Woman Wednesday: Brie

Q and A with Brie, Burnsville, MN, USA

“I don’t want to be known for what I look like, and I don’t want to be treated any differently just because I am a woman.”

Q: What are you passionate about? 

A: There are a lot of things I am passionate about. One is my job. I started my career as a correctional officer in a large metropolitan jail in Minnesota. While I loved the setting and population, I decided to leave to pursue higher education and a career in psychology. Thereafter, I earned a master’s and doctorate in clinical psychology, and I worked in several state and federal prisons throughout my training. Now, I work as a forensic psychologist. I complete competency, criminal responsibility, civil commitment, patterned sex offender, and risk assessment evaluations. My work consists of reviewing police discovery (e.g., crime scene photographs, video and audio recordings, legal documents) and other records, interviewing defendants, administering and interpreting psychological tests, writing a report, and then testifying in court as an expert witness. Recently, I started a private practice, through which I also provide supervision, serve as a business consultant, and review research proposals. Given that my work can be mentally and emotionally draining, I maintain balance with activities I am passionate about. Specifically, I always need to have both physical and creative outlets. For example, I train in boxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ) and I have another business as a freelance makeup artist. Other things I am passionate about are cooking, traveling, salsa dancing, and gardening.

Q: What were your younger years like?

A: My parents started a business planning performing tours for high school music groups when I was three years old. My father brought my sister and me on the road with him and taught us about the business from an early age. This has hugely impacted my life, as I am now a business owner myself. The business also allowed us to travel as a family. By the time I was 18 years old, I had visited all 50 states and dozens of countries. Aside from travel, however, my parents made sure we were exposed to other cultures, customs, and languages. We had very close friends from Nigeria and three exchange students (they were from Mexico, Argentina, and Poland). I, too, studied abroad twice, spending a semester each in Mexico and Spain. I also backpacked around Europe for one month. I feel so fortunate to have had these opportunities. Travel has taught me independence and confidence. I have gained a new perspective in life and appreciation for what I have. I also learned the value of speaking another language. My goal is to always have traveled to at least as many countries as I am years old.  Another significant and related aspect of my childhood was cooking. My father loves to cook and he shared his love of it with me. It was something we often did together. He cooked two new dishes each week, and often, we tried foods from all over the world. Cooking for friends and family brings people together and is an act of caring and giving. It was also way I could connect with my Italian heritage and explore other cultures.

Q: What is something valuable you’d like others to know?

A: I hold several important lessons with me. One is to be humble, ask questions, and always be open to feedback. At the same time, however, know your worth, believe in yourself, and walk the world with confidence. Despite holding a doctorate in clinical psychology and being considered an expert witness in court, it took me a long time to feel confident. I always assumed there were so many other, more experienced clinicians than I. Likewise, it has always been hard for me to ask for the compensation I deserve. Nevertheless, you have to be your own best advocate. Second, as an introvert, I hated the idea of networking. It felt so disingenuous. Inevitably, however, most career opportunities arise via word of mouth. Also, it doesn’t have to be inauthentic. Form friendships, reach out, ask questions, and make an effort to stay in touch. Third, it really is a small world. This is especially true in my field. There are only two state agencies that employ forensic psychologists, so we all know one another. This is also the case throughout the country. Therefore, it’s so important to comport yourself professionally and never burn any bridges.

Your reputation matters. Fourth, I have learned I must always find balance. I have taken on a lot of endeavors and am always busy. I work full-time, own two companies, have several side gigs and contracts, develop professional presentations, write manuscripts for publication, and am seeking board certification. I also dedicate my time to several hobbies and need to set time aside for my family, my friends, and myself. This is a constant juggle and I am often overwhelmed and exhausted. It’s important for me to stay in tune with those feelings, self-care, and prioritize so I don’t get burned out. Lastly, I am always pushing myself to do things that scare me or that I don’t believe I can accomplish. Whenever I have doubts, I want to prove to myself that I am capable of achieving what I set out to do, even if it’s hard. As a result, I have earned a doctorate, started two businesses, run an ultra marathon, gone skydiving, and gone scuba diving in narrow cave passages, among other things. It is my perseverance in the face of self-doubt that I am most proud of.

Q: What does feminism mean to you? 

A: When I was younger, I hated dresses, the color pink, and anything else I perceived to be “girly.” I felt that the only way I could establish myself on equal footing with the boys and find acceptance was to reject my feminine side. As an adult, I have always worked in male-dominated environments and participated in male-dominant sports (e.g., hockey, mountain biking, boxing, BJJ). This led to a lot of inaccurate assumptions, unwanted attention, and unfair treatment. Being told I couldn’t do something because I was a woman was also a frequent occurrence. An ex-boyfriend once told me I couldn’t be a forensic psychologist, and my uncle told me girls don’t play hockey or box. Unfortunately for them, I like to challenge people’s assumptions and prove them wrong, so I did all three. As a correctional officer, my male co-workers didn’t think I was capable of performing my job as well as they were. I was dismissed as just filling a quota and I was the subject of sexual harassment. When I resigned from my position, they admitted they made bets about how long it would take before I cried and quit. Despite making a significant effort to dress professionally and conservatively while working in prisons, my physical appearance was the topic of conversation. People were always surprised when I told them where I worked, as if I didn’t fit the mold. I once had a female supervisor suggest I wasn’t even like the other female correctional officers because I didn’t play hockey (I did). Similarly, on the mats, men did everything they could to prevent being beat by a woman or they were patronizing. I don’t want to be known for what I look like, and I don’t want to be treated any differently just because I am a woman. Therefore, I am particularly interested in paving the way for other women working in correctional environments or joining male-dominated sports. My goal is to help women garner respect, rather than be patronized or objectified. I make it a point to try to address these issues whenever they come to my attention. I want to challenge people’s assumptions, or at the very least, advocate for what I believe in. I also want women to be able to both embrace their femininity and find success and respect in male-dominated arenas. As cliché as it is, I had to learn to accept myself, rather than trying to prove my worth or and what people expect of me. Who I am is a quiet, unassuming makeup artist who is trained in mixed martial arts and interviews murderers for a living.

Thank you for reading!

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