Meet the Pros

Chloe Dao

Fashion Designer, Dao Chloe Dao

The other pros: Julia Detar | Manny Dominguez | Luis Lopez | Sue Torres | Elton Brand | Jeremy Chernick

When you were a teenager, what things did you do outside of school?

I was kind of a nerdy and active teenager. I was a cheerleader and journalist throughout junior high.  In high school I played on the tennis team for four years and was president of Latin club. I also worked at my mom’s dry cleaning business. So a lot of my time was tied up in sports, academics, and work.

What difficulties did you have to overcome to get on your career path?

I feel really lucky that I’ve never had any really tough difficulties in my career. I was at the right place at the right time, worked with the right people, and got the experience that I needed to start my own company. I went to FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) and did pattern making as a degree, which was a good choice for me.  I was an assistant buyer and worked in sales, merchandising, production, and design. I saved all these experiences and learned from them, which is the smartest way to do business. The only drawback about wanting to be successful is that you have to sacrifice some things like your social life, but for me, having my own business was always my dream, so those sacrifices didn’t seem so big to me.

What do you like most about your career?

I like how fashion is like art that you can own and wear. I love creating beautiful clothes, and I love being creative.

What did you think of math when you were a teen? Has your attitude changed since then?

I always liked math as a teenager because math is universal and straightforward. In junior high, I even competed in math competitions. Now, I use math all the time in business and patternmaking. Calculating profits and costs is very important in deciding what is best to sell. In patternmaking, we use geometry and basic math to create a pattern for production.

What advice do you have for students who are struggling with math?

Whenever you struggle with anything or don’t understand something, go to others and ask for help. Find someone like your teacher or your friend to help explain it in a way you can understand. The most important point is not to be intimidated; everyone can do math.

Who is your hero?  Why?

Anyone who follows his or her dreams and loves what they do is my hero. Live life to the fullest without regret because regret is the worst kind of feeling.


Julia Detar

Senior Game Developer, Arkadium

The other pros: Chloe Dao | Manny Dominguez | Luis Lopez | Sue Torres | Elton Brand | Jeremy Chernick

When you were a teenager, what things did you do outside of school?

Quilting (weird, I know), ceramics, tennis, playing around with this computer program called Hypercard (a basic watered-down version of Flash), working/volunteering on a dairy farm which was half farm/half public education on farming, playing the clarinet.

What difficulties did you have to overcome to get on your career path?

Just choosing it was hard. I wanted to do so many things and also I just wasn’t aware at the time that this was a career I could have. Everyone thinks about game design now, but back then it wasn’t mentioned as a viable career, and looking back I wish there were more programs that encouraged kids in school to think about computer science. My school system didn’t have programs back then like there are now (Alice, KPL, and other learn programming apps).

What do you like most about your career?

It’s a lot of fun. I help make games that people really enjoy playing and I enjoy playing them too. But making them is even more fun. When you code you can see these things come alive and when you bug fix it is like being a detective. I also enjoy my role as a game artist, creating how a game is going to look.

What did you think of math when you were a teen? Has your attitude changed since then?

Totally!  I had such a hard time with math in high school. I knew I needed to learn it – I just had a hard time grasping it. I’m also dyslexic, which even now still affects me.  I would get the order of operations mixed up as well as just writing the wrong numbers (82 instead of 28, for example).

What advice do you have for students who are struggling with math?

I had a hard time making math something I could visualize and programming allowed me to do that. If I couldn’t understand what was happening in a larger sense, it was hard for me to grasp the concepts. Don’t give up. Just because it doesn’t come easily to you doesn’t mean you’re not good at it. A lot of math, especially in higher levels, is problem solving. If you are having a hard time, try to think about the equations or problems as something you would use in real life, or even in a videogame. That might make it easier to come up with solutions. Don’t be afraid to draw things out. If you find a technique that will help you, use it. Math is so important and I know as a student I was so tired of hearing that, but it is used in a lot of creative fields you wouldn’t think it was used in.

Who is your hero?  Why?

One of them was my second grade teacher. I think teachers can sometimes forget the impact they can have on kids, but it can be really profound. She encouraged me to keep pressing on even when I was struggling. Encouragement can be so important; ironically, so can discouragement. I had a few people along the way tell me I couldn’t do this or that and that has motivated me to prove them wrong. The people who created the game Myst I would consider my heroes, too, since it was the first computer game where I was actively thinking, “Wow! I really want to recreate this game. I wonder how I could do that?”


