Sanna Sharp
Aug 13 · 8 min read

Get to know Campuswire’s resident Lil Uzi-stan & Head of Growth.

Brian Smith, captured by Alex Choi

Formerly a Columbia student and very briefly a teacher, Brian is now the fearless leader of the Campuswire Growth & Engagement team. He sat down with us to discuss his home state of Florida, his hatred of J. Cole, and why he’s excited to watch Campuswire continue to grow.


What were you doing before Campuswire?

I studied Creative Writing and Political Science at Columbia. Right after I graduated — class of ‘17! — I spent about three months teaching. Then I was semi-employed, doing some freelance writing. I joined Campuswire after a few months of working freelance.

How long have you lived in New York?

As a real adult? For two years. If you count being a college student, then six. I love New York. Well– there are weeks that I love New York, and weeks where I hate New York. It’s up and down, but there’s nowhere else I’d rather live.

What do you do outside of work?

I like to read and write as much as I can, and I play basketball when I have time. I like to hang out with my friends, doing normal “24-year-old-in-New-York-City” stuff.

In one sentence, how do you defend Florida?

[laughs]

Have you been to Florida?

Yes. I’ve been to Boca, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Disney every year growing up…

So you’ve been to most of the good parts– but you haven’t been to Tampa.

The cities don’t need any defending. The rest of it– well, it’s like the rest of the country. A little crazier, maybe. You’ll see something new every day if you drive through the center of the state. I’d defend it by saying that Florida keeps you on your toes. It’s always exciting– but the only places you really need to know about are Miami, Tampa, and the Keys.

What was your favorite subject in middle school?

Definitely English, both middle school and high school. I had great teachers, they always encouraged me to write. That is probably what inspired me to go into Creative Writing. Whichever subject you have the best teachers in, that’s what leads you towards that subject. And I always loved to read, so English was a natural fit.

Have you read any great books recently?

I’m going to shout-out one of my professors who just released a book last month: Kathleen Alcott, America was Hard to Find. But my favorite book of all time is Fate & Furies by Lauren Groff. Everyone should read that.

“I had great teachers, they always encouraged me to write. That is probably what inspired me to go into Creative Writing. Whichever subject you have the best teachers in, that’s what leads you towards that subject.”

If you were an ice cream flavor what would you be?

I’d say cookies and cream, or Oreo. They’re reliable. You can depend on them.

How about if you were an animal?

I would be… a buffalo. They get to hang out in the best places in the country, just chilling. But they’re also powerful.

Do you collect anything?

I have way too many shoes– but I’m not a sneakerhead, I don’t have that many Nikes or anything.

Where is your favorite place in the world– other than Florida?

My grandparents’ place in North Carolina. They have a home in the Highlands, just outside of Asheville.

What’s the longest you’ve gone without sleep and why?

Not that long, actually. Probably 24 hours?

The summer after my freshman year of college, I was working on a fishing boat in Alaska. A very close friend of my family owned a fleet of fishing boats, and he talked me into joining him up north for the summer. I should never have listened to him– can’t trust him anymore.

[laughs]

We had one 24 hour shift, and I went to sleep immediately afterwards. But overall, it was a great experience. Alaska is really beautiful. it stays light from 6am to 10pm. And It was great to hang out in the middle of the water, just looking at the scenery. But the job itself was a lot of hard work, and I would never do it again.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?

[laughs]

Can I just say all of college? I can’t think of any one specific example. But living with your friends in college, you get to know people way too well. It can get embarrassing.

What’s your pet peeve?

People who have terrible taste in music. Specifically those who like J. Cole, and who don’t appreciate the greats: Lil Uzi Vert and Future.

Also, people who don’t read. Or who don’t watch a movie occasionally. People who don’t pay attention to culture.

If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Probably Oh Brother, Where Art Thou by the Coen Brothers. It stars George Clooney. It’s kind of funny, kind of heartwarming, and it puts me in a good mood whenever I see it.

