Kalandadze Turns from Medicine to Brand Strategy, Finds His Passion
February 27, 2023 | By M. Merritt (SF22)
George S. Kalandadze (A22) is many things—a storyteller for brands, a part-time poet, and one-time attendant of the St. John’s boathouse in Annapolis. He is also a fiercely optimistic and careful person when it comes to his career, life, and education.
During his time at St. John’s, Kalandadze was open to taking one of several directions: “I had a lot of different career paths that I wanted to take, ranging from medicine to writing. I was all over the place.” He worried about not receiving the same kind of creative and intellectual stimulation in his life after St. John’s, so he pursued editorial and writing jobs right out of college and then found branding after a friend introduced him to an alum.
Kalandadze now works for Design Bridge, a design agency that has done campaigns for major brands including Fortnum & Mason, Diageo, and Unilever. He says that his job as a brand strategist in many ways grew out of his time as a Johnnie.
“Brand strategy works similarly to what we do at St. John’s. You help brands discover their truth through asking important questions,” he says. While it might not seem obvious from the outside, Kalandadze explains that many companies, including well established brands, can often lose track of their identity through time, and much like in other areas of life, the important questions are what puts them back on track. “It’s brought me happiness and it’s never stale,” he added.
Kalandadze’s path was drastically different before the COVID-19 pandemic. “I was going to be a surgeon, but I realized I can’t spend crazy hours on something that isn’t my true passion.”
Brand strategy for Kalandadze is storytelling. “I think it’s definitely part of it: taking a client on a journey is part of selling what you’re trying to do. It’s not just handing them a bunch of documents and saying, ‘Good luck with this.’”
His advice for newly graduated Johnnies is to stay people focused. The grounding in intellectual adventuring he got at St. John’s can, he believes, help people find what they truly want to do with their life through a constant exposure to new ideas and interesting people.
“Make as many connections as you can … I got [to] many places by accessing things like the alumni network, talking to people, and learning from various experiences.” He says that just diving in is helpful, while acknowledging that networking is often scary to those just entering the workforce. In a way, alumni connections helped him make those critical early moves. “St. John’s is one thing that we all share, and it’s never a negative conversation.”
Having a similar pool of knowledge to pull from is an excellent ice breaker. As for marketing specifically, there’s nothing to do but to try it out, through avenues like internships. “Get exposed to all the aspects of the work you’ll be doing … it’s not something everyone will like. I could make brand strategy sound cool, but there are those who might hate it.” Some of the problems he cites are high workload and a chaotic creative process, suggesting such a career could be an act of devotion.”
“It’s important to never lose sight of the prize and the hope. I know that applying to dozens of job openings is a very tedious task and very unmotivating and you might feel like nobody wants to hire you. Don’t pay attention to rejections and stay in touch with either the Office of Personal and Professional Development OPPD in Santa Fe or the Career Development Office in Annapolis. Another thing that helps me in life is to have a main focus and a hobby to unwind and make it easier to go back into the process.”