Chief communications officer for a multi-billion dollar company is not something that was in my sights growing up as a pre-college engineering student in high school. It wasn’t because I didn’t believe it was attainable, but because I was headed in a different direction. As an honor society student, there were a lot of things I was good at, especially math and science, but only one subject I was passionate about – all forms of communications.
I struck a compromise with my parents to go to a really good school that had both subjects – NORTHWESTERN University. There, I got the fundamentals of journalism and caught the PR bug when I landed an internship with Sara Lee.
The practical experience there combined with the support of mentors like my then boss Ron Culp and additional experience with great companies like Saturn and Bell South prepared me well for my current role. Beyond being a good practitioner, I also learned business principles and how to demonstrate the strategic value of pr to senior leaders.
Passion, preparation and perspective and prayer are valuable tools to have in your tool kit. These tools, coupled with mentors and willingness to take risk and demonstrate the desire to excel have served me well in my 20-plus-year career.
Take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to you — you never know where it will take you. Ron can verify that I wasn’t always excited about some of the opportunities but certainly glad I stuck them out.
Career summary from the first job:
- Sara Lee, Corporate Affairs Intern – 1 year
- Saturn Corp., Manager Corporate Communications – 10 years
- Bell South, Sr. Director, Corp Comm – 8 years
- AT&T, Executive Director, Corp Comm – 1 year
- Cox Communications, VP/CCO, Public Affairs – 3 1/2 years
- BVP Inc., Strategic Communications Consultant – 1 1/2 years
- Morehouse School of Medicine, Vice President of Marketing & Communications – 1 1/2 years
- Entergy Corp., Group Vice President, Corporate Communications – 2014 to present