CoMC alumna Laura Gonzalez reflects on her time at Texas Tech and her current career goals.
When dreaming of her future, CoMC alumna Laura Gonzalez initially saw herself as a mechanical engineer. However, she eventually realized her passion was in public relations and advertising. After graduating from Texas Tech, Gonzalez launched a successful career in New York City. Now, Gonzalez sheds light on her pre- and post-graduation life and offers advice to current CoMC students.
1. What is your hometown?
2. What is your major and year of graduation?
I majored in Public Relations and graduated in December 2016.
3. What was your first job out of college?
I gained entry to the advertising industry through the Multicultural Advertising Intern Program, in which I participated as a fellow in both 2015 and 2016. I landed my first role in media buying and planning at R/GA in New York City working across the Western Digital and SanDisk portfolio. Despite account management being my first interest, I was flexible and said yes to the job opportunity keeping in mind my career goals and values at the forefront. It was my dream and aspiration to plant my stake in the ground in the mecca of media and advertising and absorb as much as I could from the brightest in the industry, and that goal became my North Star.
4. What is your current job and location?
Since 2016, I've been fortunate to be based in New York City where I work remotely now for Comcast Corporations HQ on the Integrated Marketing Communications team leading our social efforts across multicultural which include Hispanic, African American and LGBTQ+. Before pivoting to in-house, I was working at the global creative shop Droga5 in the account management department touching different pieces of business ranging from equipment rentals to beer, and diapers.
5. When you came to college, what was it you wanted to do after graduating? How does that differ, if any, from what you do now?
My college story is unique. I started my collegiate journey believing I would graduate and work as a mechanical engineer. An associate degree and 3.5 years of study later, I determined I would listen to my intuition after taking a Lying and Deceptions course at the University of Texas that piqued my curiosity about Edward Bernays, the father of Public Relations, and the gift he possessed to persuade the masses to consume eggs and bacon for breakfast by positioning these food items as a vital source of energy.
The rest is history. After rounds of research, I stumbled upon Texas Tech University and was swooned by Dr. Trent Seltzer's conviction in his dedication to helping me find my way. I transferred to Texas Tech in August 2014 and graduated bearing the banner for the College of Media & Communication as the first in my family to graduate from college. I have carried this standard of excellence throughout my work and experiences post-graduation. I wanted so badly to break into the advertising industry and work at respected global creative agencies, which I've been fortunate to realize. After R/GA, I joined McCann on the Lockheed Martin business and later made my way to creative shop, Droga5. After working 3 years in account management, I pivoted to the client side working in-house for a Fortune 500 tech company which was my ultimate goal after college.
6. What professional goals did you set for yourself as an undergraduate? What goals did you set for yourself after graduation?
As a young 20-something, I crafted my professional goals with an underlying hunger and desire to always apply myself outside my comfort zone and lead with humility and kindness as I aspired to grow in the industry. At the time, my dream was to commit myself to climb the ranks and eventually pursue a Master of Business Administration as a lever to one day catapult into C-Suite. My values have evolved and the hunger to leave a mark continues to this day.
Landing myself in New York City and working in the advertising industry as a Mexican American and first-gen daughter of immigrants presented its set of systemic roadblocks and learnings curves. In order to get ahead you must proactively fend for your career growth, no one is going to bat for you unless you scream your intentions from the mountaintop. Stepping foot in a Manhattan office presented a culture shock; suddenly, I needed to learn how to carry executive presence when taking place at the table in meeting rooms with leadership. I had to learn how to establish trust and rapport with my direct report and navigate the complexities of relationship-building in the workplace to push my projects ahead faster and flawlessly. Here, my reputation did not precede me, and I had to prove myself all over again amongst a wave of extraordinary excellence. The harsh reality of New York advertising is that you are entering a level field that is the highest among the world, and you must brace yourself for the tumultuous, rewarding ride you are about to be a passenger of.
