Breonna Rodriguez | Lead Digital Designer at Sesame Street

On her industry…

I’ve been making thing since I was four years old — I can only guess there are a handful of days where I wasn’t drawing or writing or constructing something to satisfy my weird-ass creative urges. Being both a content creator and a digital designer just fits my natural impulses. I’m super lucky.

On her biggest doubts…

I always suffer from some level of self-doubt that tells me I can’t be as good as I would like to be — which is why I made my documentary, #minusthedoubt. Because my doubt and my heart aren’t on the same page. My heart tells me to go for whatever I want, every time. When I listen to her instead, I get shit done AND knock it out the park.

On taking the leap…

I came home from my day job super pissed that I couldn’t make a certain .gif one day. Then I just sat down and asked myself questions about what would make me happy in life, because my day job as a designer wasn’t cutting it. I wasn’t using all my skills. I wasn’t using my voice. Then I realized the two things I could do endlessly were make things and encourage people. From there, I never looked back really. I created a website and launched it three months later and I’ve just been making content ever since. But what KEEPS me going is that I finally feel this balance. I actually do love my day job, but day jobs can’t always give you all the feels you need to do great things. You have to push yourself and use your time wisely to feel that fulfillment you’re looking for.

On advantages and disadvantages in her industry…

As a creative, you get to work with SO MANY different disciplines. It’s non-stop inspiration because one day you can be making a campaign for a welding company and the next day I’m making a muppet look pretty on the grass. It just never ends — always a variety and you always learn so much. Zero disadvantages in all that knowledge.

On her creative freedom at work…

Nooooo. Nor should I — my day job is not my brand to shape into what I want. They are hiring ME to creatively solve THEIR problems in a way that work for them. I can’t afford to get that twisted, rent in NYC is just too damn high. But that’s what Zenfulie is for — that’s where I do whatever the EF I want to do and I am completely satiated. It’s awesome to have the balance — finally.

On where she thought she’d be versus where she is now… 

I never imagined that I would have had a love and sex column on Vivala. I never thought at the same time I’d be filming a documentary. I didn’t know I’d be doing all those things while writing content on my own site AND have a day job. I didn’t know I had it in me to go this hard — yet I always did at the same time. It’s weird. I’ve always dreamed living in my full potential, stretching my brain to solve multiple problems in multiple creative disciplines, I just didn’t know when I got the balls to finally do it. Life is crazy.

On a specific moment in her career…

I have a little trick actually that has helped me a lot throughout my career. It’s hard to work with people who are difficult or by some weird grace of God have a job in the first place. I used to pop a vein every time one of those idiots ruined a deadline or a project or did something so ignorant that I had to call my mom, a priest and a bottle of Jesus wine just to calm back down again.

Somewhere around 2009, I had an incident where a boss got in his feelings and ripped me for a mistake that I didn’t actually make. And for some reason, while he was running his mouth and flinging his hands in the air, I heard this tiny thought that said “Look at him.” And in that moment I really, really looked at him. I observed his words, his behavior, his anger, and his misplaced emotions. Then I went back to my desk and wrote down how I would have handled the situation differently. And I have been doing that ever since — slowly turning those notes into the bible I govern myself as a leader with — in both my day job and all my Zenfulie work. I use people’s mistakes all the time as a guidebook on how NOT to do shit. It’s super helpful.

On surprises throughout the process…

I am surprised at how much work I actually do. I look back through archives, printouts, and links and go — when the hell did I make this? About six years ago I sort of clicked into this and always tried to remember that work comes and goes. It doesn’t help you to make huge life sacrifices to get work done because I rarely, rarely ever remember what I made for my day job or wrote on my site. Outside of my documentary (I remember that in full detail, probably because it was a passion project) — I don’t really remember anything. I’m somewhat proud that I don’t make life sacrifices for my work as much anymore. Only for the rare projects that are worth it.

