The First-Person Project

Amy (Brassard) Oelkers ’97

Ridgewood, NJ

Vice President of Revenue, VOGUE, New York City

Major: Psychology

I grew up in Londonderry, New Hampshire, and when it came time to think about colleges I applied to four schools: UNH, Plymouth State, Keene State, and the University of Hartford. My whole high school went to UNH, my brother went to Plymouth, I didn’t really like the University of Hartford, so just by pure crossing them off the list, I ended up at Keene State.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I started college, and I think that was the beauty of KSC; it allowed me to figure out my path. I majored in psychology, and even though I ended up (somewhat) far from that academic focus, I use what I learned in psychology on a daily basis today. The major set me up for a great career.

I loved Keene State. It was and still is an amazing undergraduate school. I danced all four years and was also a member of the sorority Delta Phi Epsilon. My sorority was a huge part of my experience. My sisters and friends from Keene are my best relationships with the best memories. I did go in and out of majors; at one point I was interested in business and the fashion industry. But I quickly realized my passion and connection was with psychology and the understanding of human behavior. That interest (and my passion for dance) charted my course at Keene State.

After graduation, I stayed in New Hampshire and worked for a year in education at Londonderry Middle School. I coached field hockey and cheerleading and loved being with the kids. Then an opportunity came up that would start out in New Hampshire but eventually transfer me to New York City. The city was a place I always felt a pull toward – but I knew I couldn’t survive in New York on a teacher’s salary – so I took the job. Within six months I was out of New Hampshire and working on Wall Street. A far cry from teaching or even fashion, but at least I was in the city.

After a couple of years I made a connection through my then boyfriend, and now husband, Robin – Keene State class of ’98 – with someone who worked for Vogue (little did I know Vogue would come back into my life/career) and that’s how I got started. My connection helped me land a job at Allure magazine, which is how I got my foot in the door at Condé Nast, the parent company that owns many of the brands I’ve worked for (including Vogue, Teen Vogue, Glamour, etc.). Media (especially publishing, at the time) is a small industry; you move around very quickly, you follow bosses, bosses take you to different companies. You kind of ping pong around. I climbed the ranks quickly – from sales rep to account director to ad director to associate publisher to vice president of digital sales, and am now vice president of revenue for Vogue.

In my current role I am responsible for delivering the revenue for Vogue across all platforms – magazine, digital, social, and video. I run the day-to-day, managing a large team across the country and in Europe. Vogue is the crown jewel here at Condé Nast and in the world of fashion and media. What does fashion media bring to people? I think media is entertainment. Provides a moment of escape. It’s the pause that people need in order to just shut everything out, even if it’s just for a minute or an hour. Vogue is escapism. It’s beautiful. It’s aspirational. It provides a moment outside of the mundane. Do people really live this way? Some. Do people really dress this way? They do. But if you really spend time with the content and understand the brand story, you understand that there’s more than just fashion in this fashion brand.

People ask me how often I see Anna Wintour. I see her often. She’s fascinating and phenomenal to be around or just in a conference room with. I’m extremely proud that I get to be in her company. She’s an icon. A pioneer in fashion who will always be remembered. That’s pretty cool. Is my job like the movie The Devil Wears Prada? Not really. People who work here do dress for the job, though the scope of what fashion is today and what people deem fashionable runs the gamut. I’m in front of clients all day long; I literally give three to four presentations a day. So I can’t show up in jeans and a hoodie. But I’m one end of the spectrum, where I wear a dress every day. You won’t find me in jeans until the weekend. I don’t own pants; I wear dresses every day because it’s easy – the only other thing you have to think about is shoes.

My advice: In anything you do, or chose to do, do it with passion. Take a chance on something but listen to your gut. Fashion was something that was at my core, but when you’re young and interested in fashion you don’t really have a sense of all of the different ways you can touch upon it as a profession. I had no idea of this world I was coming into. But then once I got into it, what I fell in love with wasn’t so much the fashion as it was the brand and the story it told. That’s why I’ve stayed in this career for so long. I love brands and what I do on a daily basis goes right back to what I learned at Keene State, the importance of human connection and human behavior. As sales people we pitch. We pitch our story standing in front of a room full of people, and the best stories are told by people who understand how to deliver their story as authentically as possible. Read the room. Read their body language. Make it personal. Make it relatable. Listen. Be human. I hosted a group of communication students from Keene State last year – about 60 students and their professors. One of them asked what I look for when I’m interviewing a candidate and my answer was simple - Be you. Be authentic. Hold my attention for the duration of the interview with your knowledge and insights. Dazzle without becoming annoying. It’s a fine line and one we should all master.

Closing out this story: I have no plans to stop, nor can I afford to stop (raising three kids who need to go to college is crazy expensive). Robin and I are a great team and we’ve got a good thing going. I am in the city every day and I travel, and Robin is able to work out of our home. We have twins who are in middle school and one in elementary school. Life is busy and crazy and I don’t see it slowing down. I keep in touch with my Keene friends and my sorority sisters, and we bring the kids up to Keene for events and to show them our college haunts. We take the kids down Appian Way, we go into the Student Center, hit Bagel Works, now called The Works Bakery Café, and usually end up at The Stage. The campus looks amazing and I’m jealous of the time the current students have there. I wish I could go back.