Women are taking the world by storm in every facet. Across every industry, women are thriving, setting trends, developing powerful business strategies, and leading companies to heightened success.
As we close out Women’s Month, we’re so excited to feature Marcelle Brawner, our Director of Operations!
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Of course! I’m a military brat – I was born in England, but my family relocated to Washington D.C. when I was young. I was raised here in the District and attended District of Columbia Public schools. I earned my B.S. in Business Administration and Management from North Carolina Wesleyan College; and an M.S. in Organization Development from American University.
On a personal level, I enjoy going to the movies, traveling to new countries and experiencing new cultures! I’m a lifelong learner that loves gaining knowledge and having new experiences. I am also a mother, daughter, sister, aunt, great-aunt, grandmother (another grandson is coming in September!), friend and confidant to many.
Walk us through your professional journey. How did you matriculate from your first entry level position to becoming an executive?
I landed my first entry-level position at a Fortune 100 technology firm in Bethesda, MD. As I grew my skills and knowledge, I developed a keen interest in how businesses grow, operate, and prosper. My entrepreneurial spirit led me to explore the key cornerstones of business: operations, technology, people management, diversity, and process management. My career took off from there.
I relocated from Washington, DC to Raleigh, North Carolina and advanced to operational leadership roles leading local, national, and international teams, focused on customer experiences and satisfaction, supply chain, and more.
In the next leg of my journey, I spent some time reinventing myself. I transitioned from Corporate America to an entrepreneurial path in insurance and annuities; strategic leadership in local government; and organizational development consulting for non-profit organizations in Durham, NC.
I took a one-year sabbatical and relocated back to D.C., resuming O.D. and expert consulting in strategic planning, change management, operations, and process management for Federal Government agencies. My passion to do fulfilling work and belong to an organization, with a mission and vision tugged at me and led me to Octane. My career journey and experiences prepared me for the best job of my career! I bring value, passion, and experience to this AMAZING Agency and mentor tomorrow’s leaders.
(Yes, she does! We’re so thrilled to have her as a part of the Octane family!)
How has your experience been as a woman in the industry? What challenges and/or bias have you faced, and how did you overcome them?
Early on in my career, I was challenged with adapting to the corporate culture of women assimilating to the behavior, dress, and work style of the majority group: white men.
I had to learn how to be seen and not heard, and when I did speak, I was cautious about not being perceived as confrontational, especially being an African-American woman. Both my African-American female vice president and male manager guided me on how to manage these “political” workplace situations, and how to gain allies and sponsorship for career opportunities.
My professional goals inspired me to continuously seek mentorship and growth opportunities.
Can you describe your role at Octane? How did you help push the team towards success?
As the Director of Operations at Octane, my team is responsible for front and back-office systems and processes. We ensure seamless workflows to achieve Octane’s vision and mission. Our workstream includes information technology, human resources, and financial management.
An integral part to the achievements and projects in progress is the trust, confidence, and support extended to me by the CEO.
When I started in 2021, I immediately began by building relationships with the staff to understand the current environment. I asked questions regarding roles and responsibilities, professional desires, Octane’s culture, what the agency does, and opportunities for improvement.
This allowed me to feed back the data, develop the foundation to drive and implement key projects and initiatives, strengthen Octane’s operational and organization structure, and rally the team around their hopes and desires for Octane.
What advice would you give to younger women looking to get into the male-dominated operations industry?
- Know Your Why – Why do I want to do this? Your why will get you through the best and least of times
- Seek, Receive, Hear, and Listen to Feedback – Seek out feedback from others about yourself, your work, your desires, your goals. This is critical to enabling you to be the best version of yourself, even if it’s someone who you don’t have the deepest connection with. Some of the best feedback I have received is from people who, transparently, I didn’t have much regard for. However, when I decided to really hear and listen to the feedback, I discovered valuable nuggets.
- Invest Your Time and Do the Work – Always be willing to do what’s necessary to get the job done. Don’t be intimidated by difficult tasks. Take initiative to seek strategic mentors, network with key players, etc.
- Remain Committed to The Person You Want to Be – Project the person you want to see. If you desire to be a leader, project attributes of a leader. Document your goals and progress in achieving them. Dream Big! – If your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough! Through all of this, don’t forget to make time for yourself. And always remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression.