Last Call: Gabe Paley

As the semester progresses at the speed of light, the senior class is beginning to make peace with that fateful day in May: Commencement. Until the class of 2012 up and leaves us, BlogDH wants to highlight all the interesting things the class has been up to. To this end, we are (re)starting a series, Last Call, featuring seniors reflecting on their experiences at Brown. Each featured senior will tag another senior for the next installment. Find this year’s other “Last Call” chain here.

Then + Now

People might know me as… the dude interviewing a Red Sox player in those posters in front of the treadmills in the Keeney and Pembroke gyms.

Mark’s Question: A day with Ruth Simmons, what do you do? I’m just gonna go ahead and assume that Ruth has her own private jet, and then, in no particular order: hit up a theme park, check out Mount Rushmore, play H.O.R.S.E. with her and Obama, go scuba diving, catch up on all the Corporation gossip, and make it back in time to watch the sunset from Prospect Park.

You were GM of WBRU, a student-run radio station. What was the coolest part of your job? I feel like not many Brown students really know too much about WBRU, so I’ll just do a brief overview first. We’re a student-run, independent commercial radio station that is completely funded by revenue received from advertisements, which are sold by a full-time professional sales team. Only students are allowed on the air, but we have eight professional employees who help us with various functions, including an engineer, accountant, and Program Director. We have about 250,000 listeners across Southern New England and a multi-million dollar budget. Along with the student Station Manager, Max Ashby, I was responsible for overseeing the entire operation, including the student and professional staffs.

I really can’t even begin to describe all the incredible opportunities BRU affords its student volunteers, but I’d strongly encourage you to read about a few of them here. Everyone who contributed to that list had an “aha moment,” in which they said to themselves, “How the hell am I allowed to be doing this right now?” I had my share of those moments, from interviewing my hero, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, to conceiving, planning, and MCing WBRU’s 75th anniversary celebration last year, in which I got to accept a certificate from Mayor Taveras on behalf of the station. All that aside, I’d still have to say that the coolest part of being GM was witnessing and occasionally facilitating moments like those for so many BRU students (and listeners) and getting to watch their faces as they met their own childhood idols. That never gets old.

What is the hardest part of your job? I don’t think any 20 year old can possibly be prepared for the responsibility of overseeing an organization on the scale of BRU, let alone while simultaneously trying to be a full-time student. It’s an incredibly steep learning curve, and the job also comes with all of the hardest parts of managing a real business; Max and I had to let go of two professional employees over the course of the year, one of them in his late 40s. The knowledge that a decision of that magnitude rested solely in my hands was stressful enough, but on top of that I found that kind of responsibility to be pretty isolating. It wasn’t easy for me to come back to my suite at the end of the day or go to a party and talk about what I did with my time or what that constant weight felt like. These are not exactly things that most Brown students have to think about.

You’re also founder of the Brown Sports Business club (over-achieving much?), which just arranged the Brown Night at the Paw Sox. Do you have any big plans for the club?  Sports have always been a major passion of mine and I’ve always been interested in pursuing a career in that industry someday. I had difficulty finding people who shared that aspiration during my first two years of college, so I decided to start a club with the few people I knew who did. Over the past two years the club has made huge strides, the most significant of which I think has simply been building a community of people who share this passion and providing them with an outlet to learn more about it and meet people who work in the industry. I think the idea of working in sports feels like a pipe dream to a lot of people who are or may have once considered it (and to me as well). It’s easy to lose sight of that dream at Brown without a community of like-minded people to keep telling you you’re not crazy. If the club continues to build and foster that community of people both at Brown and even within the alumni network, I will consider it a success.

In my time at Brown, I am most proud of…  I hope that through my work at BRU and the Brown Sports Business club, I’ve been able to inspire just a few people to fearlessly pursue their passions or dream jobs, which they otherwise might have given up on. I know one person who has done so at least partially due to my encouragement, and that’s really an amazing feeling. Also – one time in my psych class I correctly guessed the exact number of peanut M&M’s in a jar (287).

On a Friday night, you might find yourself… at a concert, likely organized by and/or featuring members of my house. Two of my housemates are on BCA, one is an aspiring music journalist, I work at BRU, and all seven of us are musicians. Between us, we have experience in guitar (five of us), piano, tabla, ukelele, French horn, trumpet, drums (both traditional and Ghanaian), and singing. Also, three of my housemates are in a “computer band” and two recently re-engineered their own instruments for an electronic music class (and one for his senior thesis).

The best class/professor at Brown is… I gotta go with ENGN1930X (now 1010), Danny Warshay’s entrepreneurship class. I think I do best in hands-on learning environments, and this class gave me the opportunity to go through the initial stages of starting an actual business, which, as an aspiring entrepreneur, I found pretty valuable. Students in this class write fairly comprehensive and professional business plans and make presentations to actual venture capitalists. It’s also not uncommon for businesses that start in this class to eventually get funding and continue on after college (see Runa and SexyPeriod).

Three things you wish you knew freshmen year…

  1. No matter how busy you think you are, find the time to look out for your physical and mental well-being. You may have two tests and a paper one week, but don’t forget to take breaks and relax; watch television, exercise, hang out with your friends, and – one thing I’ve found particularly useful over the past year –meditate. Your productivity will suffer and your stress level will just keep increasing throughout the semester if you don’t.
  2. There were many times when I felt like I had it all figured out and that I knew exactly what my life path would look like. I don’t and I probably never will. My concentration changed five or six times during college and my career goals have too. I think one of the most important lessons I’ve been learning over the past year has been to embrace uncertainty.
  3. There are many more accessible rooftops in this neighborhood than you think.

Ratty vs. V-Dub… V-Dub themed night at the Ratty (ok, hat tip to the Noser for that one)

One thing you wish you had done… I watched and listened to a lot of music, but I wish I’d played more. I sang a cappella in high school and played guitar and sang in a band, but I haven’t really done much of either of those things at Brown.

After graduation, you plan to… work in Cambridge at a startup called InsightSquared that builds data intelligence software for small and medium-sized companies so that they can better understand and make use of their overwhelming amount of client and employee data. The sports industry (particularly the book Moneyball) introduced me to the analytics movement that’s currently revolutionizing a wide range of industries, and I’m excited to get an inside look at that movement as well as the world of entrepreneurship.

Who are you tagging next?  Jesse Frank. I have a lot of respect for people who take risks and challenge themselves and I don’t think I know anyone who will be doing that to a greater degree next year than Jesse.

Next up: Jesse Frank
Gabe’s Question: What’s your go-to meal on College Hill?

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