Leadership Coach Spotlight: Vikki Brown

Posted on
group of college students smiling with their Braven leadership coach

Our Leadership Coaches (LCs) are the principal facilitators of the Braven career course. LCs facilitate weekly in-person workshops for 5-8 college students and coach each student individually to design their career vision, goals, and roadmap. As students progress and develop throughout the course, so do our coaches; our LCs get real-world practice managing a diverse team of up-and-coming talent.

We recently caught up with Vikki Brown who has been a Leadership Coach nine semesters in a row! Born to a single mom in Washington D.C., Vikki was the first in her family to attend and graduate from college. One week after graduation, she enlisted in the Navy. From serving as a Reserve Officer to working in retail and property management, Vikki collected a multitude of work experiences. Now she’s giving back as an LC and empowering students to develop the skills they need to succeed.


Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born to a single mom in Washington D.C. and raised by my maternal grandfather. I was the second in my family to graduate from high school and the first to attend and graduate from college. I attended a small women’s college in Missouri where many of my peers came from affluent families and had never known a person of color, which made for some interesting relationships. 


Take us through your career path. What led you to your current career?

I knew I wanted to join the Navy when I was 14 years old and never deviated from that decision. So, one week after graduating from college I enlisted. Two years later, I received my commission as an Officer and spent 7 years on active duty, 10 years as a Reserve Officer, and finally retired as a Lieutenant Commander. 

While in the reserves, I worked as a Dark Room Technician for the San Jose Police Department. I left the city to attend Law School but was academically disqualified after the first year (missed the cut by .03 percent). Afterward, I began working in retail where I managed a lab for Lenscrafters before returning to the city as a Parking Compliance Supervisor. Six years later, the city opened its animal shelter, and I became the Call Center Manager.

In 2010, I retired due to a medical condition and started working part time for the Stanford School of Medicine as a receptionist because I needed something to do. I spent the next two years as the primary Property Manager for 13 buildings for the School of Medicine. I had no experience in property management, but I had a manager who understood that I had the skills to learn the job and do it well.

During my last year as a Property Manager, I was asked to work for a younger supervisor who had only managed college students and found myself frustrated. I wanted to help her improve her management skills and help her see that you do not manage a 50-year-old the same way you manage an 18-year-old. I decided to turn that frustration into a consulting business to teach new managers how to succeed.


What inspired you to become a Braven Leadership Coach?

I saw an ad on LinkedIn and asked my wife what she thought. She said, “You need to do this”. So I did.  The truth is that when I looked at the ad, it seemed to encompass all the skills and experience I had gathered in all of my work experiences and was the perfect match for my mission to help people succeed in the workplace.


Describe your experience as an LC.

LIFE CHANGING. As a child, I was told that you never work for free, but Braven has taught me the importance of giving back. What’s interesting is that I never thought of myself as someone having passion until I discovered Braven. The experience has not only made me a better manager, but it has made me a better person. Every semester, I get much more than I give.

The biggest thing I believe all LCs accomplish is helping young people come to the belief that they can truly do anything. I had this happen with a very shy student who would barely speak up in class. The semester before she graduated, she invited me out for coffee, and during our conversation, she looked at me with a great big grin and said: “I can do anything”. It makes me grin all these years later.


What is one of your most significant accomplishments as an LC?

I tell this story to anyone who will listen. It was my first semester and I had a young woman who was very introspective and shy. She spoke very quietly and at one point told the group that she “lived for math”. 

As we went through the semester, I saw her gain more confidence and take on her role in the Capstone Challenge with determination. After the course, we would meet for coffee (yes, I will meet any Fellow for coffee anytime) and she told me how she had begun helping people in her community. 

At one point, she looked at me and said, “My mother is the daughter of a Vietnam vet and I want to find him for her.” I was completely blown away–not that she would want to do it, but that she would attempt it. Not only did she find him, but I suggested that we meet for coffee and she said she couldn’t because she and her mom were flying out to meet her grandfather’s family. This is only one of the many stories that keep me coming back to Braven. It truly changes lives.


How has your cohort grown throughout the Braven course? 

What I see time and time again is that my Fellows start to get a sense that they can succeed. In my business, I call it “confident competence”.  It plays out every semester as Fellows start to believe in themselves and then take the risk to really put themselves out there.


How has Braven helped you in your current role? What skills has it helped you strengthen?

Every semester, I adopt a core value on which to concentrate. This semester it’s “Embrace the Journey”, and it helps not only in my business but in everyday life. Some of the exercises and activities help me work with clients. One particular activity I use in my emotional intelligence workshops is the “Take a Stand” exercise. It helps people focus on how they understand and approach various work situations. Great activity!


What is the most rewarding part of being an LC?

The most rewarding part of being a Leadership Coach for Braven is seeing Fellows succeed.

A group of us were invited to see Queen & Adam Lambert in Concert. I walked into the city’s box at the venue and a young woman looked up at me and said “I know you! You were an LC at Braven.” She was a post-accelerator Fellow who was working as a council aide and I asked her if she was living her dream. I still remember her smile as she said “yes”.


What advice do you have for people who want to become Leadership Coaches?

Be prepared to fall in love and know that “the kids will be okay”.

When I see kids that are passionate about making our world better in selfless ways, I see hope and passion that we often don’t credit young people with having, and it’s calming and comforting to know that it’s out there in droves. We just need to find it and give them the tools to get it done.  When you are an LC, you can see your legacy come to life.

Interested in getting involved as a Leadership Coach? Check out our volunteer opportunities to learn more!