We chatted with Brenda Della Casa from BDC Digital Media. Brenda is an author, writer, speaker, and digital strategist and the founder of BDC Digital Media. Passionate about leadership, mentorship and the advancement of women in digital, she is the founder of two mentorship programs and speaks regularly to women’s groups in the UK and US. She is a 2016 Tech Nation Exceptional Talent Visa recipient for content direction and digital strategy.
Tell us a bit about your career to date.
I am a writer who is passionate about psychology, research and empowerment and these things have been at the heart of my career since day one. From creating content and directing digital strategies to running workshops and mentoring women in tech, my career has focused on my goal of adding value to others in a way that allows them to curate a life and career they love. It’s been exciting to be able to do that on more and more platforms and through different mediums as the digital sphere expands.
What do you love most about what you do?
Again, it’s really about empowering others; that’s really what motivates me every day. From a professional standpoint, there is nothing that makes me happier than watching someone have an a-ha moment after working with me. Creatively, I love writing, art direction, strategy, project management and data. Building the pieces and bringing it all together synergistically is exciting.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
I have been blessed with a few career highlights, but that’s not to say I didn’t work hard to achieve and sustain them. I add that caveat because I think it is important that people understand that there is no way around hard work and success, like everything else, is something that has to be nurtured, watered and fed daily or it will die.
I’d say getting the Tech Nation VISA is the one that stands out as it’s a culmination of all of that sweat, fear, desire and hustle. I also love seeing those I’ve mentored step into their spotlight.
What’s a great piece of career you have received?
One of my best friends, Lauren Cosenza, a very successful creative director and beauty influencer has given me dozens of gems. Two that I always think about are to show up when you say you will as people are really counting on you to be there and that it’s OK to sit with ideas until they become clear.
Basically, don’t be a flake as it will destroy relationships and your rep and you don’t need to figure it all out in a day.
You’re a published author, can you tell us about the books you have written and contributed to?
While freelancing, I worked in reality TV as a casting producer and was very interested in the psychology of the contestants on many of the dating shows. I decided to interview 1,500 men and women and the result was ‘Cinderella Was A Liar’.
I also contributed to ‘Look At My Striped Shirt: Confessions of The People You Love To Hate’ while the only member of the comedy team on The Phat Phree and this year, my piece, “What It Feels Like To Be On Welfare” will be published in ‘Gendered Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings’ in July.
In addition to your digital work, you are also a successful magazine writer and columnist can we find your magazine articles?
I have a few articles on Contently, but there are a few articles on Inc.com, Huff Post, Glamour and Your Tango. I’ve been doing this a while so who knows what you’ll find out there!
Tell us about BDC Digital Media?
BDC Digital Media is both a company and a community. We provide branding, content, strategy, coaching and training services while also creating content and curating events where entrepreneurs can come together to communicate, collaborate and just have fun.
Why did you start BDC Digital Media?
BDC Digital Media was born out of a desire to educate and empower business owners and individuals on all aspects of content and digital media. I was tired of people asking about social, marketing, blogging, UX and branding and not understanding how they worked together, or worse, thinking they could just pick and choose what to focus on. I was also being asked for enough favours that it made sense to start a proper company.
What is the favourite part of your job?
I love the way my career mixes creativity and strategy and there is always a chance for a big win which, being super competitive, I enjoy very much. I also love the access to new, interesting people and the reward that comes from knowing I have provided them with something that will bring them closer to their goals.
What’s the most challenging?
Working in larger groups with people who fear or challenge things they don’t understand and are too impatient or disinterested to learn how the pieces fit together.
You work in content, branding and digital strategy, will you share some of your strategies and tips with our readers?
Don’t do anything until you do a proper branding exercise. You don’t want to figure out what your brand is – and isn’t–on a public forum. Second, put a proper strategy in place and be realistic about output, then make the most out of that.
Schedule your social on a platform like Hootsuite, write four blogs and schedule each for the same day and time each week (which will help with optimisation).
Finally, if you don’t have anything interesting to say don’t post until you can change the conversation. Your readers need to gain value from every post, and a running commercial or narcissistic stream will not achieve a positive outcome.
What’s the most misunderstood part of social media?
That it’s optional.
What’s the one thing all entrepreneurs need to know about digital strategy?
