Brooke Eben is an engineer, a wife, mother, travel blogger and real estate developer living in Houston, Texas. In addition to completing her MBA, evolving her professional career and foraying into real estate development as a pure passion project, she still finds time to make use of every single second of the 3.5 weeks of vacation she gets a year. Read this inspiring interview to learn how she learned to deal with failure and the lessons failure has taught her, advice for working with a mentor, and the one place in the world that not only is her favorite travel memory, but also has taught her the most.

South Africa at Sunset | Brooke Eben - Safiri Love
Photo courtesy of Brooke Eben.

Tell us about your background and how you got to where you are now.

Academically I’m an engineer – by degree, an electrical engineer. And I have always been interested in learning new things. That’s what sparked my desire to be an engineer as a female. But then also I had a strong desire to travel and see the world – which was kind of sparked by my mom taking me to local places in the US as well as Central America in my late teens. And learning about different cultures was an interest for me as well.

So throughout my career, I worked in engineering and currently am in strategy, which is a mix of engineering and business – and I travel quite a bit while I’m working. Every year I have 3.5 weeks of vacation and I use every day to explore the world. My husband and I – and sometimes with our children – will go to different countries to learn about them and have fun – and it really balances me out.

“I have always been interested in learning new things. That’s what sparked my desire to be an engineer as a female.”

What gets you excited to wake up every day?

I always like to experience a challenge. My recent move to strategy is a challenge – very different from anything I’ve done before; coming up with new ideas for the company to grow and expand. And I’m also working as a real estate developer. I have many jobs. I also used to be a passive investor as an equity partner. But now I am working on actually building my own homes and selling them – so for me, that’s another passion area. I want to leave a legacy for my family.

However, all those experiences are great – but at the end of the day, the most important thing is spending time with family. I have two children and my husband and I also have an extended family with parents and cousins. I find that the most valuable time I have is spending time with them. When we spend time together, we have fun. And it’s just as enjoyable as going to South Africa and all the cool vacations that I’ve done. I thoroughly enjoy spending time with my family at home, going through our daily routine. Being challenged is very important for me – with my work, and my side jobs like travel blogging, and my interesting new field of real estate development. And family is very important for me.

What’s the best/most important thing you’ve learned or taught yourself? Why?

I think the most important thing that I’ve taught myself is the ability to move on from, but also be receptive to, failing at times (being a very sensitive person). I always have these high goals and expectations of myself. So being able to accept the times where things don’t go as planned, or not achieving the goals I’ve set for myself, and learning to be comfortable with failure and not let that inhibit me from going for my dreams and progressing and moving forward has been important to learn.

Photo courtesy of Brooke Eben.

What’s the next thing you’re going to learn or teach yourself? Why?

The real estate thing is something that I’ve done as a passive equity investor, but now I’m actually learning how to develop a project; to go out and do environmental inspections on land, understand how much you should pay for land, how much it costs to build individual homes and still make a profit. Going through all of these processes, becoming an expert in that area and starting a development company is going to be a focus for me. It’s going to be a big learning curve, but I’m really, really looking forward to it.

Do you use your skills from what you’re doing at Dow?

It’s a little bit different – but before I was in strategy, I was an engineering project manager. And I wasn’t building houses, but I was building chemical facilities; some of the same things are applicable – like getting permits, or doing a soil analysis, or looking at the plans of a building. I also got my MBA in 2018 – my concentration was on finance as well as real estate development.

“Being able to accept the times where things don’t go as planned, or not achieving the goals I’ve set for myself, and learning to be comfortable with failure and not let that inhibit me from going for my dreams and progressing and moving forward has been important to learn.”

Do you have advice for finding a strong mentor/ building a relationship with one?

When it comes to mentorship, especially if you work in a corporate environment, it’s important to see who you have a personal connection with – sometimes that is a great way to start a mentorship relationship, especially with someone who may be more senior than you. But I also would encourage people to reach a little bit outside of their comfort zone. Sometimes if you’re a female, you may easily gravitate towards another female. But balancing that out with mentors of different backgrounds could give you more of a well-rounded picture when you’re trying to navigate your corporate career.

