We had the good fortune of connecting with Shaina Pherigo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shaina, what’s one piece of conventional advice that you disagree with?
For women especially, you hear the term “you can’t have it all.” I reject this line of thinking completely. The notion that you are only allowed to have one – a career or a family. A job or being creative. An unbalanced life? No. I believe that you can, in fact, have it all. You just have to be strategic, open and ready for opportunities and envision it in your heart of hearts. I have a full-time career in public relations, but I also have a family, a 2-year-old daughter and a full-fledged creative business that I’ve sustained for 5 years. I volunteer, I make time for my friends and family – and I also make sure to make time for myself. You will always have the time to do it – but it’s your drive and your determination that will hold you back if you let it. You may not always be the best at all of the things – but you should allow yourself the grace to have an off day and don’t let that deter you for striving to have all that life has in store for you.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As a writer, I emphasize to young professionals that every great story has a bit of conflict and a path toward resolution. Many great stories are not linear – but move at their own pace and speed. While the start to my career was slow at the beginning, my story escalated quickly and is not without struggle. I worked two jobs to put myself through college, sometimes three if you count internships – all the while I was keeping my eyes on the prize of finishing within four years and coming out of school to be a professional journalist. I remember vividly of a time when I needed an extra week to make my dorm housing payment and the Housing Staff member told me to “quit college and come back when I could afford it.” I internalized that notion, felt very hurt but found strength from within to keep pushing. I sold art, freelanced and worked extra shifts to make the payment that month – but larger than that, I used this low moment as a springboard to motivate me into something greater. Three years later, I became the first Latina Editor-In-Chief of the student newspaper at the University of North Texas, leading the team to win the highest Texas Intercollegiate Press Award possible – Best of Show. That year, I obtained my BA in Journalism with honors within four years and then went on to get my MBA in Strategic Management within two years. In the last semester of my graduate degree, I took a risk and picked up my life to move to Houston for a chance at my first real journalism job. Being so young in that role had its pros and cons – and while many people who I interviewed discounted my abilities and underestimated me, I had too much naïve confidence to care. This happened to be a strength and the key to my success in that role. It ultimately allowed me to fearlessly interview countless CEOs of companies, write more than 1,000 pieces for the Houston Business Journal as the Commercial Real Estate reporter and reach millions of readers. During my time as a reporter – I had an editor who clashed with our newsroom. While I won’t go into the details, it ultimately caused me to leave the profession. There were many moments where I felt torn down instead of lifted up. I felt that my very being and self-worth had been called into question – all of the things I knew and believed about myself were doubted. It was also a time when my student loan payments kicked in, my boyfriend lived across the state and I was hours away from friends and family. I knew after almost two years in that intense pace that it was not sustainable. I wanted to make a change that allowed me to create a little more space in my life for more than just my career. I started going down a list of sources and the first one I called offered me a job to make the leap to “the dark side”: Public Relations. I became the Copywriter for Gensler, the largest architecture firm in the world, and quickly moved up the ranks to Social Media Strategist to Public Relations Manager within a matter of two years. In that time, I also married the love of my life, carving out space for him and his dreams as well as my own. There were many moments in my early PR career where I allowed myself to be vulnerable – showcasing a new idea or presenting something different. Many times, I was met with intrigue – while at other times, I was met with snickering, eye rolls and blank stares. Many women in the corporate world know what it feels like to be cut off in meetings, talked over, have people steal your ideas to claim them as your own – it can rock your confidence and break you if you let it in. While a younger, more naïve me could have brushed off the negativity – I allowed other’s opinions define my self-worth and had reached my lowest point. It was in these darkest times that my husband and I found out I was pregnant! Having my daughter opened a brand-new chapter of unknown possibilities and I didn’t see it at the time, but she was exactly what I needed at that moment in my life. She taught me not to take myself so seriously, to have compassion for those who are hard on you, to allow grace for yourself and others (which is why her middle name is Grace). Taking a step back – I recognized that my deep reality of defining myself by one thing or by what others think was a recipe for disaster. I was my least creative, least productive and above all, least happy self. It took me realizing that every moment in my life when I’ve made space for something new, I’ve seen the beauty unfold in unimaginable ways. As the years have gone by, I’ve seen many people who were once very hard on me become my greatest advocates in business. People who belittled me are now asking me for a job or asking for me to help them promote themselves. It would have been easy to turn the cheek and chalk it up to karma – but something within me has always known to be kind, even to those who were unkind to me. I am actually now thankful for their comments, criticism and hurtful actions because they made me tough as nails, and prepared me to tackle anything that comes my way. And I know that my daughter is watching me and learning. A major part of being a great leader is lifting others up. I have learned what it means to be a good manager, a good person and a good human by seeing how difficult a good manager/boss/mentor is to find. I refuse to allow my PR team to go through some of those hardships that I had to endure and actively infuse career development and growth into our conversations. Through this style of leadership, our team has helped journalists with more than 2,000 articles in the last 5 years, we have won hundreds of awards for our company as well as two for our team. I spend a great deal of my energy these days mentoring young PR and media professionals while also focusing on helping people tell their own stories. And as I mentioned, all of our unique stories have conflict, but it’s important to remember that even in the darkest times, it’s not what happens to you but what you decide to do about it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
In a normal year, without a pandemic – there are so many places in Houston to visit. Some of these can be done in a socially distanced way. Houston has an incredibly diverse populations, which makes the food the best in the world. The best time ever in this city includes: Eat: Nancy’s Hustle – best restaurant in town by far Hando – the best sushi/hand rolls in town La Lucha/Superica – delicious TexMex with oysters and cocktails next door Pinkerton’s BBQ – authentic Texas BBQ One Dim Sum – great option for dumplings Taco Joint – excited for this to open! Drink: Eight Row Flint – fun bar, great vibe Nourish – where I get my green juices & coffee TeaSip – hidden gem for loose leaf tea options Visit: Houston Museum of Natural Science Museum of Fine Arts Houston Arboretum Hang Out: Relax on a blanket outside the Menil Interesting things to Check Out: So many great parks – outdoor activities Levy Park New Eastern Glades Park Hermann Park
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have always had an innate passion for narratives and storytelling, but it was the influential teachers in my life who fostered my creativity and encouraged me to let my mind roam free on boundless, blank sheets of paper. These teachers truly opened doors for me that I didn’t know existed and inspired me toward a career that encompassed and cherished the written word.
Other: https://www.bizjournals.com/houston/news/2020/02/10/5-storytelling-tactics-for-your-2020-business.html https://www.bizjournals.com/houston/news/2019/10/25/four-ways-to-leverage-your-internal-communications.html