BUILDING ON HER EXPERIENCE AS A LEADERSHIP FELLOW AT STANFORD
“Tyra was great. She is the definition of reinventing yourself and being relevant,” says Wood. “It was cool to observe her and learn from her as well. It made me realize that everybody has a personal brand. It’s whether you think about it and invest in it. If you are purposeful about it, you can create a unique powerful message. The way the world is going, we shouldn’t be teaching personal branding in the last quarter of business school.”
The key takeaway from Tyra’s course: “I learned that being different is better than being better. Think of the the personal brands that stand out the most in your mind – Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Kanye, Gaga, and (sigh) Trump. All of these people have a unique ‘it’ factor that makes them difficult to duplicate. I learned that it’s ok and even encouraged to be a bit polarizing and alienate some people, so that the people that you want to reach identify with you and immediately recognize that you’re talking directly to them.”
Wood also took Stanford’s Startup Garage, an immersive second-year course in which student teams work on a business concept. Her team’s project centered on a personalized gifting service, requiring them to interview potential customers and build a website for the business. “It was really helpful in learning how to take the ideation process through to creating an idea. “These processes you learn in class are good in theory, but I can’t tell you how many things have gone wrong and blown up in my face along way. I also don’t know of anyone from the GSB who pursued something similar to this. So the alumni network has been helpful in so many ways. There were a lot of people who were great to talk to about bootstrapping the business.”
GLOSS FOUNDER EMILY WEISS IS A ROLE MODEL OF SORTS
Brains Over Blonde also builds on Wood’s experience as a Leadership Fellow at Stanford. The program teaches second-year Stanford MBA students how to effectively develop others by coaching and mentoring first-year MBA students. As a Fellow, Wood worked closely with first-year MBA students, both in small team settings and one-on-one, and in the autumn quarter was assigned to a squad of six first-year MBA students. The experience, especially the one-on-one coaching over a period of 15 weeks, prepared her to offer coaching and mentoring as a core service of Brains Over Blonde.
A role model of sorts for what she is doing is Emily Weiss, who started a beauty blog called Gloss in 2010 and three years later launched a cosmetics line called Glossier after acquiring a following. That content-first strategy is how Wood is going about Brains Over Blondes.
She plans on offerings lot of service content, with articles and video tutorials on everything from how to create a perfect resume to how to negotiate your salary. The target demographic is young women in the 18 to 30-year range, with a particular focus on the 22-to-27 age group. And she is very much at the center of it as advocate, spokesperson and role model. Clearly, that Tyra Banks personal branding course came in handy.
‘GOOGLE IS DEFINITELY NOT THERE YET’
“While most of the content applies to everyone, I am writing it in my voice and with women in mind,” says Wood. “In addition to that, I am offering one-on-one mentorship and coaching as a way to make money. My ultimate goal is to do courses and webinars, but the focus at first is to build an audience.”
While grateful for her experience at Google, her time at the tech giant helped lay the groundwork for the idea. “My older male colleagues would frequently joke that maybe if they looked like me they would perform like me, too,” she says. “While that might seem like a compliment on the surface, that cut really deep because it reduced my success to just my gender and outward appearance. Like many women, I found success by hard work and playing by the rules.”
What does Wood think of the recent controversy at Google when an employee was fired after writing a controversial memo that claimed that women had biological issues that prevented them from being as successful as men in tech? “I wrote my thesis on diversity in the workplace and took an unconscious bias course at Google,” says Wood. “I believe Google is truly dedicated to wanting to improve and make diversity inclusion a big part of the culture, but Google definitely is not there yet. When you work there it is pretty homogenous in terms of thought.”