06/07/2016 03:27 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Women in Business Q&A: Casey Hochberg, BrandFire

Casey Hochberg

Casey Hochberg works at BrandFire, a New York based agency specializing in the development of creative platforms for national and global brands. She joined the firm in 2014 and is responsible for project planning and day-to-day on several of BrandFire's accounts. She helps strategically position clients in their competitive landscapes, and lends her millennial perspective to brands looking to resonate with a younger audience.

She has previously worked on verbal brand identity, content strategy, and brand-influencer partnership projects at Interbrand, [L]earned Media, and Recreation Worldwide.

Casey graduated from the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, where she studied Marketing and Communication Design. As a leader of student organizations, she planned large-scale concerts and social events for the undergraduate and alumni community.

In her spare time, Casey snowboards, practices yoga, and plays golf at home in Upper Brookville on Long Island.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I've always been the ringleader of my social circles. I've never been afraid to throw out the first suggestion for a concert to go to or a bar to hit, which means I'm often the one who sets the agenda when my friends and I go out. With love of course, I make sure my friends always have a great time. That's in a way what branding's about, leading people and helping them find the right vibe for their businesses.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at BrandFire?
EDM has been popular for the past few years and when it first hit hard, I was involved with pairing brands with the right DJs and influencers. It was a fast-paced business, since the genre was exploding and brands were looking for a way in. I cut my teeth at Interbrand for a hot minute, which helped me learn procedure and best practices. You have to know the rules in order to break them, right?

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at BrandFire?
It's tough enough to be a 24-year old woman at a high-power boutique NYC branding agency, but BrandFire is even tougher, since the personalities are very alpha. The culture here is sink or swim so it was really about jumping into the deep end and swimming with these sharks. Apparently, according to them I have teeth of my own, so I think I'm doing okay (smile), but in all seriousness you really have to connect with your coworkers and learn their culture. My coworkers are knowledgable about so many things and conversations move quickly, so it was a challenge to get the courage to ask about stuff that I didn't know about, like movie quotes and whatnot. But when you ask, you aren't weak, you are strong and showing character. From time to time, I school the old dogs about the stuff I know, which is basically all the cool stuff they don't (wink).

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
My advice to women in the industry is just shut up and do it already. Make the call. Jump in. I cold-called Adam, the owner of BrandFire, since I had known his brother growing up. I have a feeling I blindsided him a little bit. He didn't have an opening but I was willing to go into the office and start for free, just to get in the door. He said sure, and in the first week I proved myself valuable enough to get a job offer. You can't move forward if you are just thinking, you have to act. Just like my Instagram account. I started it as a pet project because I wanted a creative outlet- a few months in I'm at almost 5,000 followers and building a name for myself as an up-and-coming millennial meme account that gets reposted by Elite Daily, Betches, GirlWithNoJob, etc.  It's not magic. It's slow and steady progress, but you have to start somewhere. Stop making excuses.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
The most important lesson I've learned is to make sure to show up ready to learn every day.  I don't mean to act naive or to kowtow to the powers that be, I mean be vulnerable enough to be able to absorb new information so that you improve every day.  If you close yourself off, you stop growing.  Sounds cliche but it's true.  You need to stay nimble and aware of your surroundings, that's the main thing.  

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Maintaining work and life is basically yin and yang. BrandFire is loud. It's furious-paced and aggressive, which I love, but when I need to wind down from the creative storm I hit the yoga studio, have drinks with friends, write in a diary. That's so important. That is life's balance right there, reaching upward and growing in a career sense while keeping yourself connected with your roots.  

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
We as women need to ignore the perceived barriers and go for what we deserve. If we don't get it because of unfair practices, we need to be bold enough to call that out. Nothing comes easy, to women or men. Women need to match the aggressiveness of so many male bulldogs out there, and not worry who is hating on them. If you create an opportunity for yourself and succeed, both women and men will call you names and hate you. So what? Let them. Get yours.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Learning from a mentor is important because it's not general knowledge that's passed down-- it's a personal relationship with a real investment by the mentor. It's so invaluable to have someone on your team who genuinely cares and will correct you with love and sometimes tough love, when you need it. You don't always want to hear it but it's really important in order to grow as a person and professional. 

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I'm a big fan of Rihanna. She is unapologetically fierce and I love the power and sexuality and talent she brings. Humor is also big for me, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, Poehler, Fey-- all geniuses and powerful role models. On the business front, I look up to Faith Popcorn, the futurist and brand strategist. I've had the opportunity to work with her directly and she is fabulous and brilliant and her energy is contagious. Obviously mom.

What do you want BrandFire to accomplish in the next year?
BrandFire is having its moment this year. We are featured on a new reality show, we are signing new high profile clients, and our process is really improving every single day. Our strategic thinking is hitting new levels, it's so much fun to be a part of it.  I'd love to see BrandFire have its chance to show the world what we do. We'll be a household name in a couple of years' time, there's no doubt. I want the insiders to get in early for a front row seat. We really do incredible work, game-changing stuff for brands that aren't afraid to be bold and honest, which really resonates with my demographic. I'm excited for us to get the recognition that finally seems to be coming.