That it is not “social media”. Social fits into it but is a small piece in a much larger picture.
You left NYC where you were the Global Head of Content and Digital at Preston Bailey to move to London in 2016. What motivated you to do this?
I love England and have wanted to live here for nearly two decades. The UK is closely tied to my grandfather, who raised me, and who remains the greatest love of my life. I had been flying over and applying to jobs for years when I heard about the Tech Nation Visa Scheme. I applied as soon as I could and was awarded my visa in July of 2016. That was it for me. I sold almost everything I owned, quit my job with Preston’s blessing and moved to my forever home.
Can you tell us more about the Tech Nation VISA?
It’s a wonderful scheme that offers those with exceptional talent and exceptional promise the chance to move to the UK and make a global impact. Frankly, it changes lives. You can learn more about it here, and I’m an ambassador for the programme, so feel free to reach out to me directly.
What did you learn from the move? Did you have to rebrand yourself?
That globalisation has a very limited impact on culture shock aside from the fact it can make it more confusing. I expected a seamless transition and that was not the case. It’s also taught me the importance of balance and flexibility.
I’m from a city that rewards and celebrates ambition, expertise, collaboration and innovation and while there are experts and plenty of innovation in London, there’s also this unspoken agreement that ambition is a dirty word and collaboration with those who don’t understand what you do (and those who think you do) can feel a bit disruptive, and not in a good way.
Being a New Yorker, I’m used to straight forward communication and I have found the lack of transparency and passive aggression difficult to deal with. Where I am from, we would find many things deemed “polite” here, impolite and dishonest the same way some people here would find our candour and tone rude. Both are right and wrong ways to communicate, depending on where you are. So while I have not made a conscious decision to rebrand, there have definitely been some refinements and tweaks.
How did living and working in England change your perspective?
I love England and the challenges have encouraged me to find ways to learn a new, sometimes better) way of doing things. I’ve had to start over in different areas and that’s slowed me down and forced me to rethink my approach and reevaluate. In doing so, my leadership and management skills have been polished.
I’ve also had access to a much larger pool of international talent which has been exciting, educational and so rewarding. I’ve also been humbled. I was in a comfortable place career-wise in NYC and moving here definitely shoved me onto my back foot a while. That’s been a good thing as it has ensured that I don’t get comfortable which can be toxic to growth.
Who is your career role model, and why?
Oprah in terms of content and media success. DVF and Muhammad Ali in terms of personal branding.
What sparked your passion for working in the tech industry?
I’m an individual thinker who likes to have control of my own career progress. If I succeed, great, but if I fail, I need to know it was not because I was being suffocated by a misguided manager. I love creating new things, I enjoy change and I’m not afraid of challenges.
I also love wins and can deal with losses, but I want ownership of both. There’s nothing worse than being held accountable for someone else’s misguided strategy. Add my enjoyment of writing and psychology and digital technology makes sense for me.
Name 3 apps on your phone that you use every day.
I use so many every day! Canva, Instagram and WhatsApp are three. I also love Trello, Twitter and Gmail.
What’s your favourite piece of technology or gadget that you couldn’t live without?
My phone and laptop are obvious choices, but my earphones and Fitbit are great for recess in the gym.
How does technology directly impact your success?
I’d have no career, would not be living in the country I love or have met the love of my life without it. I stay connected to my friends and mentees around the world with it and enjoy my time being active more as a result of it. It’s elevated every part of my life.
What are the websites you read daily?
BBC, The Everygirl, Moz, Wired, and a bunch of randoms as I spend a decent amount of time on LinkedIn and click on anything that interests me.
How do you stay on top of the latest trends and technologies?
I am fortunate to be a part of Tech Nation and attend loads of events, have a running news stream and every publication worth its weight has a tech section.
How do think technology is going to change people’s lives?
It’s already changed peoples lives and will continue to. The brain structure of Millennials is inherently different due to technology.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on my next book and building The BDC Collective which is due to launch later this year. I’m enjoying speaking more and my boyfriend has promised me a date night that doesn’t involve a pub at some point in 2019, so that’s exciting!
Where can people reach you?
About BDC Digital Media
BDC Digital media is a full-scale digital media agency and community focused on empowering entrepreneurs and their teams with the knowledge, skills and content needed to grow their businesses and brands to unimaginable success.