Emanuel (Manny) Dominguez

Emcee, The Brooklyn Label
Office Services Assistant, EdisonLearning

The other pros: Chloe Dao | Julia Detar | Luis Lopez | Sue Torres | Elton Brand | Jeremy Chernick

When you were a teenager, what things did you do outside of school?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed writing. When I was a teenager, I would enjoy writing poems and songs. I would perform at talent shows and other types of showcases in my neighborhood. I’ve always enjoyed playing sports, as well. I would play basketball and football all the time when I was younger. Reading was also something I did often. I would open up volumes of encyclopedias sometimes and learn random things that seemed interesting to me.

What difficulties did you have to overcome to get on your career path?

I grew up in a predominantly lower-class neighborhood in Manhattan called Washington Heights, so struggles with poverty were definitely a challenge at times. Food and clothing weren’t always abundant and there were bad influences around me that could have caused me to take a negative path. However, I believe that facing these issues helped build my character in the long run, and allowed me to better understand my true priorities and always appreciate the things I had. Staying in school and getting good grades wasn’t always easy, as hardships stemming from growing up in a tough neighborhood and living in a small apartment with four other family members could be distracting, to say the least. But I stuck to my priorities, and I can say that I am employed at an education-based company, in a time where unemployment is becoming an increasing issue, and I am also doing something that I love, which is progressive hip-hop music.

What do you like most about your career?

When it comes to my “9-5″ job, I feel like it’s great that I do work for a company that is helping to educate hundreds of thousands of students in America, as well as some other parts of the world. It’s a great feeling to know that my efforts are going towards such a noble cause. As far as my career as an artist, I love every aspect of it. From the feeling I get performing for an audience, to the camaraderie between my fellow artists at the label when we are working on music. It’s amazing to know that I am providing quality entertainment for people as well as sharing with them a positive message through music.

What did you think of math when you were a teen? Has your attitude changed since then?

When I was a teen, I always enjoyed my creative thinking classes the most, so math wasn’t always my favorite subject. It was interesting for me, though, because I always felt like there were so many purposes for it, and I would discover them and understand them more when I got older. As time passed, I started to comprehend more about the real-life applications of math and how it is a foundation for so much in our society.

What advice do you have for students who are struggling with math?

The advice I always followed when it came to math was to always be careful when following steps and to always test an answer that I came up with and wasn’t sure about. The smallest error in a calculation can throw off the entire process of getting a solution. I would also tell students who are struggling not to let it frustrate them, because a positive attitude is very important when it comes to doing math and so many other aspects of learning.

Who is your hero? Why?

I would have to say mother is my hero. She has always been an excellent role model for me, and continues to be a shining, positive influence in my life and other people’s lives. She showed me that love, respect, hard work, and education should be top priorities for me.  Her outlook on life, amidst the pressures of being a pillar of strength for her family and friends, still inspires me to this day.


Luis Lopez

Lyricist and Producer, The Brooklyn Label
Stock Manager, Marc Jacobs

The other pros: Chloe Dao | Julia Detar | Manny Dominguez | Sue Torres | Elton Brand | Jeremy Chernick

When you were a teenager, what things did you do outside of school?

As a teenager I was really into playing basketball, acting, and rapping. I also held a part-time job all throughout high school at a busy bagel shop. I’d work on weekends and some days during the week when it wasn’t basketball season.

What difficulties did you have to overcome to get on your career path?

At Marc Jacobs, I started at the bottom because of my inexperience in retail, but with hard work and fast learning, I now hold a decent position with possibilities of moving into corporate America.

At the Brooklyn Label, I came in right when they were first establishing the company. Luckily Micah Gottlieb had been my math teacher in high school and that’s where I first showed an interest in creating music. We had special weeks at our school called “minimesters.” During minimesters we had a week to focus on an art: acting, painting, music making, baking, photography, etc. I had been playing bass in the school jazz band and within the week of minimester I began to make a switch from the bass to writing rhymes. Graduating in 2003, I went to college in Boston at Suffolk University and worked with some hip-hop producers who were getting me gigs at local universities. After a year, I left school in Boston and came back to New York determined to do everything myself. This meant making beats myself, which meant I needed equipment. I knew I didn’t have much of a budget to buy equipment so I had to be smart. I went back to my old high school music and math teacher Micah. I needed to know from him what type of stuff to look for. I didn’t want to buy anything I didn’t need or that was too expensive. He told me that he and his college buddy were starting a label and I should get a little demo put together. He said if they liked what they heard, let’s see what can happen.

What do you like most about your career?

