Brandon Morris Belford
From the private sector to the White House, Brandon Belford transformed his talents in business and entrepreneurship for an accomplished career in public service. Reflecting on his college and work experience, Brandon gives valuable insights to students navigating through coursework and potential career paths today.
Brandon Belford’s accomplished path in public service was not what he initially imagined for himself, but he is glad that he kept an open-mind and remained flexible when developing his career. After attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, where he received a BS in Business Administration, he spent four years working in the private sector at Bank of America Securities as an analyst and associate. He realized that he wanted to broaden his skill set and decided to get his MBA at the Wharton School. While working toward his MBA, he concentrated on Finance and Entrepreneurial Management, however, he did take the time to explore everything Penn had to offer, including the social impact club, various global consulting and immersion programs, and taking a public policy course taught by then Wharton Professor, and former member of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, Betsey Stevenson. These experiences and his family’s commitment to public service is what ultimately sparked his interest in public policy work.
After graduating from Wharton, an exciting opportunity arose to work for a solar energy start-up, SunEdison, which was based in Washington, DC. At SunEdison, Brandon applied his finance and entrepreneurial skills to lead a number of business development and public affairs efforts to evaluate regulatory regimes and new market opportunities as well as to develop financing structures for solar energy systems. From this experience he was offered a position to join the Obama Administration as a Finance Specialist at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). During his time at the DOE, Brandon was part of the team responsible for implementing the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009; specifically the $11.3 billion allocated to states and local government for energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy generation, and clean energy manufacturing programs. It was in this position that Brandon realized the importance of the intersection between business and public policy, and was reminded of the diverse experiences and classes he took back at Wharton.
In 2011, with the help of a former classmate from Wharton, he was presented with the opportunity to work as a Senior Policy Advisor at the National Economic Council (NEC) at the White House. He knew that this was not only a historic opportunity to serve President Obama, but also a way for him to channel his business knowledge and public policy tools to help address the needs of underrepresented and underserved communities. Being from Flint, Michigan, he especially enjoyed being part of the White House team leading the Federal government’s work in partnering with the private sector and philanthropic community to help Detroit recover from its financial crisis in 2013. This project supported the city’s economic revitalization by helping to redevelop blighted properties, improve public safety, expand public transportation networks, and modernize municipal services, and he is proud to see that his hard work and dedication is positively impacting the people of his home state.
Brandon initially planned to stay in the White House for only six months, but ended up staying for more than three years. During his time he quickly developed a large, interdisciplinary portfolio of economic policy issues, including infrastructure, immigration, and tourism, which enabled him to be on the frontlines of numerous public policy debates and Presidential initiatives. These experiences also led to him being asked to become the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). At the DOT he applies his managerial expertise to co-lead a 75 person team that is responsible for negotiating international aviation agreements, helping American transportation companies resolve doing business issues abroad, establishing transportation and mobility-related initiatives and partnerships with foreign governments, monitoring the financial fitness of the U.S. aviation industry, and administering a $250 million program to provide air service to small and rural communities throughout the United States. He enjoys the work he is currently doing at the DOT because it has allowed him to explore his interest in foreign policy and international affairs and continually build his expertise in policy areas and issues that affect the global economy and quality of life for people in communities around the world.
Even though Brandon did not initially think he would have a career in the public sector, he is glad that he kept his career options open. His advice to students would be to “chart your own path, because there is no predetermined route to [finding a specific career] and be sure to find ways to differentiate yourself. Also, keep short term and long term goals for yourself so you can continuously reassess where you are and where you want to go.” Given some of the frustrations and sacrifices inherent with public service, he feels that students who are interested in public policy should remind themselves why they want to be doing what they are doing. “It is important to ‘remind yourself why’ or always remember the deeper reason that made you want to embark upon a career in public service in the first place.” For those students who are already interested in pursuing a career in public policy, Brandon has just one piece of advice: “Try to develop an understanding and point of view on how technology and innovation will continue to affect regulated industries and how public policy will [need to] evolve […in order to respond] to the technology-enabled business models that are [already] changing the way transportation, energy, education, healthcare, food, and other regulated companies operate and interact with the public citizenry.” Lastly, he encourages all students to be flexible and entrepreneurial when developing a career to ensure that they do not miss out on opportunities that they may not have even known existed, and can be passionate about and happy with the career they ultimately end up with later in life.
- University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School
- Master of Business Administration
- Finance & Entrepreneurial Management
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Kenan-Flagler Business School – 2002
- Bachelors of Science
- Major: Business Administration