Alumni Profile: Joe Brown

Infinite Careers is a new collaboration between Career Services (CAPD) and the MIT Alumni Association to explore career paths and the non-linearity of career decision making. Read profiles of alumni with unique career paths, hear their stories and network at a series of talks.

Register to hear Joe speak on campus on Wednesday, October 3rd at 5:30pm. The event will also be available on WebEx.

Joe Brown

Education

headshot of Joe Brown

MIT,BS in Mechanical Engineering and Architecture(2007)
SCI-Arc, M.Arch Architecture (2013)

Biography

New York City native and MIT graduate, Joe's passion for dance is cultivated by the underground urban dance scene and Broadway. While studying mechanical engineering at MIT, Joe continued to perform and choreograph as a fraternity stepper of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and competitive hip hop dancer for local crews such as MIT's Ridonkulous and Mocha Moves. His love for both technical and performance art brought him to Los Angeles, receiving his master’s degree in architecture at SCI-Arc.  

Since, he has worked successfully as a professional commercial dancer, choreographer, instructor, creative director and entertainment designer. He is the founder and choreographer of Stroll Groove, a premiere stepping/dance crew recently featured on NBC's World of Dance (Season 1) produced by Jennifer Lopez (www.strollgroove.com).

His dance class Step/Stroll, is a captivating look into stepping technique, culture, history, and fusion with other dance styles (follow @stepstroll). His innovative mix of stepping with a range of other styles, is gaining momentum with even more upcoming television appearances, live shows, and music videos for major artists; including co-choreographing step-infused numbers for and performing in Beyonce's epic Coachella performance this past April. He also choreographed a step/stroll duet for this season of So You Think You Can Dance (Season 15). Joe is represented by MSA Talent Agency, the global leader in dance representation.

Joe Brown Photo

Interview

What influenced your decision to major in Mechanical Engineering at MIT?

My fascination with theme park ride design, specifically roller coasters.

Why did you decide to pursue a Master of Architecture?

My continued interest in theme park design, but with more focus on performative immersive experiences.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?

This career in entertainment affords me the ability to create on and off camera, a testament of my dual passion for design and dance. 

What motivates you to do the work that you do and remain in the entertainment industry?

My motivation is simply watching people be entertained and knowing that I had some role in that experience. The entertainment industry yields so many unique avenues to create within that effectively keeps me in engaged.

What is the biggest challenge you encountered in your career and how did you overcome this challenge?

Shifting careers was a huge challenge monetarily; though, transitioning from a career focused on inanimate production versus becoming the actual public figure/product was indeed very difficult and required consistent mental and physical training.

Sometimes students and even people at all stages of their career have difficulty with making decisions. What strategies did you use to make your career decisions and were there any especially easy or tough decisions that you have encountered?

Number one: be open to multiple strategies.

Number two: evaluate pros and cons thoroughly.

Number three: set a deadline to make a decision.

Number four: go with your gut (sometimes this proves to be your best option).

 

What professional development activities did you participate in when you were in school and early on your career?

InRoads (high school), LEAD Business program (Cornell), National Conference Planning Committee (NSBE), Leadership development and planning (Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.), MIT Externship Program (5 Wits Productions), Media Lab Summer Internship (Neil Gershenfeld).

What professional development activities do you participate in now?

Dancers' Alliance, SAG-AFTRA

Looking back on your experience at MIT, what advice would you give yourself if you knew then what you know now? 

To stop comparing yourself to others -- use others' testimonies as motivation not law. 

What advice would you give to current students that are interested in pursuing a major in Mechanical Engineering or Architecture? 

Explore how your major sometimes will not translate to that exact profession, but rather can be used as a tool within another career (i.e. Entertainment). Both engineering and architecture train you how to be solution-oriented in different ways - latch on to that process more than the subject material.

What advice would you give to current students that are interested in pursuing a career in the entertainment industry? 

Someone will believe in you if you believe in yourself first. Your talent comes second to your confidence.

Do you have any tips for networking or job searching for current students and recent graduates?

Dhaya on “Joe Brown Photoshoot”

Gain perspective from different professionals and take notes. Everyone has a different testimony regarding their job hunt; it is important that you gather a large enough census such that you have options on how to navigate.

Take a real spring break.. 

What is the best career advice that you have ever received? 

Don’t Quit.

What does “work-life balance” mean to you and what do you do to maintain a work-life balance? 

Work-Life balance is critical especially within an industry that is very fickle. For as much work as I do, I have to schedule appropriate time for myself to relax and reconnect with friends and family. That rejuvenation time naturally feeds back into my work, sometimes creatively!

What do you like to do outside of work (e.g., to relax, for fun, as a hobby, on your free time, etc.)? 

Believe it or not--go dancing! Also, a huge fan of discovering events that explore and fuse different art forms (festivals, exhibits, etc.). All-time favorite is visiting theme parks, of course.

Do you participate in any extracurricular or volunteer opportunities? If so, how do you manage your time and balance your professional and personal responsibilities? 

My crew, Stroll Groove, often volunteers our time to non-profit organizations such as Make-A-Wish Foundation and Hollywood Heart as performers, dance instructors, and even kid mentors. Time management is ever-changing, but being committed to the community is prioritized even within the most hectic of weekly schedules.