlined the workflow. Also, because I am as familiar with Powerpoint as the back of my hand, I transformed simple supportive images into elaborate visual representations of complex concepts that were not only informative, but also entertaining.
  3. College admissions counseling: This was the most rewarding part of my job. Eve Accepted to USC <<- that’s a video of a student I worked with getting an acceptance letter from her dream school. College Zoom’s admissions counseling model is very unique in that it cracked the code on admissions and created a proven formula for building a student’s best college application. As a counselor, I worked 1-on-1 with the students, helping them uncover their true value and hidden potential, analyzing the trends in their past behavior to identify their strongest value contributions, and helping to articulate themselves in the best light possible. From these counseling meetings, I analyzed the processes and consistently worked to improve the program.

Ultimately, I’m a very curious person, committed to living my life full out. I find purpose in helping people create repeated success for whatever you’re passionate about by developing concepts, tools, and systems and sharing it with the world. In simple terms, I love solving problems (bonus points if I get to be creative with it) so people can achieve their full potential and be happy. Life’s too short to not enjoy.

Ball’s in my court? GAME ON!

Next up: what prepping for a year of travel looked like. For me, it meant relocating my entire life…



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