On Thursday, July 10th, 2014 the National Education Association and the Professional Development Committee welcomed about 50 guests for an honest discussion of career advice.  WWPR President, Lauren Smith Dyer kicked off the session with a warm welcome to our moderator, Leila McDowell, Washington correspondent and reporter for Arise TV and NBC’s “The Grio”.  Leila had the pleasure of introducing our extraordinary panelists, all of whom have been PR Woman of the Year Award honorees:


  • Pam Jenkins, President, Powell Tate
  • Stephenie Fu, Principal, SLF Strategies, LLC
  • Maria Rodriguez, Founder and President, Vanguard Communications


Each of our panelists provided a unique perspective and really shed light onto the ingredients necessary for building a successful career.  Maria Rodriguez shared with us that she started her career in an accounting department.  She received the best advice from a former boss who told her to “Get out of accounting.”  While she found her bliss in communications for social change, her accounting background has proved helpful in managing budgets for the agency she founded and for her clients.  Stephanie Fu had a clear vision for her career and got her start at Burson Marsteller.  Her passion for cause-driven efforts drove her to excel in her professional career.  She went on to work at Porter Novelli and Ketchum.  Early in her career, Stephanie was advised to speak up, share her opinions and not be afraid to put herself out there.  This advice, the strong foundation she built and her hard work has led her to the point in her career where she makes the executive decisions.  Pam Jenkins challenged all attendees to continue to make investments into their bank of experience.  Pam has led an incredible career and attributes her success to lessons of her childhood.  She insists that as her piano teacher told her, practice makes perfect!


The panelists shared a few other pearls of wisdom with us:

  • Always follow your passion.
  • Despite having gadgets like the iPad and iPhone, sticky notes and note pads are still awesome!
  • Be prepared: Time and hard work are required for success.
  • Sometimes it is okay to say no!  Explore your comfort level and use boundaries that you develop to set the pace of your career.
  • Freelancing opportunities and networking are great ways to stay motivated while job searching.
  • Connecting with people is important as real relationships should not be forced.
  • To have happy team members, an organization should provide: a sense of autonomy, a sense of purpose and opportunities to learn.
  • Love at first sight does exist – in client relationships and partnerships, look for an immediate connection.
  • Self-reflection is important – Do a self-inventory check every so often.
  • To succeed in PR nowadays, you have to understand the shift in journalism and the shift in how people get their information.
  • Looking forward to the future of your career and your field helps to fuel motivation.