Jeanine Brito; Toronto; @jeaninebrito
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I’m the art director and co-founder at Sophomore—alongside my partner Stephanie Rotz–and I’m also a graphic designer at Umbra. Through Sophomore and my other work, I focus on using design as a catalyst for changing perspectives.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I went to Ryerson for fashion communication and also did the magazines minor exchange program, a 12-week immersive course on magazine publishing for fashion, at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
Fresh out of Ryerson, I landed a role at a B2B tech company as a graphic designer, and after a year moved into an interactive design role. It was only tangentially related to what I studied, but I’m so grateful for that UX experience.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
We received a grant from the Ryerson Communication and Design Society to print the first issue of Sophomore, a 160-page glossy. We would never have been able to print without the grant—the cost was just too high. Having that initial cash injection allowed us to launch with a product we could really be proud of.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
I find it difficult to see the milestones for what they are because I’m so focused on what’s next and how much there still is to accomplish. Every time something shakes me out of that—an unexpected turnout at a Sophomore event or something from the magazine getting an overwhelming response on social media—I’m reminded that what we’re doing has value and is important.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
I had a nasty habit of saying yes to everything in my first year and a half out of school. I was emotionally overwhelmed, sleep-deprived and eating poorly. What I’ve come to learn is that asking for help is OK. Trust in the competency of your team, and establish a feedback loop that allows for constructive criticism in both directions.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
As women, we’re socialized to accept everything as it’s given to us, lest we seem ungrateful or difficult. But when it comes to your career, it’s so important to arm yourself with negotiation skills so that when it’s time to ask for a raise, you know how to make an effective case for what you feel you deserve.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
Growing up we were fed this idea that if you do well in university, you’re guaranteed a good job. In reality, it’s not so linear, particularly as we move toward a gig economy where many millennials juggle multiple contracts. That model of “good grades equals a good job” is no longer viable.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
I definitely find that some people are dismissive of fashion as this frivolous, feminine pursuit. In reality, fashion is so much more—it’s how we communicate with each other. It’s gender, sociology, history, culture and economics. With Sophomore, we’re using fashion as a lens to start a dialogue.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle/day job for extra cash? If so, what is it?
Sophomore is the side project. In terms of being paid fairly, I’ve always been very conscious of knowing my worth and asking for that.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
I don’t think painting our whole generation with the “lazy and entitled” brush is fair. Millennials are forging new paths for themselves as the workplace changes. We’re starting our own projects, working on side hustles and trying to land the coveted (and largely unpaid) internships that entry-level positions now require, all while paying rent in expensive cities.
Photographer, Nathan Cyprys; stylist, Corey Ng, P1M; hair, Cia Mandarello, P1M; makeup: Vanessa Jarman, P1M.