Accepting and Embracing Challenges

Brendan Gellman (DIP Business Studies 1999) describes his journey to a successful marketing career despite having a genetic condition that causes deafness and blindness

I believe the first step in overcoming any challenge is accepting it.

Brendan Gellman (DIP Business Studies 1999)

Brendan Gellman smiles at the camera. He is wearing a blue suit and a black tie

Growing Up 

My childhood in Los Angeles was very happy, full of traveling the world with my family, athletics year-round and friends from diverse backgrounds.  My parents encouraged me to be creative, make decisions, embrace adventure, explore new things, and treat others with respect and generosity.

Due to having Usher Syndrome, I was born nearly deaf and have worn hearing aids since I was two (my vision started deteriorating as a young adult). Consequently, it wasn’t until I was a teenager that my vocabulary and academic ability finally caught up to my peers after many years of speech therapy and private tutoring. However, I never bemoaned my disability - it was just a fact of life for me. Learning to live with this daily obstacle at a young age taught me that I could adapt and overcome whatever life throws at me.

Journey to LSE

After high school, I studied Psychology at Tulane University in New Orleans.  I wasn’t sure what career I wanted to pursue so I decided to study business at LSE, which also meant the chance to experience living in London. At LSE, I enjoyed being surrounded by so many brilliant, ambitious minds from around the world along with the incredible friendships I made with my flatmates in LSE’s Holborn residences.  It was an incredibly rich year of growth filled with amazing academic, cultural, and personal experiences.

After LSE, I went into marketing as I was attracted to the combination of creativity, strategy, and digital innovation in this profession. With my disabilities along for the ride, there are several career achievements that I’m proud of including building a new marketing organisation at Samsung and helping to capture market share from Apple. I also modernised  a marketing practice to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for a leading video game brand and co-launched a digital advertising agency in New York City. 

My experience at LSE helped me become an effective and empathetic marketer as it evolved my way of thinking to consider and account for the unique perspectives, differences, needs, sensitivities, and sensibilities from various segments of people. It taught me to value differing opinions amongst colleagues and appreciate the cultural nuances of various audiences.

Overcoming Challenges

There’s certainly been many difficult moments for me, but I don’t dwell on my hardships. While I was born severely hard of hearing, it wasn’t until I was 20 that I learned I was starting to and would ultimately lose most, if not all, of my vision. However, I believe the first step in overcoming any challenge is not just accepting it but also embracing the road ahead. I’ve always been forthright about my hearing and vision at work, but there have been uncomfortable moments where I should’ve stood up for myself. As I climbed the corporate ladder, I felt increasing pressure not to show any “weakness” while trying to prove myself worthy of the position to both executive management as well as my team under me.  I’ve since learned this was not a healthy approach, nor sustainable. I am now open to everyone I cross paths with and in every moment where I may be struggling.  This has allowed me to be more confident as a leader and easier to develop better working relationships at all levels.


My advice to LSE students and fellow alumni is to make sure you explore different parts of the world. I truly believe international exploration feeds the soul.  In my opinion, the stronger your foundation of self the better equipped you’ll be in achieving both professional and personal fulfilment.  Experiences can shape your life goals and how you go about achieving them.  When picking a career, identify specific elements of a job you think you’ll enjoy and investigate careers that incorporate those elements rather than focus on the type of company.

Stand out amongst your colleagues by soaking up as much knowledge as possible. Take initiative and be a creative problem solver.  Become an internal resource for something, anything that requires colleagues to engage with you as an expert.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions - use them to make an impression and forge relationships.  Lastly, challenges will present themselves in various forms – accepting and embracing those challenges is key to conquering them.

September 2023