As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Rodriguez.
Stephanie Rodriguez has 20 years of experience in public relations and owns her own public relations agency, SRPR, in Phoenix, AZ. She has worked with law firms, healthcare organizations, educational institutions and nonprofits. She enjoys writing and placing media clips for her clients.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Originally, I wanted to be a reporter. I have a natural curiosity in how things work, or why things are the way they are. I had read an article about public relations and felt that fit my personality better than being a media reporter. My first internship was at California State University, Fresno in the University Relations office and I loved it. I was hooked!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Definitely Covid-19, I was scheduling calls and appointments with potential clients. Covid changed all that because these businesses felt they couldn’t afford a public relations firm. It taught me to roll with the punches.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Making sure I spelled ‘Public’ correctly. You don’t want to forget that word has an ‘L.’ It taught me to thoroughly proofread.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Definitely Betsy Hays and Shirley Melikian Armbruster, they really helped me throughout my career as wonderful mentors. If I ever have a question, I know I can call them and they are willing to help.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
I take three deep breaths, move around, get the blood circulating and give myself a pep talk that I can do this.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
If you have a diverse team, you get diverse opinions and experiences. Those help make you a better communicator on behalf of your clients.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
By connecting with students while they are young. Mentoring our youth and those that haven’t had it so great. Even a couple of hours a month can make a huge difference.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
I oversee the operations of my firm. That includes client relations, writing, business development (a lot of business development), making sure payroll is correct. I wear a lot of hats running my own company.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
That CEOs are out of touch. Some of the best CEOs I worked for were the ones that would walk around the organization, ask staff how they are doing and if there is anything that can make processes easier or quicker. I learned from those CEOs that perception is everything, and if you’re just sitting behind your desk and not in the mix, you lose out.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
That not only is a woman a CEO at her workplace, but she’s the Co-CEO at home (and sometimes the only CEO at home). From my talks with my colleagues, women are still expected to take the kids to the doctor, make cookies for the soccer team and decorate the home for the holidays. It can be exhausting. I think a lot of women have their plate full, that’s why I think we’re good multi-taskers.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I thought public relations involved a lot of events. It can, but I’ve done more writing than anything, which I love.
Is everyone cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
I think everyone has the potential to lead, but they need good mentors and leaders to learn from. I’m constantly learning on the job how to be a better leader than I was the day before. I guess if you’re shy or scared to speak in front of a lot of people, that can keep you from leading. But I genuinely feel everything can be learned.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
Listen to what your team is telling you. Work with them to put processes in place that make sense.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I volunteer with two nonprofits, Arouet, which helps women leaving correctional system to better their lives and Janice’s Women’s Center. They help victims of domestic violence. I feel so fortunate that I can give my time to those great nonprofits.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Don’t be so hard on myself. I feel that I’m my own worst critique and I’ve worked on that over the years.
- Prepare for some conflict. Some people will not like you, now matter what you do. I’ve always have killed them with kindness. It takes the same amount of time to be nice as it does to be negative.
- You’re not done writing papers. Especially if you go into public relations. Not only do you write press releases, you also write copy for annual reports and whitepapers. Always work on your writing.
- Ask good solid questions when interviewing for a job. Really dig into the company and position.
- Be willing to take a chance on yourself. Sometimes it’s hard to keep momentum when it’s just you cheering for you. But you are your best cheerleader.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
My father and an aunt died due to cancer. I would implore everyone to get checked. Go do the mammogram, have your blood checked. It’s so important and sometimes cancer can be caught early.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned.” — J.K. Rowling
I’ve had my fair share of setbacks, but I’ve always picked myself up, dusted myself off and started over again, to quote a popular song. Those setbacks taught me something about myself.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Oprah Winfrey, I grew up watching her show and would love her advice on business and life.