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She Took Failure Really Far: How a Loss Turned Into an Amazing Career in Marketing

Meet Brittany Johnson: Pace’s not-so-secret weapon.

Brittany Johnson grew up just 33 miles from Times Square. If that sounds exciting, you should hear about the rest of her life.

Johnson is the youngest of four; her parents work in publishing in New York. “We’re an intense family,” she says. While her parents commuted from Stamford, Connecticut, to New York, she and her three older siblings were busy creating. Art was very big in her family. “Between my sister and me, we probably bankrupted my parents with how many sketchbooks we needed at all times.”

Johnson admired her sisters and brother, and her interests followed theirs. Her brother was into sports, so she was too. One of her sister’s songs was in the Library of Congress, so Johnson became a classically trained singer. And because her sister knew many languages, Johnson attempted to learn not just French but colloquial French.

In high school, she was part of the theater crowd because, yes, her siblings loved the theater, too. But it was losing a part that propelled her toward her eventual career skills.

“I auditioned for a part in Cabaret,” she says, “but I lost the role to a senior.” That’s when she transitioned to the technical side of theater. “I think it was a defining moment in how the rest of my career has progressed. I got those core skills of being tech-savvy, of being able to work with vendors and other professionals.”

She worked not only in her high school’s theater but also in Stamford’s professional Equity theater. “I took that failure really far,” she says. She built sets, worked on lighting and sound, learned to manage groups, including “everyone experiencing their high school hormones. How do you get them to be thoughtful and creative and put on Cyrano de Bergerac?”

When it came time for college, she initially majored in technical production at Savannah College of Art and Design. Again, she was drawn to the school because her sister had gone there. But also she wanted to live far from home. “I wanted to have some space to grow. I wanted to see what I did on my own.”

Once Johnson had that space, she discovered the appeal of a less-demanding schedule and more free time to create, so she changed her major to illustration. “I developed a highly portable style of art. I learned reportage illustration style. I wanted to know how wartime illustrators managed their time, how to make ink on the fly,” she says.

She also got into yoga, and because Johnson never does anything halfway, she also began working at and eventually managing the yoga studio. In college, she met her now-fiancé, who after college got scouted by HondaJet in Greensboro. And that is how Johnson became a Southerner. “I think it was the best decision we ever made,” she says of moving to Greensboro.

“I decided to only work in a creative industry here.” Previously she had dedicated her focus to learning the ins and outs of small businesses. “I learned different multitasking abilities. I treasure those lessons. How can I crunch numbers, then smile and solve a customer issue all in 30 seconds? I use those skills a lot now.”

Eager for a change, Johnson started researching local agencies and knew Pace was for her. She got on LinkedIn and contacted Pace Executive Creative Director Neil Marion, who agreed to meet up with her at a restaurant in Winston-Salem. “I ordered him anything he wanted,” she laughs. “He really listened to me about what I wanted to get out of my career. Then he got his phone out, opened the job recs at Pace and saw the producer position was open, so we talked about it. I applied for it that night,” she says.

She interviewed at Pace and was hired as a photo editor/photo producer in 2018. “I was succeeding in my role, but I knew I could do more,” she says. So once again she talked to Marion. “Neil has helped my career multiple times,” she says. “His support is one of the reasons I was able to do it.”

Pace’s social media team needed a new member, but that new member had to prove worthy of the position. “I had to take an art test to prove I could film and edit a video in six hours. First, I had to send a screenshot with a time stamp of my footage. Fortunately, [Senior Editor] Molly [McGinn] was performing at Joymongers, so I was able to film her and send a video at 1:00 in the morning.”

She got the job.

Now, Johnson is an associate creative director at Pace. “I help optimize any social across the company, making sure it will perform the best it can, lending any strategic or innovative insight to something. I’m making a lot of the social posts myself.”

Johnson hasn’t stopped there. “Part of my personal growth has been that I’ve put a lot of time into becoming more proficient in After Effects and video editing in general. Those skills have increased my ability to be effective, especially in social.

“I’m trying to teach other people how to use After Effects. It’s got a very short learning curve but a very steep mastery curve.”

Meanwhile, Johnson is having fun planning her upcoming wedding and learning Dungeons & Dragons. “There’s just so much to explore and do,” she says.

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