And I think even mentors outside of work, related to your passion projects – whether it’s traveling, building houses, or wherever you want to do – finding people in those field is important. And asking for a few minutes. I found that if I ask someone for a quick 20-minute, coffee, connect or lunch, I’ve never been turned down. It may not be the day I asked for, but it always ends up happening. I think you’ll be surprised at how often people are willing to give you at least 30 minutes of their time to talk to you.

Real Estate Development | Brooke Eben
Photo courtesy of Brooke Eben.

Favorite resources for ongoing learning?

One of the things I’ve recently been using a lot is listening to Audible. Because I might be traveling to work or traveling to drop the kids off or traveling to do something – Audible is a great way of being able to get some information without necessarily sitting down and reading a book. I still like the physical touch of a book, but between cooking and doing my daily responsibilities, Audible is a great way to digest information on the go.

And also, with my travel blog, I’ve been learning a lot from YouTube – building my website, understanding how to do design and graphics and coding and all of that good stuff.

Photo courtesy of Brooke Eben.

What’s your favorite spot where you currently live & why?

We recently moved to the suburbs because of the kids but previously we were in the inner loop; I really liked like the Montrose area in Houston, Texas because there’s a lot of museums out there. Pretty much all major museums (children’s museum, art museums, medical museums). They also have awesome parks – Hermann Park out in the Monterey area is pretty huge. During the summer they usually have festivals every weekend, live shows, and plays at their center in the middle of the park.

My favorite city in Texas is Austin. Austin is what’s considered Hill Country. And downtown with all the music and that college energy feel – I think it gives it a really cool vibe. So Austin is my favorite city in Texas, but in Houston, I think the Montrose area has a lot of cool vibes.

Related: author and writer Amina Frances also loves South Africa – it made her top travel memory list! Click here to find out why.

What’s your favorite travel memory? Why does it stand out?

It’s actually not too hard for me because no trip has been better – of all the places I’ve been, South Africa, till this day, is my favorite country and favorite trip, and the reason why is because it has such a diverse landscape.

We started in Johannesburg, where they have the Nelson Mandela Museum; you learn a lot about the apartheid movement. And we went on a safari to see all the animals and really experience that natural environment. We also went to Cape Town, which felt like San Francisco – near the water – you had all those cool vibes there. And then we went to Franschhoek, where you have the California-esque vineyards.

Where can you go and have all of that – the cool city with history, a safari, a vineyard, and a town by the water. It’s hard to find a country that has all those elements and do it well. And then on top of it, you bring your American dollars to South Africa – things are so cheap compared to here. We went to a hotel on the pricier side and did a half-day spa day – including champagne and dinner and hour and a half massages – and paid $200. Oh yeah – the diversity of things to do, plus the cost at which you can do them – I almost ended up staying there. I could have figured out a way!

Golden Hour in South Africa - Safiri Love | Brooke Eben
Photo courtesy of Brooke Eben.

Where have you traveled you feel you learned the most, why?

I hate to default to the one I just mentioned, but for me, South Africa was a big learning opportunity – not just the experience – I’ve always been very interested in the apartheid movement in South Africa. And for me to go there, and understand and hear from the people – I did a lot of tours around the region. And people told me their stories, their experiences – and to hear that firsthand cannot be substituted with just watching a movie or reading a book.

Europe, for me, was also very eye-opening – everywhere we go, we typically try to learn about the history. We did a 3-week tour in Europe and went through a lot of the big cities, just learning about the history of World War II and how some cities were destroyed and how they came back to life. It’s hard to pinpoint, because I can learn from everywhere I’ve been.

What’s one thing people may not know about you?

Some people who really know me may know this, but I have a love of interior design. If I could have figured out a way of becoming an interior designer, I probably would have done that earlier on. I like designing rooms and putting together spaces. It’s something I really, really enjoy and will probably fit very well into this whole real estate thing.

Learn more about Brooke Eben

Travel Blogger Brooke Eben Safiri Love
Photo courtesy of Brooke Eben.