Darrin Berge, VP and creative director at HelloWorld on his best career decision
Darrin Brege, VP and creative director at HelloWorld. Image: HelloWorld

How taking a risk can be the best career decision of your life

31 Jul 2017

Whether you know what you want to do in life or not, taking risks and grabbing seemingly random opportunities could be the key to your success.

Opportunity often comes knocking in the strangest of forms. When you’re thinking about your dream job and the arduous journey that will take you there, you’re rarely expecting said job to fall into your lap.

In theory, we all know we have to be brave, work hard, put ourselves out there, and chase opportunities and experiences that create stepping stones towards that perfect career.

As we said, in theory, we all know this. But putting it into practice can be a very different challenge. Which risks are the right risks? What will help you progress? How do you know which career decision is the right one for you?

The truth is, you often don’t. But being brave and taking those risks is half the battle to finding out. Darrin Brege is the vice-president and creative director at HelloWorld, a marketing platform for some of the world’s top brands.

“I’ve been here for about 14 years and it’s a wonderful place,” he said. It would be easy to assume Brege was always interested in marketing and worked his way up the career ladder. However, you’d be wrong.

Taking the scenic route

“It’s a pretty crazy story,” said Brege, who started in college in pre-med before jumping into economics and management. However, that wasn’t where his passion lay. “As soon as I graduated college, I went off to California because I always wanted to be an animator.”

Brege went to Hollywood to attend animation school. After enduring the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the 1994 Northridge earthquake, which devastated lives, Brege decided it was time to go. “By chance, there was a company back in Michigan that was doing Disney animated storybooks.”

He moved back to Michigan for a job with the company but, as it wouldn’t start for months, he bounced around different jobs to keep his head above water, one of which was working at a bar.

“I’d get on the microphone and do voices, saying we’re going to close the place and when we’d close, I’d just mess around doing different celebrity impressions,” he said. “There was a person there that worked at one of Detroit’s biggest comedy clubs and he said there was an improv troop that’s going to have auditions; ‘You should audition.’

“That decision changed my life,” he said. “It was from there that I ended up meeting my wife.” With a marriage that spans more than 20 years and 11 children’s books, which Brege and his wife released together, it’s safe to say joining that improv troop was the best risk he ever took.

So, comedy brought him to his now wife, how did it bring him to HelloWorld? Again, chance opportunity came knocking.

Comedy is an open door

The comedy club led Brege to a radio gig and this is where someone who worked at HelloWorld, known at the time as ePrize, heard of him. “He said: ‘Hey, you’re an artist, we’re looking for artists to come and do some promotions and animations, maybe you can bring your skills to where I work?’”

Brege said one of the great things about HelloWorld was that it was a place where creativity was encouraged. “There was no limits. If you had an idea, we talked about it.”

‘Whatever drives you, take a chance and put it out there because you don’t know what doors will open’

With technology moving at a phenomenal pace and animation becoming more and more ambitious, I asked Brege how hard it was from a creative point of view to work with the technology side of things.

He said understanding where the software developers are coming from is key. Knowing when to let creative ideas be at the mercy of the technology in front of them is important, too.

“We have to be on the same page together,” he said. “We could come up with the craziest idea but will it make the experience less because we’re waiting for things that haven’t happened?”

Brege said throughout his career, his biggest challenge was overcoming his own fear of incorporating his background in animation and comedy into his job. “It’s risk-taking. Do I have something to offer that’s not the norm? I didn’t come from a design background.”

He said he was very fortunate in following the risks that brought him to a place where he could do what he loves. “When you’re doing what you love, it doesn’t even feel like you’re at work.”

Asking someone what they like to do is at the heart of any career advice he gives to people. “Give it a shot, take a risk, try it out, talk to people.

“Whatever drives you, take a chance and put it out there because you don’t know what doors will open.”

Brege also advises leaders to stay out of their teams’ way in order to get the most out of them. “Let them do their thing,” he said. “Stay out of their way and let them work when they want to work.”

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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