Playing the corporate game has always come easy to DeAndre Brown.
By the time the 22-year-old graduated from Morehouse College last year, he’d already lined up a job with Citibank as a financial analyst and completed a string of high-profile internships, including an apprenticeship with Goldman Sachs.
“I’ve always had really great mentors and was an early adopter of how most workplace cultures flowed,” he said, sharing that imposter syndrome was never really an issue for him. That’s evidenced by the way he confidently negotiated the scope of his initial job offer with Citi, whereas others his age or older would’ve just accepted the terms as-is and ran.
“Originally the role was supposed to be in New York City, but that wasn’t going to work for me,” the Chicago native told Essence, sharing that NYC living costs were too high for his liking. He asked to be moved to Dallas, TX instead and the company acquiesced.
This is just one example of the corporate agility Brown has learned over the years.
“There are some soft skills I picked up on over time that I realized many young professionals never learned,” he shared. “I kept getting questions over and over on how I landed my internships, my jobs, so I started sharing that insight,” Brown said.
In 2021, he started creating content TikTok under the pseudonym The Corporate Baddie and users immediately latched on. Within months, he’d amassed thousands of followers and went viral in a humorous post depicting a Gen Z job interview scenario.
“My goal was basically to reach people, specifically minorities, and educate them on how to get access to spaces in corporate America,” Brown said. “And so I’ve used that opportunity to not only make people laugh, but give them some quick tips on how to navigate the workplace.”
It’s clearly working.
To date, Brown has nearly 700k TikTok followers and has secured multiple brand endorsement deals, including a major partnership with LinkedIn.
“When I set out to create content last year, my biggest goal was to work with LinkedIn and after just a few posts, they reached out,” he said, adding that he was shocked by the opportunity because he’d only grown his platform to about 1ok followers.
The move just speaks to the need his content is filling, particularly at a time when the US labor force in a strange place for both incoming Gen Z’ers and their older employers.
While posting content, Brown was simultaneously juggling his full-time role with Citibank, but soon realized he was no different than the fictional characters he created in his skits that were navigating an archaic workplace structure.
“As my platform grew I was told, I was told by the company to revisit their social media guidelines, and I realized they weren’t that happy with my new level of visibility,” he shared.
As a result, he followed his own advice and aligned his profession with his purpose and quit his job.
In a June Instagram post he told his followers that thanks to them, he was able to leave the role and focus on his passion: helping young minorities build their corporate careers on their own terms. Along with content creation, he also runs a consultancy helping corporations effectively communicate with their Gen Z labor force.
“There are companies out there that have been running a certain way for a long time, and aren’t fully aware of the new breed of workers they’re hiring,” he said. “This desire for professional boundary setting all started with the generation before us,” adding that millennials walked so Gen-Z could run.
“Never allow any work opportunity intimidate you—they called you for a reason.”