Seizing the Moment

November 3, 2015 //
Brittni Devereaux
Brittni Devereaux

Her view of the world shaped by her late mother, Brittni Devereaux, MBA ’10, is a leader who marches to the beat of her own drum

The tattoo on Brittni Devereaux’s right biceps muscle is big and loud and splashy, roses ringing a heart with a banner overlapping both.

“Mom,” it says on the banner, “XOXO.”

It is testimony both to her enduring love for her late mother, Lori Troy, who died in 2011 from breast cancer, and that when Devereaux does something, she jumps in with both feet.

“A lot of people see it, and they say, ‘It’s kind of a big tattoo for your first tattoo,’” she said. “I always say, ‘But if I’m going to do something, I’m going to go all the way.’”

That was never more evident than when she decided to enter Temple University’s Fox School of Business, from which she earned her Global MBA in 2010. As an undergraduate at the University  of Michigan she was on track to earn degrees in horn performance and music education, but her career aims were unclear. Maybe, she thought, she could teach. Maybe she could become a band director or join an orchestra.

Then she thought about it some more.

“I knew, one day, I wanted to lead an organization, and I think that’s what drew me toward looking at business school as a next step,” Devereaux said. “I’d need a business education if I was to gain a new set of skills in order to be a leader. It became apparent that my aspirations in life would take me beyond the track that music school could prepare me for.”

She emphasized that she would not trade her undergraduate training at Michigan; indeed it was the school the Brighton, Mich., native  always had wanted to attend. At the same time, she said, “Music school prepared me to be the person I am today, but it was time to seek a new set of skills to become the leader I aspired to be in the future.”

She decided on Temple in 2008, in part because her then-fiancé (and soon-to-be husband), Scott, was bound for Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. It is a decision the 29-year-old Devereaux, who in April will enter her fifth year at the global consulting firm Mercer, has never regretted.

“I feel, in a lot of ways, Temple chose me,” she said.

There, she was able to meld her creative and analytical sides, something that proved invaluable when she interviewed for a position at Mercer.

“I didn’t have to defend myself in the interview,” she

said “I’d get asked, ‘Why were you doing music? How does this make sense with what you’re doing now? I don’t get it.’ I was being challenged about me, the choices I had made, and the path I was on. But finally in my interview with Mercer, they told me, ‘You’re a real person. We have a lot of analytical people here. It would be great to have a balance on the other side.’ It just felt right.”

Photo of Brittni Devereaux TattooJacques Goulet, Mercer’s president of Global Retirement, Health, and Benefits, employed Devereaux as his chief of staff from November 2013 to May 2015, and called her “a real  asset to us.”

“She brought a ton of energy, and also enthusiasm and passion
to what she does,” Goulet said. “She was very eager to go beyond that box that she was in.”

Whitney Connaughton, the firm’s Global Human Resources Leader for Global Retirement, Health, and Benefits, said Devereaux is “never hindered by the way we do it. She’s always thinking about the next way to do our work.”

While working for Goulet, Devereaux created the Collective Impact Challenge, an initiative through which colleagues were invited to submit ideas of ways that they might leverage their skills to improve their communities. Currently she is a member of the firm’s Innovation Hub, designing  a  talent-acquisition  app  that uses neuroscience games to match candidates to open jobs, while also serving as co-chair of Mercer Cares, the business resource   group responsible for fostering volunteer initiatives among employees worldwide.

“She’s the type of person who is able to take risks, put things out there and deliver on them,” said Jayme Ierna, Devereaux’s co-chair. “It’s been a real pleasure working with her. Just trying to keep up with her is a whole other thing.”

None of this comes as a surprise to Scott. He also hails from Michigan — his hometown of Washington is an hour away from  his wife’s — and is likewise musically inclined; he played the tuba growing up and is now part of The U.S. Army Field Band, traveling the country as musical ambassadors to the Army performing 100 shows a year.

The couple met while on a band trip to Europe between their sophomore and junior years of high school, dated long-distance then, and attended Michigan together. They were engaged in December of their senior year, and married the following October, after they had moved to Philadelphia. They lived in town for seven years before moving again in early 2015 to Baltimore, so Scott could be closer to Fort Meade, where the Field Band is based.

“Brittni,” he said, “is pretty much relentless in her drive to perform at her highest capacity.

Brittni Devereaux… She’s always looking to be productive, in everything she does. She’s also very sharp.”

Asked why she is wired the way she is, Brittni  needed to look no further than her tattoo. Her parents were divorced when she was young, and  Lori  raised  Brittni  and her younger sister Bethany as a single parent.

“I always saw my mom being a very strong person,” Brittni said. “I definitely think I get a lot of my characteristics, either biologically or environmentally, from her. My mom was someone that never quit.”

She also fueled Brittni’s creative side. When Brittni argued that she should take more advanced-placement courses in high school, the better to prepare herself for college, her mom would instead direct her toward drawing or painting.

“It was always funny,” Brittni recalled. “I think everybody else would come to school and say, ‘Oh, my mom is making me take  AP English.’ And I would say, ‘Oh, I’m going to drawing class now, because my mom is making me take drawing.’ ”

Lori died at age 48, but her daughter is still following her example. “The truth is, I can’t handle people telling me what to do,” Brittni said. “That’s not how I operate best, and that’s not how I’ve ever operated. For better or worse, I’ve always viewed my world as being on my own to get stuff done, and if I don’t make it happen, then it’s not going to happen. I have to figure out the way, and I have to be the one to ensure it happens the way I want it to.”

It has, and still is. And the Fox School of Business gets part of the credit for that.