Brett Brawerman ’12 on paving his own path at Elon and beyond

After devising a unique major and research project at Elon, Brett Brawerman ’12 transfers his skills to the Peace Corps and later, Feedonomics.

Brett Brawerman ’12 has always centered service in his life. “I grew up in a family that believed in service despite not being very religious, so I always had a desire to give back instead of just earning a paycheck,” he said.

Brett Brawerman ’12

This ideology was reflected during his time as a student at Elon. Alongside his roommate and best friend, Kendall Adkins ’12, Brawerman grew the after-school program Coaching Health and Mentoring Positive Students (CHAMPS) under the guidance of Exercise Science Lecturer Liz Bailey.

CHAMPS gave male elementary school students an outlet to work with college-aged mentors to learn valuable life skills through sports. The program was a team effort, with his Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brothers among those volunteering their time and energy to the initiative, Brawerman said. “We had the football team come join a session and run drills followed by a conversation about healthy eating habits called ‘Tackle Your Diet’,” he said.

His work with CHAMPS morphed into a successful research project on mentoring programs as a measure of self-efficacy of boys through mentorship and exercise. In addition to presenting at SURF during his senior year, Brawerman also presented his research at an undergraduate conference in Utah.

Brawerman was always finding opportunities on campus to explore the intersection of his interests. “I created my own major via the Independent Study program so that I could get my foot in the door at big sports companies,” he said, noting that his major incorporated exercise science, business administration and sports management.

That passion for athletics persisted and inspired Brawerman to join the Campus Recreation team and earn his personal training certification. But come graduation, it was his deeply engrained love for helping others that won out over his love of sports.

“[CHAMPS] shaped my passion for service and human development, which ultimately led to my desire to apply for and join the Peace Corps,” he says. Brawerman underwent the year-long application process to become a health education Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova. “I never thought I’d end up living in Eastern Europe, but it was one of the most enriching experiences of my life,” he said.

According to Brawerman, two years may be a long time away from family immediately following college, especially in a country with a vastly different language and culture; however, the once-in-a-lifetime experience was worth it. “I felt like I had a really big impact on an entire rural community (5,000 people) where I helped them learn about balanced nutrition, self-confidence and building good habits,” he said.

Brawerman worked with a Moldovan teacher in his village to develop a health-based curriculum that is still being taught today and wrote a grant with the community’s mayor that led to a park being built in the village. The distance didn’t reduce his connection to the Elon University community, with three different friends from Elon visiting him during his work in Moldova.

Following the Peace Corps, Brawerman worked with several management consulting organizations before landing at his current company, Feedonomics, a Software as a Service technology company focused on e-commerce. He is now the head of culture at Feedonomics, a role through which he has done everything from hiring and recruiting to serving as a kind of chief of staff of their leadership team.

“My role is dedicated to building and maintaining an inspiring and healthy company culture, which is hard to do since we are 100% remote and spread around the globe,” he said. Combined with his experience in consulting, Brawerman feels he has a good feel for how interpersonal skills and the dynamics of groups and clients can impact a work environment.

“I want the team members that come through Feedonomics to remember their time as a ‘Feedo’ as one of the best of their careers,” he said. “I want people to feel heard, to have opportunities to develop their skills and to have their own wins celebrated at a company level. My metric is company retention, but ultimately, it’s the qualitative feedback we get of someone enjoying their role and their own growth that I find fulfilling.”

As he enters his fourth year with Feedonomics, Brawerman reflects on his growth. Being head of culture “combines all the things I want to do — help people be happy in their daily lives and challenge them to reach their highest goals,” he said.

During the time Brawerman has worked at Feedonomics, the company has more than doubled in size and boasts a 93% retention rate. “Our colleagues have trusted us enough to stick around for five, six, seven years” he said. “I think that’s pretty cool.”

Brawerman also had the opportunity to connect with one of his former Elon professors, Sharon Eisner, to host a listening workshop for Feedonomics that helped members of the team strength their soft skills. “It was an awesome full-circle moment for me,” he said.

Brawerman and his friends pose in their robes on graduation day.

Brawerman has come a long way from the high school freshman who tagged along when his older sister toured Elon. His experiences at Elon continue to pay off. His study abroad experience in South Africa showed Brawerman the importance of interacting with different cultures. “I was also a part of a fraternity which taught me that strong bonds and relationships are our most valuable commodity,” he said. “And I got my butt kicked in some courses — hello, human anatomy lab — that showed me I could be a lifelong learner with so many teachings ahead.”

Brawerman has some advice for Elon community members considering applying to the Peace Corps. “Just apply,” he said. “You can always say no, but if it is in your heart, explore the potential opportunity. They are skilled at what they do and will match you with an abroad community that fits your skill set.”

The experience may be uncomfortable at times, but Brawerman believes that the growth is worth it. “Embrace it,” he said. “Vulnerability often yields the greatest rewards.”

What would Brawerman say to his younger self? “Time in college goes by so fast, you never want to leave without thinking you didn’t take advantage of every little thing available to you,” he said. Like Brawerman’s decision to join a fraternity on a whim, there is a lot to be said about those unexpected college experiences.

From his fraternity, Brawerman gained lifelong friendships. He has even officiated four weddings of Elon friends, three of whom were his fraternity brothers. He was also the best man of his Elon101-classmate-turned-best-friend’s wedding. “I guess I owe a lot to Elon and my time as a Phoenix,” he said.