The keyword search meant something much different to Maddie Silverstein ’13 as a student than it does now. The Brooklyn-based comedian, model, and business owner has always enjoyed the opportunity to create her own path, but never would have guessed that her search for an extra internship during her time at Butler would place her in the realm of search engine optimization (SEO), content strategy, brand storytelling, and, ultimately, the pursuit of stand-up comedy.
As an incoming student from Vernon Hills, Illinois, Silverstein came to Butler in search of the college experience that many other first-year Butler students dream about— spending time with new friends, discovering passions, exerting some new-found independence, making memories on campus, and exploring life’s biggest questions through academic coursework and professional experiences.
After just a few weeks on campus, Silverstein knew she was where she was meant to be. But what she did not realize was that this was just the beginning of a life focused on searching in more ways than one.
She quickly cultivated a close group of friends, became involved in a variety of student organizations, and found an academic pathway that she was excited to pursue. After deciding on majors in International Studies and French, Silverstein began to envision a career working abroad, focusing on non-profit organizations. She took advantage of the liberal arts coursework and curriculum and explored different fields and topics that expanded her outlook and perspectives. Having taken classes covering criminal justice, sociology, religion, gender and sexuality studies, and African studies, Silverstein decided to study abroad in Madagascar.
“My semester abroad opened my eyes to many new perspectives, and ultimately, my place in the world,” says Silverstein. Fueled by a desire to explore fields outside of international non-profit work, Silverstein landed marketing and social media internships at Top Box Foods and The International Center.
But it was an internship with Indianapolis firm Slingshot SEO that really paved the way for Silverstein’s future. “It was a bit of a ‘chance’ opportunity as it was not a field or role I had ever considered for myself before,” she says. Although well outside of the nonprofit world Silverstein had originally envisioned, working in SEO would allow her to take the lessons learned in her International Studies coursework and utilize data about humans and human behavior in a new application. Following graduation from Butler, Silverstein was able to use her latest internship to land her first full-time job in an SEO role with Chicago-based marketing agency Digitas. The work challenged her in meaningful ways and the company provided many professional and personal development opportunities—including funding improv comedy courses.
With her company’s support, Silverstein began pursuing her longstanding interest in comedy—taking courses and classes in improv, writing, and stand-up at the Annoyance Theater and IO in Chicago. Although she did not anticipate the two worlds colliding, she quickly found that her comedy courses were positively influencing her professional career in unexpected ways: “When I started taking stand-up courses, I became a much better presenter and manager and speaker, and everything with my clients got so much better.”
A few years into her position with Digitas, Silverstein found herself searching for ways to seriously develop her stand-up hobby into more of a career. Able to work remotely she moved to Los Angeles and began taking on freelance clients to grow her network. By 2019, Silverstein had built up her client base enough to take the leap to start her own SEO consulting firm, C&F Silver. A cross-country move to Brooklyn, New York in 2022 has allowed Silverstein to continue her SEO business, and with the help of a talent manager, land auditions with Netflix and perform in weekly comedy shows—including at renowned venues like NYC’s Stonewall Inn. Silverstein is also currently developing a pilot for a comedy series.
While unconventional, Silverstein continues to be grateful for her time searching for her path at Butler. Her advice to Butler students is to take the time to explore the things that interest them—even if they don’t follow the traditional path they had envisioned. “Just go after the things that you want in life. We live in a world that tells you to follow a set of rules to be successful, but I just don’t think they really apply anymore. Accept your authentic self and go after the things you want.”