New chairman of the Arthur W. Page Society is David Samson, general manager/public affairs, for Chevron Corporation. Like other Career Capsules, Dave discusses his very first PR job and lessons learned, followed by a chronological listing of his career moves. Last fall, Dave received the Plank Center’s Milestones in Mentoring Corporate Award.
It was 1980. I had just graduated from college and was looking for my first job in communications. Despite my determination to find a job, I wasn’t having much luck. In fact, my job search was becoming frustrating and downright discouraging. It got to the point that some of my friends – many of whom were also recent college grads – suggested that I should just take a job to get my career kick-started. But I wanted to be a communications professional and giving up wasn’t in my nature. So I persisted and my persistence turned to luck.
I came across a job listing in the Denver Post (decades before the birth of LinkedIn) that ultimately led to my first job in a small Denver-based PR firm. The principal in the firm, Mike Gaughan, graciously agreed to meet with me at the request of one of his clients. When I first met Mike it was like meeting a CEO out of central casting. He was an eloquent man – tall, white-haired, impeccably dressed and well-spoken. Mike was also a great communicator who knew how to get to the point. And he wasted no time in doing so with me. He looked me in the eye and stated bluntly: “Dave, I don’t know if I need someone with 20 years of experience or if I need someone like you, so make up my mind for me.”
Well 36 years later I have enjoyed an extraordinary career because Mike took a risk on me. He passed away at the end of 2015, but the influence he (and others) had on me is immeasurable and started my terrific journey in this dynamic profession.
- Account Executive, Entercom Public Relations (Denver, CO) (Two years as the most junior staff person, allowing me to benefit from the greatest variety of assignments.)
- Media Relations Representative, Public Service Company of Colorado (Denver, Colorado) (Three years of handling financial, environmental and nuclear issues with inquiring reporters)
- Senior Manager, External Relations, Johns Manville Corporation (Denver, Colorado) (Five years in as the lead spokesperson for this beleaguered company. Manville was the most profitable company to ever seek bankruptcy protection due to unprecedented product liability litigation.)
- Senior Director, Corporate Communications, Levi Strauss & Co. (San Francisco, CA) (Four years of being able to dress in Levi’s jeans and cowboy boots!)
- Director, International Communications, IBM; Director, Communications IBM Global Services (Armonk, NY) (One year at Big Blue. Though brief, I learned a lot in my short tenure in this iconic company and it made me a viable candidate for the top communications role at Levi Strauss & Co.)
- Vice President, Global Communications, Levi Strauss & Co. (San Francisco, CA) (Three years in my second stint working to promote this great brand at a pivotal point in the company’s storied history).
- Partner, Ketchum Public Relations (San Francisco, CA) (Three years with profit center responsibility. Every professional needs this experience. It’s humbling.)
- Vice President, International Communications, Oracle Corporation (Redwood City, CA) (Three years working with a celebrity CEO in the ultra-competitive enterprise software sector.)
- General Manger, Public Affairs, Chevron Corporation (San Ramon, CA) (12 years and still going inside this leading global energy company! Best job I’ve ever had.)
- Chairman, Arthur W. Page Society (In 2016 I begin my term as chair of Page, the professional membership organization for Fortune 500 CCOs and global PR agency CEOs.)