Mariam Matin, Phil Dearing, and Brigit Goebelbecker
Category: Alumni Stories, Hoya Highlight

Title:Hoya Highlight: Mariam Matin (C’15), Phil Dearing (C’15), and Brigit Goebelbecker (F’15)

Co-Founders, Second Day


Your Time on the Hilltop

What was your major at Georgetown?

Mariam: Economics and Psychology
Phil: Political Economy
Brigit: Culture and Politics

What was your favorite class or who was your favorite professor at Georgetown? Why?

Mariam: My favorite class was probably Social Psychology, and I really liked it because it helped me learn different cultural ways of understanding your sense of self and the way we relate to our communities. It’s been a really helpful tool throughout my life as I try to understand my place in the world and how I relate to the people around me.

Brigit: I really loved the social entrepreneurship class with Sarah Stiles. She was one of the first people to open my eyes to the unequal expectations that are held for folks that are in the social sector versus the business world. She taught me a lot about why entry to social entrepreneurship is particularly hard and why there’s expectations and judgements that are much more strict for the social sector. I really loved that and I haven’t forgotten it. She wrote my recommendation for graduate school, and she’s been a really great person to keep in touch with.

What is your favorite Georgetown memory?

Phil: The one that jumps out to me, and maybe it’s just because Brigit’s here and we did GIVES together, but the first time we got funding to do all of the Christmas decorations on campus. That was an amazing community effort to gather people, and it was so fun that we were able to buy thousands of dollars of decorations and make campus come alive. It was great.

Brigit: I would say GIVES too. I think with GIVES, one of the most amazing things about it was seeing our listserv grow within two years. It started out with us desperately trying to get our friends off of Lau 2 to sign the list so we had enough people for a club, and then within 2 years we had over 300 people who were actively involved. My younger brother went to Georgetown, so I got to go back a couple times and stumble into GIVES folks. I just met someone last weekend who is coming to Oxford who met her partner through GIVES, and was at a wedding for GIVES people last week. It keeps popping up, and it’s amazing to see how a small idea has rippled through Georgetown. I have so many memorable moments affiliated with GIVES but I think just seeing it grow has been really lovely.

What advice would you give to your younger self (or a current Georgetown student)?

Mariam: I would say take classes that are interesting to you. There’s a lot of pressure to complete your major, take the hardest classes, and do stuff that isn’t interesting to you. You feel like you’re betraying your education by taking classes that are purely based on interest. But the most important part of your education is exploring, and it’s the biggest privilege of college—being able to explore things that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to deeply explore. So take classes that may not fit your major but seem cool. Go for it.

Phil: I agree. I was going to say take time for personal formation, reflection, and discernment. Do stuff that isn’t necessarily pre-professional or helpful. Obviously some of that is important, and being ready for the workforce is important, but not feeling like you need to do that and climb that ladder from freshman year is important.

How has Georgetown shaped you?

Mariam: I think it’s the people that I’ve met. We’re probably all going to say very similar things since we’re all Georgetown co-founders. I feel like Georgetown people really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I had a lot of challenging conversations with people, I learned a lot about my own values, I got to meet people from all over the world—so much of who I am is shaped by Georgetown people. There was a really funny moment from my wedding where my Dad was giving a speech. To paraphrase it, he said I was a pretty quiet child and then I went to Georgetown and everything changed. It’s the people that I met there that made me a much more interesting person I would say, so I’m very grateful to my community.

Brigit: I think Georgetown is really great at having a clear identity of what it’s trying to do in the world. Being men and women for others, it actually really matters. I hadn’t realized how much it mattered until coming to an institution that doesn’t have a very clear motto or sense of identity and purpose that it’s trying to cultivate its students to do. It’s something that I assumed was just normal and natural. But then leaving that space, and connecting with people who went to different schools or now that I’m at a different school, you realize it permeates into so many things it’s hard to point to. But I really really appreciate that value being a common thing that we all understand and bought into in some capacity, and carry with us afterwards.

Career Information and Reflections

What is the best career advice you’ve received?

Brigit: One of the best pieces of career advice I’ve gotten is when thinking about salary negotiations, or asking for a certain position or title that you’re looking for, it really helps to not think about fighting for a certain salary for myself, but to fight for the role and salary for anyone who would follow in my footsteps. Not making it about you, but making it about the principle of how much that position should be valued has helped me appreciate mission oriented social impact work.

What are the big trends in your industry that you’re seeing now?

Phil: In social impact I would say one of the biggest trends is building this sort of cross-sectoral approach to impact. It’s far less binary, where it used to be “I’m gonna go work at a nonprofit and that is considered doing good,” now it is much more complex and helpful thinking about different work. If I work in tech, if I work in government, if I work in another area, how can I still have a differential impact? I think sometimes that can lead to dangerous areas like self justification and rationalization in a negative way, but I also think it’s an exciting and positive opportunity in the sector as well to think critically about impact beyond specific titles.