How many cups of coffee do you drink a day?

I’ve been trying to cut it down to two. It’s been more recently, because the Campuswire interns have been keeping me up.

What was your first job, and when did you start at Campuswire?

The first thing I ever got paid to do was mow my front and back yards. One summer, back when I was in high school, I worked in a law firm as a clerk. I really should have been fired from that job, I didn’t try at all.

I started at Campuswire in May of 2018. I had my resumé up on Angelist and Tade reached out to me. I had previously — and very briefly — worked as a teacher, and I wanted to stay in education. But I also wanted to do something a little more creative, something that involved writing. I had recently been a college student myself, so I saw the vision for the company right away.

During my interview, Tade and I got along well. He seemed like a really cool guy to work for, so things just lined up.

“I saw the vision for the company right away.”

How challenging were your first few months here?

Very challenging, because we were starting from scratch. There was no template to work with. Everything was an experiment, and a lot of the experiments failed. So the first few weeks were tough. When you send a bunch of emails to professors and then no one responds, it can be disheartening. Still, you have to try things and learn from them.

It was great to be the one who is responsible for everything, but it was challenging to know that if we didn’t grow, it didn’t fall on anyone else. It would be my fault.

Is any aspect of your role challenging you currently?

Right now, the biggest challenge is managing a bunch of people. There’s been a learning curve.

The Campuswire team, pictured with our Summer ’18 interns.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities at Campuswire?

My biggest day-to-day responsibility right now is working with the in-office and remote intern teams. But overall, my role is to make sure that Campuswire continues to grow. I help professors learn about Campuswire, teach them the tool’s features, and show them how to use Campuswire to become better teachers.

I also do all of the company’s marketing: I build the brand voice, make great content, and — unfortunately for everyone — act as the face of the company.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

Well, I really enjoy working with the interns. But that’s not my favorite part.

My favorite part is getting to start from scratch. When I started here there was no content, no social media– it was just three engineers. It’s been nice getting to start from scratch with growth, establishing what people get to know about Campuswire.

What’s something you didn’t expect about the job?

Three weeks after I first started at Campuswire, we had our first ever group of interns. I didn’t expect to have to teach people how to work at Campuswire when I didn’t even know how to do that yet. Also, all of the little things that come with working at a start-up. Random travel that comes out of the blue, things like that.

Was there ever a time where your college student-self could have used Campuswire?

I would have loved to have Campuswire in my writing workshops. I used to have to send my stories around to everyone so that they could read them before picking them apart in class. If I’d had Campuswire then, I could have shared any specific passages I was nervous about on my class feed and received feedback from my classmates before they had the chance to rip apart my work.

“If I’d had Campuswire [as a creative writing student], I could have shared any specific passages I was nervous about on my class feed and received feedback from my classmates before they had the chance to rip apart my work.”

What are you most excited about for the future of the company?

I’m most excited for us to grow. Starting on Monday, we’ll have 12–13 people in the office. It was just four people for the first…. six months, maybe? So it’s super exciting to see it grow. Everyone we’ve brought on the team has been really good, and I’m excited to get to know everyone and to keep growing as a company.

Finally– what has been the most impactful moment of your time at Campuswire?

The first couple of times that we had applications for internships or full-time roles from people who had used Campuswire in their classes. That was really cool to see; it made me feel like we were making an impact. To know that I’d introduced their professor to Campuswire, that their professor had done a good job introducing them to it, and that they wanted to be a part of this project– that was exciting to see. ●

Campuswire is a course communication system built with the specific needs of professors and students in mind. Get to know the rest of our team through our Meet the Campuswire Team series, or by sending us a message on campuswire.com.

Campuswire

We're on a mission to optimize the world’s teaching and learning.

Sanna Sharp

Written by

Campuswire

We're on a mission to optimize the world’s teaching and learning.

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