Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month – Q and A with Jessica Yah Lira

September 16, 2019

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As we kick off Hispanic Heritage Month, we wanted to take this opportunity to spotlight and celebrate one of our rising stars in San Francisco. Jessica Yah Lira is an account executive in our Social and Innovation team, and a graduate of the University of San Diego with a B.A. in International Relations and Marketing. Jessica joined FleishmanHillard in 2017 after a successful internship with our firm.

Q: Why is celebrating unique perspectives and diversity important to you? To FleishmanHillard?

A: Diversity is what makes storytelling thrive because having people from different backgrounds is what allows us to see the world differently. Being able to see the world through different lenses – whether it be through a professional or personal one – allows us as counselors to bring forth our best thinking and creativity to help authentically tell our clients’ stories.

Jessica Yah Lira (left) with her mother (right) at her graduation ceremony.

Q: How does FleishmanHillard allow you to be your authentic self? 

A: One of the turning points that made me feel like I belonged with the “FHamily” was during my intern days back in 2016. In the beginning, you could say that I wasn’t very comfortable speaking up in the fear that my opinions wouldn’t be valued. But having a manager and mentors that believed in me made me realize that being in this industry, especially as a Latina, is a very empowering thing. Having different perspectives is what makes you special and I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside some of the best people that celebrate that every day.

Q: What made you decide you wanted to work in communications?

A: If I’m being honest, I had no idea what public relations was until my best friend introduced me to it when I was looking for a career change. After some digging, I became fascinated with the idea of storytelling. Big or small, everyone has a story to tell. Every company was started because of someone’s mission and fearlessness to make a change. Being able to bring those stories to life is so rewarding.

Q: What would you say is your proudest professional achievement?

A: Working for one of the most notable PR firms in the world is a proud achievement in itself. I get to come to work every day and learn from some of the most inspiring people. But if I could pick one exact professional moment, I would say my proudest achievement was being part of a new business pitch during my first two months as an assistant account executive. I had just been hired after completing my internship so I was still transitioning to the full-time role. I was asked to help with an RFP, which then led to participating in the new business pitch development process. In the final round, I was part of the small group asked to present to the potential clients. I remember being completely overwhelmed with nerves but knew that if I didn’t speak up I would be letting my team down. Maybe it was the fifth cup of coffee that I had at 8 a.m., but I ended up speaking up and even had the company’s CMO say it was his favorite part of the whole meeting. We ended up winning the business!

Q: What does your Hispanic heritage mean to you? 

Jessica Yah Lira with her brothers, Brian (middle) and Rick (right).

When I think of what it means to be Hispanic or Latina, the first thing that pops into my mind is family. It means honoring their hard work and struggles that helped open doors for my brothers and me. It means having those big family gatherings where you meet a new cousin every time because the family just keeps growing. It means never missing family Sundays or movie nights with my brothers. It means attempting to learn (big emphasis on attempting) mom’s home-cooked meals so you can carry on the legacy. It means being yourself with color, style and pride.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to other members of the Hispanic community looking to pursue a career in communications?

A: Network, network, network! Be part of PR organizations on campus, reach out to college classmates who have a career in communications or even reach out to folks on LinkedIn. It might be scary at first, but you never know where that can lead you.

Q: If you could go back five years, what is something you would tell your younger self?

A: Don’t be afraid to be yourself. It’s what makes you stand out and be a valuable team member.

Q: Who inspires you the most and why?

A: My mother’s work ethic and life as a Mexican immigrant has always been my motivation. Being able to pursue a higher education and professional career has not only been a dream, but it is a way of thanking my mother for all the obstacles she has so valiantly overcome. Her continuous ambition has taught me that life is filled with endless opportunities for us to undertake. There are infinite possibilities but we, ourselves, have to have the zest to make our dreams a reality no matter how arduous the journey may be.