Connecting with our Alumni: Megan (Bailey) O'Grady '01
Each week we connect with members of our Alumni community to see what they are up to during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Please tell us about your journey after you left Breck.
After graduating from Breck, I started college at Boston College (BC). I wanted to be on the East Coast, in a big city. It was hard to leave places I had called home for 18 years ... Minneapolis and Breck ... but BC was like Breck in many ways: close-knit, spiritual, and spirited. It was Fall 2001; the events of September 11th brought the whole community together during the first weeks of school. We are living through a different kind of societal event now, but I think about that these days, especially as I think about graduating seniors and freshmen in college whose experiences will be forever shaped by COVID-19. The following summer, I got an internship at Fallon, an advertising agency in Minneapolis founded by a Breck dad. This would be the first of many invaluable Breck connections in my post-Breck life. It also set the course for the rest of my professional life. I ultimately transferred schools to be in New York, the epicenter of advertising and fashion. I graduated from Barnard College in Manhattan, and though I never contemplated moving home to Minneapolis, I ended up back at Fallon to begin my career in advertising. I spent 2 years working round the clock, as one does as a junior account person in the industry, but the hours not spent working were spent with my Breck friends; even after college, they were (and are) my best friends. I moved back to New York, where I live and work today. I have worked in advertising and marketing for the last 15 years at big agencies with large, blue-chip clients and at small, boutique agencies. I currently work at Hearst Magazines, helping to develop a custom content business, selling creative solutions to clients like Kraft and Airbnb. I met my husband in New York, and my Breck friends joke that he is an honorary Mustang because he, too, attended an Episcopal day school in New York, where the colors are blue and gold. We have 2 children, ages 3.8 and 2.5, and they already have wonderful Breck memories visiting "Mimi" and her friends ("Mimi" is Lower School Director Peg Bailey).
What are some of the things you are most passionate about? How do you pursue them in your life?
Most broadly, I love learning new things, and I love meeting new people. Fortunately, I have found a profession that allows me to do both, every day. As an "account person," I am forced to know as much about my clients' industries as I do about my own. I lead large teams of people who all have really diverse roles, so managing personalities is something I need to do and like to do. Relatedly, I love to play! And I get lots of practice with my kids. They have vivid imaginations and more energy than the Energizer bunny! They are passionate about Dr. Seuss books, Pixar movies, unicorns, Play-Doh, and scooters ... and, so am I!
What would you say are the lessons learned as you lived through COVID-19 in quarantine/lockdown in New York, with a young family?
Like many New Yorkers, we have relocated for the foreseeable future. We are two, full-time working parents with a preschooler and toddler, and we have been very lucky to have found more space to work and play in Rhode Island. Also, like many New Yorkers, we are not home bodies. We love experiencing all New York has to offer. Our typical weekends involve museums, (kid friendly!) concerts, parks, new restaurants, and theater. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is to slow down and appreciate solitude, quiet, togetherness and the power of imagination!
Is there anything that is helping you to stay positive right now, or has helped over the past month?
One of the things that has helped me stay positive during this time is knowing how well our work culture — across industries and time zones — has responded to the new "work-from-home" normal. While more and more companies had been encouraging flexible work schedules and alternative offices, there was still a stigma attached to working from home. Coming out of this, I think our work culture will be changed forever. We are as — if not more — productive, and our personal lives are featured daily as children, pets and partners walk into our Zoom calls. I believe we will all feel more comfortable bringing our whole selves to work when we're on the other side of this. Not only that, but I think essential workers who have risked their lives every day of this crisis will no longer be taken for granted. Doctors, nurses, subway operators, and delivery men and women have been sick in disproportionate numbers, and yet these are the folks that make the rest of our lives go on. Every night at 7pm, New Yorkers open their windows and cheer for essential workers, banging pots and pans and anything else that is loud. While there may come a day when the noise fades into the regular soundtrack of the city, the sentiment will live on.
You recently had a Zoom call with other Breck grads from the class of 2001. Were there any fun memories that came up?
So many! We were 12 in total on the call, and we remembered our senior year "lock in," typing our college essays on typewriters, morning hockey practice, summer camps and much more. We also caught up on who is living where, what everyone does for a living, how old our kids are, and of course, our feelings about COVID-19. There was an author in our group, and we hope that some of the more lighthearted conversation will inspire her next young adult novel!
Bonus Question: What is the best division of Breck and why (lower, middle, upper)?
LOWER! Always. Not only are there some particularly special faculty members in the Lower School (love you, Mom!), but it is foundational to both a Breck experience and to a life of learning and love. In Lower School, I learned to be creative, to explore, to be independent, to be productive, to be helpful and to form and retain relationships. Relationships are the bedrock of a Breck experience, and they last a lifetime. After all, "friendships formed within these walls will live within each heart."
Megan can be reached on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/megan-ogrady/
Breck Upper School students Joseph Purvis ‘21, Ayres Warren ‘22 and Maddie McDermott ‘22 share their experience interviewing Leslie Redmond, a local community organizer and former President of the Minneapolis NAACP. They also share their excitement for the MLK Symposium and Amplify Our Love with Pie events happening at Breck this upcoming week. Ms. Redmond will be the Upper School keynote speaker for the our 20th annual MLK Symposium.
On Sunday, January 17th, Breck will co-host Sweet Potato Comfort Pie’s seventh annual MLK Holiday event: Amplify Our Love with Pie, to honor the 92nd birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breck student, Kai Miller ‘22, has been working behind the scenes to get ready for the event. The communications team at Breck did a brief interview with Kai to ask about her experience working on the event.
Natalia Rico Hernández, Ed.D., Head of School, updates the Breck community on the School's response to Wednesday's events.