Anthony Popeo ’08
What have you been doing since you left Derryfield? When I first graduated, I was set (or so I thought) on four years of undergraduate business school that would lead me to a job on Wall Street. I had a change of heart during my freshman year, though, and I transferred to Washington University in St. Louis. Being a research university, I knew WashU would offer more room to expose me to interests I didn’t know I had alongside some exceptional peers. It was also a totally different part of the country with only a handful of students from the entire state of New Hampshire; if there was ever a time to leave my comfort zone, college seemed to be the best time to try. (I decided to transfer six years ago and I still haven’t made a better decision.) Instead of a degree in finance, I graduated having studied economics and graphic design—a very interesting way to balance analytical and creative thinking.
WashU felt a lot like Derryfield in that I was surrounded by a bunch of people who were very passionate, bright, caring, and supportive. From student life to academics, campus is engineered to let students take ownership of their experience. No major has a concrete formula for graduation and students come from across the globe, so you have exposure to a lot of ways of thinking no matter where you turn. I joined an a cappella group (on par with my time at Derryfield) but also joined a fraternity and helped run Orientation. I studied economics (sharing some similarities with my initial interest in finance) and also took 10 art classes and design studios.
Summer internships at Cantor Fitzgerald and Bloomberg LP in New York eventually led to a job with SY/Partners, a management consulting company in San Francisco. SYP does high-level transformation and change management work (coaching leaders around stuff like purpose, values, goals, and people); it was an incredible opportunity to apply what I studied in school (creative ways to communicate strategy and insights) to the real world. I was a contractor there, so after 5 months in California I returned to New York for another 9 months of consulting on a freelance basis. That was another big leap out of my comfort zone (remember, I wanted to work for a bank), but it helped me learn a lot about myself and gave me the time to look for a job and company I knew could be a great fit.
Now I’m at Google; I work with a team of experienced marketing and creative consultants as their strategy and operations point-person (basically, I try to keep our work organized and focused on the company's goals). We wear a lot of hats—the simplest description of our goal would be to help big brands move to YouTube.
How did your Derryfield experience help with all of that? I probably won’t capture them all here, but a big leg up was my willingness to ask questions and prod for good answers. One of the biggest benefits of the DS classroom is its size; it was a super safe place to learn to think for yourself and how to be articulate. But the community expectations also meant you had to learn how to listen and be respectful when someone disagreed with you. It’s very easy to have an opinion; Derryfield forced you to make a case for it.
A lot of the work I do now is kind of like a mock trial in US History—but nobody’s guilty or arguing. That said, Google’s a big company and getting things accomplished means giving your point of view and being able to back it up. We’re all working on different pieces of a bigger motive. If we can’t find ways to work together, we duplicate a lot of work and waste time. Nothing gets done and everyone gets frustrated.
Sometimes I’ve had to be the bad guy in the room (the one saying no), but there’s an art to doing that in a way that is respectful and, more importantly, very intentional. It’s an interpersonal skill I’m still developing, but that development definitely started at Derryfield.
Constantly talking in front of peers, faculty, and administrators also made public speaking very easy. It was one of the first things I noticed in college, but I never got cold feet talking in front of a class, professor, or another audience.
What advice would you give current students? Having a plan is super smart and super healthy, but so is having wiggle room. Being a teenager is tough—I don’t forget that—but Derryfield does give you a very safe, supportive environment to be yourself and test your boundaries. Actually test them (and keep doing so after DS), whether it’s by taking electives in new areas of study, getting up in front of the school on Monday morning, or joining a team/club you’ve thought about a lot. Derryfield’s an incredible playground to test out what does and doesn’t feel authentic to you. Learn how to take advantage of that while you’re there so you’re prepared for the opportunities that come afterwards.
Located in Manchester, NH, The Derryfield School is a private day school for grades 6-12. Students benefit from a challenging academic program, fine and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.