What I like most about my career is that every day is different; you never know what you might encounter for the day. You might have a huge shipment to count in or you might spend the whole day looking over spreadsheet reports reviewing numbers. Also, being in the retail store, I work with cool and interesting people who make it fun. Plus there are major perks for clothes; they keep us looking fresh.

As a musician, I love being on stage – still don’t know especially why, but guess it’s because I can write my own script. Also it’s a crazy feeling when people come up and are like, “Yo, I was feeling that,” and you know it’s the truth because while I was on stage, I saw them in the crowd, head bouncing to the beat.

What did you think of math when you were a teen? Has your attitude changed since then?

As a teen I knew being good at math was a vital skill to have. Especially working part time in high school as a cashier, I used math all the time. It was important for me to use it to keep a job and know how I was budgeting my hard-earned cash. On top of that, my school was a far distance from home, so math also helped me with my time management skills.

Nowadays when you’re living on your own, math is your best friend!!!!!! Now without math I wouldn’t be able to survive in the city that doesn’t sleep. You need math for budgeting your time and budgeting your money; that’s the bottom line. Without both of those you can fall behind pretty fast.

What advice do you have for students who are struggling with math?

Keep working on it. Sometimes everything starts to make sense once you get into a real-life situation where a certain type of math is needed. It may not always make much sense on paper, but try using another approach, real life.

Who is your hero? Why?

Michael Jordan has always been my hero because when he was growing up he wasn’t exactly the most natural basketball player.  But with constant work and dedication, he became the best.  Also, the small things he did within the game gave birth to a whole new style and changed the way athletes approach their sport.


Sue Torres

Chef and Owner, Sueños

The other pros: Chloe Dao | Julia Detar | Manny Dominguez | Luis Lopez | Elton Brand | Jeremy Chernick

Coming soon!


Elton Brand

Power Forward, Philadelphia 76ers

The other pros: Chloe Dao | Julia Detar | Manny Dominguez | Luis Lopez | Sue Torres | Jeremy Chernick

When you were a teenager, what things did you do outside of school?

Outside of basketball I played football, musical instruments (clarinet/sax), and read science fiction books.

What difficulties did you have to overcome to get on your career path?

One difficulty was adjusting to the level of competition. From middle school, to high school, to college, the players were bigger, faster, and stronger. I had to adapt and work harder to get to their level. Another was dealing with injuries. I broke my foot in college, and tore my achilles and labrum in the pros.

What do you like most about your career?

The thing I like most about my career is that it has lasted so long. Many players have had a short stint in professional sports. I’m on my 13th season with goals of playing many more.

What did you think of math when you were a teen? Has your attitude changed since then?

I loved math as a teenager. In my preteen years I really struggled with it, then I realized it was fun to use statistics, formulas, and other variables to find the correct answer.

What advice do you have for students who are struggling with math?

My advice for students struggling in math is to take it as a challenge. Most answers can be found by working hard at it. When you step up to that challenge and find the answer, you feel good about it.

Who is your hero? Why?

My hero is my mom. Seeing her work so hard instilled a great work ethic in me.


Jeremy Chernick

Designer / Project Manager / Pyrotechnician, J&M Special Effects

The other pros: Chloe Dao | Julia Detar | Manny Dominguez | Luis Lopez | Sue Torres | Elton Brand

When you were a teenager, what things did you do outside of school?

I grew up just outside of New York City in Teaneck New Jersey. I went to High School in Manhattan. So my outside of school activities took full advantage of the environment. I saw a lot of plays and went to museums. My parents gave me the freedom to explore the arts and the city has always been a fantastic place for that.

What difficulties did you have to overcome to get on your career path?

I think the biggest hurdle for me was endurance. I worked in a lot of different types of jobs behind the scenes in entertainment and failed at a lot of things before I started to head in the right direction. I tell a lot of people starting out in the field that it takes 10 years to prove that you’re really committed. After that, people seem to start to take some notice. Those first 10 years are often very difficult.

What do you like most about your career?

Every day I get to work with other amazing and creative people, and together we get to tell great stories.

What did you think of math when you were a teen? Has your attitude changed since then?

Hated it. Now I use it every day and could not do my work without it.

What advice do you have for students who are struggling with math?

Unfortunately the obstacle is part of the journey. I never knew this when I was in high school, and to be honest I doubt I would have listened. The most important thing in general is to accept the obstacle for what it is and find the slow path through, around, over or under it. I’ve always been a hard worker and had an understanding of my weaknesses. This has helped me make it through even when I am not suited or just plain bad at something.

Who is your hero? Why?

My hero was a professor named Dr. Larry Rosenfield. He brought me self-esteem and gave me confidence to be who I am. College is where I learned to love school.

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