Not that long ago, I recall sitting in Dr. Bill Dean's Introduction to Mass Communications class and touching on the advertising discipline of our field. I carry his wisdom to this day, that is advertising is not for the faint of heart. If you're looking to start your career in this field, you must be equipped with passion, resilience, hunger, and stamina. Advertising demands timeliness, creativity, innovation, and rigor. To thrive, you must know how to collaborate with others, have a strategic voice, and always keep yourself accountable to earn your peers' trust and respect. The average workday is not confined to 9-5, and you must always maintain your curiosity and become versed in what is happening in the world around you. Keep yourself smart and be up to date on the industry trends and study what your competitors are doing. This will arm you with confidence when you are asked to voice your point of view in a boardroom with others. Most crucially, it is imperative to be skilled in the category of relationship building. I highly recommend getting ahead and diving into Dale Carnegie's book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho for inspiration as you look to start your path post-graduation.
7. What was the most influential transformative experience at the CoMC for you? How does that experience factor into your life today?
The most transformative experiences for me were those outside the classroom. Choose to navigate your educational journey with an open mind to broaden your horizons. I gained lifelong friends by electing to participate in the PR Showdown competition in 2016, back when the program was still early in its stages of launching the year before. In the short five days of competing among other groups of students for first place, I learned the most from my peers.
In the end, our group was strong because we valued each other's perspectives and combined our strengths and knowledge to complete each challenge, finishing in the top three places consistently, and eventually earning first place for the competition. In a short week, I was exposed to all touchpoints of public relations and simultaneously learned time management, collaboration and fostered relationships that have sustained past graduation.
8. What experiences outside of college helped shaped your profession? How does your profession allow you to continue your passion?
Industry events and career conferences have greatly influenced my professional development. Early in my career, I came across the opportunity to apply to the first inaugural class of fellows for the ColorComm Program in 2017 held in Miami, Florida. I was selected from a large pool of applicants to join a small group of nine select women of color to network and learn from other rising stars in all areas of communication spanning from public relations to advertising and broadcast. To our surprise, the fellows would have the chance to compete in groups of three during the conference to pitch the best creative strategy addressing the challenge ColorComm was facing as it projected its growth into 2021.
The prize at stake was to win an all-expenses-paid trip to Maui, Hawaii, to attend the organization's 5th Annual Conference the next year. In three short days, our team persevered working late at night, exhausting the smallest of details as we geared to present to a room of more than 300 C-Suite level executives, the CEO of ColorComm and that year's celebrity guest, Whoopi Goldberg. The adrenaline and nerves I experienced on stage to this day are unforgettable and coming on the other side of that situation having taken first place reaffirmed the power of hard work, camaraderie and putting yourself out there.
Today, whenever I look to grow in work environments it is important the company values professional development and puts action behind words.
9. Considering your experiences in college and in your respective industry, how would you describe your growth process?
It is pivotal to a person's growth to find a trusted mentor. Especially as an entry-level professional, it is vital to have trusted people in your corner to whom you can turn to help navigate the office politics and intricate experiences you are going to be exposed to post graduation.
In my journey, it also has been helpful to have a network of close peers to help shed perspective on their experiences and help you gain rich understanding and meaning.
Simply put, you cannot navigate your career journey alone. As in life, we humans seek connection, and it is even more pivotal to your confidence as an entry-level professional to have a circle of friends that can build you and nurture you in ways the professional setting cannot.
10. What advice do you have for CoMC students graduating?
Lean into failure and dedicate yourself to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Beyond that, strive to lead a wholehearted life outside the workplace and practice vulnerability, kindness, and compassion towards others. Starting my career in New York City exposed me to a tapestry of culture and inspiration I could have never gained outside the confines of my previous home state. I encourage students to dream big and be brave to expand their horizons if that's what they desire.
Honor your mortality and protect your mental health, you cannot realize your full potential if your inner light is dim.
11. What do you feel when you see TTU/TTU CoMC attire or swag out in the wild?
Nostalgia and warm pride run through me anytime I see TTU gear. The familiarity red and black bring incites joy because, suddenly, 1,850 miles feels closer than before.