For Devan Peplow, leadership experience came early.
A student at Texas Christian University, Peplow was part of a three-student undergraduate team leading Sounde, a hearing app based on an algorithm developed by a TCU science and engineering professor.
The team came in third place at the 2019 Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Competition at the Neeley School of Business at TCU in Fort Worth, the best any home-grown team had ever done at the event to that point.
The team won $15,000 to continue work on the product, which breaks apart sounds and then pieces them back together to emphasize frequencies needed by users with a hearing loss.
The Values and Ventures Competition is considered a premier business competition for undergraduate students from around the world. They pitch ideas for conscious capitalism – an idea that businesses can make a profit while also being socially responsible.
“It was a great experience because we were the company,” Peplow, 26, said. “I was CEO and while we did have support from professors, it was up to us to decide how to spend funds, how to market. We all learned a lot.”
The status of Sounde is still up in the air and all three students have gone on to other ventures.
“We still believe in the product, but a lot of things have changed in the market since then,” said Peplow, who now has her own job prep company.
After graduation, Peplow worked nearly two years as a program manager at accelerator/incubator TechFW, where she specialized in an internship search, matching and connecting university students with innovative startups.
While working as CEO of Sounde and at TechFW, she interviewed Hope Kahan on a TechFW free-education series, TechNest, and fell in love with her business, Trinity Park Talent. Kahan’s passion for supporting startups by building teams with culture at the forefront of care spoke to her.
“I worked with Hope for a year while also trying to bring Sounde to market,” said Peplow. “I’ve always done more than one thing at a time.”
She dove into helping candidates find new jobs, updating resumes, LinkedIn and practicing interviewing.
“Supporting people during this challenging transition, providing pep talks, and helping them organize and prepare their career history led me to launch Prep & Pep,” she said.
Prep & Pep, launched late last year, offers professional preparation for people applying and interviewing for jobs or to join organizations.
“The goal is to coach the individual to feel empowered by updating and escalating who they are on paper, online and during interviews,” she said.
Starting a business on her own helped her mature, she said.
Without that safety net of the education system, there is no one to come tell you what was right or wrong, she said.
“It made me grow up a lot, I think,” she said. “If you’re faced with problems and nobody has the right answer. You have to trial and error, and error, and error, until you find the path that works best.”
The business also fits into a hobby of hers: photography, which she uses to create or advise on how to take professional-looking headshots.
“My parents let me have a camera pretty early on in life, and they just let me take it places,” she said.
When she came to TCU, she would bring a camera to events.
“I really liked the point of connection that I would make between people when I was a photographer,” she said.
She would send photos of people after events and eventually received calls from people to take photos of events.
“I really just loved helping show people how much fun they just had,” she said. “I liked that encouragement side of it. It’s a very positive space.”
She credits mentorship, volunteering, and photography as the top three activities that helped her build a strong professional network.
When she was interning at TechFW, she would take headshots and product shots for companies there.
Eventually, she began charging for it.
“It was fun, but people said I should charge for it, so I have,” she said.
Birthplace: Gurnee, Illinois. “It’s where the Six Flags Great America is,” she said.
Moved to Fort Worth: August 2015
Family: Parents, stepparents, and half-siblings who are all in Illinois and Wisconsin.
Education: Texas Christian University | bachelor’s of business administration in entrepreneurial management with an emphasis in leadership
Work experience: Overview – Founder, Prep & Pep | Program Manager, TechFW | CEO, Sounde | Talent Acquisition, Trinity Park Talent | Photographer
Volunteer experience: “I spend Sundays at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden as a weekend gardener under the mentorship and instruction of the fabulous Renea Karl. I’ve been a mentor for the Neeley Mentorship Program for the last three years, and most recently, I’ve joined the alumni board for the TCU BNSF Neeley Leadership Program.”
First job: Collecting lost golf balls in the woods with her brother, Dane, and re-selling them at a lemonade stand to golfers that drove past her dad’s backyard.
Advice for someone learning to be a leader: “Build a board of advisers for your life — trusted individuals you can approach as an outside counsel for all your business and career challenges.”
Best advice ever received: “People are innately more than the work they do; they have endless complexities that far exceed their 9-5. ‘The business of business is people—yesterday, today, and forever.’ – Raj Sisosida, The Healing Organization.
LinkedIn tips from Devan Peplow:
Devan Peplow has some advice for both resumes and LinkedIn profiles.
“You never lie. That’s my No. 1 thing. Don’t lie about anything. Because if you get hired, that’s a mess. Never lie.”
Here are some LinkedIn tips:
- “Really quick top hint: profile picture. Is it grainy? It doesn’t have to be super professional. I’ve given tips on how to take one on your iPhone or just any phone. Is it professional? It shouldn’t look like a selfie. Be sure it’s straight on.
- “In your About Me section, keep that updated. And on me right now, I can give out all the advice about that because I need to update mine. But talk about who you are. You can give a little bit of personality.
- “One of the mistakes that people make is LinkedIn can be your whole history. A resume can be your whole history, but really what is the most relevant to this job that you’re applying for.
- “If I’m the recruiter, don’t make me jump through the hoops. Pull out what overlaps from the job description and put that in there so that the recruiter, or the software that it’s running from, can really pick up on those keywords. If they only have eight to 10 seconds to run through it, you want them to really see like, ‘I’m a fit.’ They don’t have to imagine how you would be a fit. It’s, ‘Oh wow, this person, were they built for this role? Holy cow.’”