What has been the most rewarding moment of your career?

Phil: Building Second Day has been really rewarding and it has been amazing to see it evolve from an idea to something that we were working on as an organization to now a full time role, and hopefully growing beyond us alone. In terms of a singular moment though, it’s probably earlier this year when Why Change Dies was released. Why Change Dies is a book I wrote that tries to encapsulate a lot of our core thinking behind Second Day, and something that hopefully will be really powerful for a wider audience. In terms of a singular moment I think holding that book in my hands and seeing people across the country start to read and engage with it beyond me has been really impactful.

What do you wish you had done earlier in your career?

Mariam: A practice I wish I’d built sooner that I think I do better at now, but can always keep working on is continuing to invest time in people that I find inspiring and interesting. I met so many people early in my career who were awesome; even if they weren’t necessarily in the industry that I worked in or they had a job that felt really far away from me, they were people that I respected. There’s a gut instinct that kicks in when you meet somebody in a social setting or otherwise and you think, “I’m really vibing with this person.” Being able to identify with that, make the conscious decision to keep up with that person, and make that a part of how you develop yourself professionally and personally is really important. I think I’ve developed a lot more confidence doing that, but I think it’s something that a lot more people can and should do early on in their lives. It’s really rewarding, you learn a lot, and you get more confident with time. You find out about opportunities you never would have and you learn about yourself more. It is an enriching thing to develop personal and professional mentors and friends and one that I wish I started earlier in my life.

To what do you credit your career success?

Brigit: I have been lucky in my ability to articulate when something is frustrating or broken and then try to do something about it to solve it. I was fortunate enough to have been in supportive environments where I was able to grow my confidence and speak up when I saw something that seemed silly. I ask myself, “Why has nobody done this?” or “Why do we continue to do something this way?” and I think that has been something that’s helped me in my career. For example, when we started GIVES, we saw a gap, we got frustrated with it, and then rather than leaning into being frustrated, we did something. I think being confident enough to do that, having a supportive environment to receive it, and then seeing changes happen when we said something has been instrumental in the success of my career. I recommend this to everyone; push yourself to not just sit and complain about something, but to try and come up with a solution. You’ll have allies there that you might not expect who will help you along in other parts of your career.

A Day in the Life

What does your workspace look like? Are you at a desk frequently or on the road? What do you have on your desk at all times?

Mariam: My workspace—I have a small desk and basically there’s of course always my laptop and my second screen. I have my pens and pencils, I have a little stand for my phone to sit on, I have my calendar (I’m a written calendar/notebook person), and I have my podcast microphone because I do podcasts for Second Day. And I usually have three types of headphones on my desk at all times depending on what my mood is. So a big combination of pen and paper, and lots of technology. I am frequently at my desk, but I’m trying to do more coffee chats with people in person and I try to go to a coffee shop once a week to change my scenery. I have a conference coming up, so there’s some travel, but 90% of the time I’m sitting at my desk.

What is one part of your daily routine you couldn’t live without?

Phil: Personally working out is something I couldn’t live without, but I think in terms of doing professional work, I block two hours every morning for deep thinking and dedicated work time. I think if I didn’t do that I wouldn’t be nearly as productive. It’s super important to carve out time that isn’t just meetings and doing small tasks. I think it’s easy to just sort of let day-by-day or week-by-week happen to you rather than proactively progressing the agenda.

Who or what is a source of strength and inspiration in your life and why?

Mariam: I would say the students we work with. I’m really grateful that part of Second Day’s work is directly spending time with students and unpacking how they feel. Unpacking their experience working for the first time, trying to parse out what it is that I want versus what my parents tell me that I want, versus what my peers are all doing, and thinking is this what I want? I think creating these spaces for them and providing these resources really does help. We can’t solve everything for the students, and we’re not out there trying to solve everything for them, but I think knowing that we have their backs and that we want what’s best for them gives me a lot of energy going into this work. The burnout can be really real when you have your own venture, particularly when it’s a social impact venture where there’s a lot of forces that work against you sometimes. Being able to stay rooted in the community that we are trying to serve has been really important to keeping us going.

What’s one book you’d recommend to everyone?

Phil: I would say Designing Your Life is really powerful for career discernment. I think that’s the best book out there (besides Why Change Dies) and then beyond that I love Poor Economics, I love Winners Take All, and Empire of Pain which is the last book I read about the Sackler Dynasty and understanding how corporations can corrupt public institutions. I think there are just so many good books to explore and that you can learn a lot from!

What are your words to live by?

Phil: “Aspire nobley, adventure daringly, serve humbly.” —William H Danforth

Brigit: The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.