In June 1980, I was a junior at NYU majoring in Journalism, and I very much wanted to be a reporter. I was also, however, broke and living in Manhattan.
In order to stay in New York that summer, I needed an internship that both paid money and offered college credit. The only such internship available was at Ruder Finn, a large global PR agency, so despite my desire to work for a newspaper, I applied for the PR internship and was offered a summer job.
I loved the three months I spent at Ruder Finn, and discovered that I had a real aptitude for public relations work. I was eager, dedicated and enthusiastic. In fact, I still have copies of thank-you letters that I received from journalists who wrote stories based on pitches that I made! Fortunately, Ruder Finn also loved me and offered me a job as an account executive for $16,500 a year, which I instantly accepted.
I stayed at Ruder Finn for three years and found it to be an amazing training ground. I was able to work on world class accounts (Panasonic, Timex, Cotton Incorporated) and was surrounded by bright, highly motivated and exceptionally talented people. In 1984 a headhunter called me about a job at Bozell & Jaobs (which now is part of Weber Shandwick) and I was offered a job as an Account Supervisor, and a raise from $29,000 to 45,000! I took the leap.
At Bozell, I ran the Hitachi business as well as some smaller start-up tech accounts. I was able to grow the Hitachi business into a major global account, and was promoted to Vice President at the age of 26. I truly enjoyed my time at Ruder Finn and Bozell, and many of my colleagues from those days have gone on to extraordinary success, including Andy Polansky who is now President and CEO of Weber Shandwick; Carl Folta, Executive VP of Corporate Relations at VIACOM, and Don Garber, the Commissioner of Major League Soccer.
By 1987 I had tired of living in Manhattan and decided to move to California after meeting the love of my life (we’re still married after 21 years). I joined GCI in Los Angeles and after six months we won the Nissan account to launch the Infiniti brand. In 1989 I joined Nissan and ultimately spent eight years as VP of Corporate Communications for Nissan North America.
Following is a summary of my corporate jobs since then, beginning with Nissan:
1989-1997: VP, Corporate Communications, Nissan North America
Headed up North American corporate communications for $50 billion automaker. Supervised staff of 28 with annual budget of $17 million, reported to President and CEO. Responsibilities included corporate image positioning, media relations, product publicity, issues management, public affairs, crisis communications, community and minority affairs, employee communications, speech writing, media training and supervision of public relations agencies. Member, Operating Committee and Executive Committee of North America. Joined company as Corporate Manager, named Director in 1991, Vice President in 1993.
1997 – 2000: VP, Corporate Communications, SunAmerica
Corporate officer of this $58 billion (assets) financial services company (NYSE:SAI) which was acquired by AIG in 1999. Responsibilities included advertising and branding, corporate image positioning, internal communications, media relations, annual report, employee communications, executive communications, crisis and issues management, community relations, speechwriting and supervision of public relations agencies. Reported directly to Chairman and CEO, Eli Broad.
2000 – present: Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Korn/Ferry International
Chief of Staff and Chief Integration Officer for the world’s largest executive recruitment firm (NYSE: KFY). Joined Korn/Ferry in 2000 as Chief Marketing Officer, overseeing branding, marketing and communications for offices in 45 countries. Responsibilities included media relations, crisis management, internal communications, executive communications, brand strategy, websites, annual report and all public relations. Member, Global Operating Committee, report directly to Chairman and CEO.