On something she’s learned about herself throughout this process…

When I stop saying I can’t — and start saying “Of course I can’ — I get a lot of shit done. I don’t even recognize myself sometimes. I will leave one moment of success and jump into a challenge that stresses me out. And someone will go - wow, look at what you just did! And it doesn’t even compute. But then eventually it does — usually over a mozzarella stick with my girl Jenn at the bar. Then I smile real big, order us both a shot and put a song I really like on the Touchtunes jukebox. Then I go back to stressing the next challenge.

On what she’s learning over time…

The past few months I’m learning to stay out of my feelings. I can’t lie, the other day I got into the elevator with a woman I cannot STAND and I just iced her out. I could tell she wanted to say hi, but my spirit just cannot deal with her daughter of Voldemort self. But at the same time — this is a job. I only probably just fueled a fire to make her do something ridiculous to me later on. I can at least say hi and stay out my feelings. I don’t know why I take all her evil actions so personally. I’m not good with people who I just do not like.

On growth in her role…

I’ve always just made the opportunities of growth I wanted to experience. I don’t sit around and wait for someone to think something up for me. I see what I want, I pitch it, or sometimes I do it and then show someone of influence to say - hey, look at what I just did. Let’s blow this up into something.

On how she keeps her job interesting…

Mentors and a squad. Surround yourself with people who are killing it in the game. And who are spiritual gangsters, too. People who are generous with their time and enthusiasm for you. No leeches. Cut them off right away because they just will suck up your energy and drive you crazy.

On how she defines success…

I have an idea. I get it done. And I find at least one thing to really like and celebrate about it. Sometimes you won’t love how the end game looks, but you can be proud of yourself for the moment you stayed up late and didn’t quit. Or for not cussing someone out when they really deserved it. Whatever it is — even if it all comes out perfect, you did something there that was hard. Celebrate that success, because wins are always there. Every day, all the time.

On skills she finds beneficial…

Listening. People want to be heard. Your ideas will be there when they are done talking and by the time they are done you might be able to steal some nuggets and make your ideas better. Sit back and listen. Ask quite, introvert people their opinions in meetings. Get their thoughts too.

At the same time, I’m not afraid to be an assassin. If you’re talking nonsense in a meeting, if you’re telling me something that I know is wrong — I’m not afraid to just shut it down. Especially if you’re a man who’s trying to mansplain — I have zero tolerance for it.

On what she wishes she knew before starting this job…

I wish I had known not to compare myself to anyone — especially a man. It’s tempting to see what someone does and what they have and think, how can I ever get there? But the whole point is that you aren’t supposed to be THERE - cause that’s where THEY are. You need to take your ass over to the LEFT and six paces to the right cause that’s where YOUR PLATFORM is to shine.  Especially with my work on Zenfulie. I’m writing. Designing. Animating. Giving motivational speeches. Hosting events. It’s everything that comes to my brain — who the hell else does that? Why would I get stuck on what this blogger or this designer does over here? It’s dumb. I have a platform I belong on — and that’s what I strive towards.

On obstacles she faces as a woman in her industry…

I face obstacles, for sure, but it’s vice versa, too. A short dude in finance faces obstacles in a boy’s club in ways I don’t either. I know gender specific obstacles exist — but whenever it has dawned on me that something like that is going on, I usually go “This mofo did whaaaaa?!?!” And then I just remember my platform, what I’m destined to do and trust that the universe will replace his dirty deed with an unforeseen twist of its own. Maybe he can’t get it up for a hot chick at a bar. Maybe someone doesn’t credit him for an award that he worked on (happened to me). I don’t sweat it because I just don’t stop. I’m not getting twisted on one moment — I’m out to have a bazillion moments of great success. Anyone who comes for me only stacks negative karma cards in their wallet. I’m not fussed by it.

On how she wants to be remembered for her work…

I want them to say that girl was crazy. That she just did everything and everything that came to the mind and it made us all feel better. We all feel a little less pain. That’s what I want.

On career advice for the #LFCommunity…

Close this window and get to work on your hustle. You’re wasting time from this moment on.


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