Get VIP invites to recruiting events with popular employers! Sign up here.

First Time on Brazen?

Spice Up Your Inbox!

Get invites to exclusive career events, networking opportunities and top career advice.



20 Brazen Young Professionals to Watch in 2012

Pin It  

super hero

One of the best ways to make strides in your career is by watching others succeed, by making note of how they do it.

That’s why we’ve selected 20 young professionals to keep your eye on this year, go-getters under 35 who are pushing the envelope and influencing their industry — and sometimes even the world.

You may recognize a few of these names, but we made an effort to feature Millennials who aren’t regulars on watch lists, folks who are up-and-coming. Some are entrepreneurs, while others work for public companies, government or non-profits, often holding positions that are more senior than you’d expect for someone their age.

Many — but not all — have a strong personal brand. Most importantly, for each of the young people we’ve chosen, their best work is still ahead of them.

For future Brazen watch lists, we may implement a nomination process, but this list was compiled by us, the Brazen Life editors, incorporating suggestions from the Brazen community via our blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, lots of young professionals are rockin’ it in one way or another, and it’s impossible to spotlight them all. But here’s our take on who will be influential in the coming year and beyond.

In random order, our picks for brazen young professionals to watch in 2012:

1. Simon Owens: As the director of editorial and outreach at JESS3, the company that makes awesome infographics for Google and Facebook, Owens represents a new breed of content marketer/journalist. And with JESS3’s impressive client list, we think some of his most dynamic strategies are yet to come.

2. Yifan Zhang: A recent Harvard graduate, Yifan founded Gym-Pact, a mobile app that motivates you to work out; it launches nationally on Jan. 1. Yifan also founded Styleta, a nonprofit fashion organization.

3. Craig Kanalley: Instrumental in The Huffington Post’s social media efforts, Kanalley recently left that position to become NBC News’ social media editor. Since NBC owns the rights to broadcast the London games, we’re betting he’ll bring that same energy to the 2012 Olympics.

4. Amanda Hocking: After shocking the publishing world with her self-publishing success, Amanda, who writes young-adult books, landed a multiple-book, multimillion-dollar deal with St. Martin’s Press. Her first traditionally published books will be released in 2012.

5. Srinivas Rao: He’s host and co-founder of BlogcastFM, an audio show that features interviews with successful bloggers. The show recently landed its first partnership, so we’re expecting it to continue to grow next year.

6. Jenny Blake: Life coach and former Google employee, Jenny Blake recently released her Make Sh*t Happen Course. A master of Google templates, she’s now throwing herself into  solopreneurship.

7. Jeff Goins: Though he’s been blogging for less than a year, this writer has already made a splash in the blogging-about-writing niche. He recently landed a publishing deal for a book about finding your purpose, which is slated to come out in 2012.

8. Natan Edelsburg: This Sawhorse Media VP oversees Muck Rack, which tracks journalists on Twitter. He’s also a staff writer for the social TV blog Lost Remote. We’re psyched to look on as he grows the Shorty Awards, an Oscars for social media.

9. Natalie MacNeil: Founder of She Takes on the World, a blog for career-minded and entrepreneurial women, Natalie is also the co-founder of digital media firm Imaginarius. She recently won an Emmy for her online documentary, and plans to produce another digital movie in 2012.

10. Jon Favreau: The pressure will be on Obama’s speechwriter this year as the president comes up for re-election. Wonder if he’ll pull out anything great like he did in 2008?

11. Alex Horton: After serving a combat tour in Iraq, Alex gained the attention of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs through his blog; now he blogs for the department as a new media specialist.

12. Saya Hillman: This self-described accidental entrepreneur, who organizes unique, in-person events intended to help you meet new people (you’re encouraged to go solo), is rolling out more underground supper clubs and “fear experiments” in Chicago in 2012.

13. Derwin Dubose: A political strategist who works for North Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor, Derwin helps social-sector institutions navigate the intersection of policy, press and advocacy. Next year could be big for him, as he’s gearing up for a possible senior management campaign role or a move to the national policy level.

14. Jared Cohen: This author worked in policy-making at the State Department before becoming director of Google Ideas, a think/do tank. After asking Twitter to delay scheduled maintenance because of its role in the Iranian protests, we’re eager to see what big ideas he’ll bring this year.

15. Kate Kendall: A digital thinker, Kate’s creating a platform called Cloud Peeps, which connects brands with freelancers, including community managers. She’s also in the midst of expanding Australia-based The Fetch, a what’s-happening guide to your city’s business, digital and creative communities, to various cities around the world.

16. Josh Marcuse: Founder and president of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, Josh was recently named an adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Next year is promising for YPFP under Josh’s leadership, and the organization expects to hit 10,000 members.

17. Jamie Bowerman: The Savannah College of Art and Design master’s candidate is on a mission to revolutionize the way we carry stuff. He has exceeded his fundraising goal on Kickstarter, so maybe 2012 will be the year his unique Bowerbag hits stores.

18. Simone Koo: The 2003 Georgetown grad is one of the youngest COOs at finance firm Morgan Stanley. Judging from how quickly this marathon runner has made her way on the career track, the sky’s the limit.

19. Chris Golden: A political enthusiast, Chris co-founded myImpact.org, an online platform with a heavy Twitter component that connects both national and community volunteers. The site is in beta, so watch for improvements and growth in 2012.

20. Shama Kabani: As CEO and founder of The Marketing Zen Group, Shama leads 25 full-time virtual employees to deliver social media and digital PR services for clients. The second edition of her book about using social media marketing for business is due out in January.

To make it easy for you to follow these young professionals, we’ve created a Twitter list that includes everyone with a handle.

Alexis Grant and Jaclyn Schiff are co-managing editors of Brazen Life. Alexis, a journalist and social media strategist, blogs at The Traveling Writer, and Jaclyn, a journalist/media consultant, writes and tweets about global health and media trends.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.