37 Questions with Maggie Finan

Block Club’s Maggie Finan is nothing if not curious. When she isn’t attending thought-provoking cultural events, she’s carving out time daily to read up on something—anything—that fascinates her. But it isn’t all for personal gain. As a brand strategist, exposure to new ideas across all subjects and verticals keeps her sharp and inspired in a professional capacity too, and that translates to better solutions for our clients. In our latest 37 Questions, a humble nod to Vogue’s 73, she talks muses, musings, and the transformative power of challenge.

  1. What did you do last weekend?

    Visited friends in New York and caught some great talks at the New Yorker Festival

  2. Which talk was the best?

    It’s a tie between a stomach-churning session on the state of journalism and the rise of the new white supremacy, and Sarah Silverman, who was completely disarming and threw out a lot of unexpected wisdom.

  3. What is one thing people might not know about you?

    I had a brief moment of niche YouTube stardom in college when a silly song I made about interrogating my supposed heterosexuality was picked up by an advice website.

  4. How many views does it have?

    Around 75,000. I got a few messages from older people with their own funny lightbulb-moment stories, but mostly heard a lot from younger kids who were struggling to come out and appreciated the laugh and reminder that it’s going to be okay.

  5. What makes you nervous?

    The idea of becoming a meme

  6. What keeps you busy outside of work?

    Hiking or a good book

  7. What’s your favorite hiking spot in Western New York?

    Letchworth

  8. What’s your favorite hiking spot outside the area?

    I used to love Storm King and Verkeerderkill when I lived in New York. But my favorite hike that is way, way outside of the area is the Austrian Alps.

  9. What are you proud of?

    I have an autoimmune disease that can be a little tough sometimes, but it was much worse when it first started. I’m really proud of the person I was in the throes of that and (mostly) proud of who I’ve become since.

  10. How did it change you?

    I recognized that a lot of my identity was rooted in ideas of myself that were just veneers, and I had to take a hard look at what was actually mine to be proud of—habits and qualities I had thoughtfully developed myself. The rest of it can disappear in an instant when your brain or body gets poked the wrong way. I also came to understand that you never know someone else’s situation. Slow down and be kind.

  11. Do you have any advice for people going through challenges?

    Let people help you. It’s generally solid advice for all tough situations.

  12. What do you do for fun?

    Read, kayak, trade wine and cheese for dinner made by lovely friends. I love baking, but I can’t cook very well, which probably says something about my brain.

  13. Like what?

    Following exact directions versus improvisation. I haven’t taken the time to really learn the basics of cooking in order to enjoy riffing like I want to. That’s on my list this year.

  14. What are you looking forward to?

    I’m kayaking through the Everglades this winter, which I’ve wanted to do since reading The Orchid Thief.

  15. What inspires you?

    Really great musical composition

  16. Can you give us an example?

    Nicholas Britell is pretty amazing. His soundtracks for If Beale Street Could Talk and Moonlight are incredible. A good soundtrack is the same as good design—you can immediately understand it in a very primal, lizard-brain way, and then as you understand more of what it represents, you can appreciate the thoughtful, tiny style choices layered within.

  17. What did you study in school?

    Psychology and music theory with a creative writing minor

  18. How did your education prepare you for the work you do now?

    There doesn’t seem like there’d be much practical overlap, but the critical thinking skills come in handy in any type of work scenario.

  19. Do you still write?

    Not too much outside of work, but I get to do plenty of fun writing in my professional day to day.

  20. Are there any brands that really resonate with you?

    Honestly, Dolly Parton

  21. Why Dolly Parton?

    She’s an incredibly hardworking businesswoman, and she also seems like a legitimately decent person. She’s been working for decades and doesn’t seem any less tired of trying to change the world. Her music is nonstop classics, and there’s something very comforting about her. She’s a national treasure.

  22. What’s the best thing you heard someone say today?

    “Are there any words more efficiently humbling than ‘upper lip, too?'”

  23. What makes you happy?

    Being in a cabin in the woods

  24. What is your worst habit?

    Too many browser tabs

  25. What is your best habit?

    Finding one thing I’m interested in almost every day and giving myself at least 30 minutes to read up on it

  26. What did you read about today?

    I’d never heard of David Grann before, but I read a piece of his in an old New Yorker and was blown away. I’ve been reading his New Yorker backlog since. I just finished the absolutely wild “A Murder Foretold” about a Guatemalan political murder conspiracy, and that turned into reading about Guatemala’s current political situation.

  27. What words do you live by (or try to)?

    I like to read the 2009 New York Times opinion piece “Reprieve” every year as a reminder that everything beyond the important stuff is silly noise

  28. Who do you look up to?

    Alice Munro, Toni Morrison, George Saunders, Flannery O’Connor, David Mitchell (the comedian, not the author)

  29. What did you want to be when you grew up?

    An ER doctor

  30. Do you have any travel plans (besides the Everglades)?

    I’m trying to put together a solo trip to either Barcelona or Buenos Aires

  31. What is the last thing you searched on Google?

    “GBBO Rahul.” It’s comforting to see what past contestants of The Great British Bake Off are baking these days.

  32. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

    It was something along the lines of, “Don’t mistake complication for deepness, or intellectualism, or profundity. Simplicity can be a very sophisticated way to live, if you can manage the difficulty.” That feels increasingly true as I get older, especially in an era of instant gratification.

  33. What is your role at Block Club?

    Brand strategist

  34. What does that mean?

    It’s a business development role that is largely specific to our growing content marketing and in-bound marketing offerings. I help clients diagnose their business challenges and craft strategic solutions for the Block Club team to execute in support of the client’s marketing, sales, or HR goals.

  35. How has Block Club changed since you started working here?

    In so many ways—the size and structures of the project teams, the work itself and types of projects the team tackles, the different strategic approaches we craft for various projects. I’ve gotten to wear plenty of different hats here as a result, which is endlessly challenging and exciting.

  36. Do you have a favorite Block Club memory?

    When Dave let everyone ride his Vespa up and down Washington Street a few summers ago with minimal instruction. It was very funny and a little frightening.

  37. What did you buy last?

    CBD gummies (I understand they do absolutely nothing, but I’m here to try.)

Want to learn more about brand strategy and how it applies to your job or business? Check out these resources from the Block Club team: