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All the things I’ve learned to see: Lessons on growth from an Alfred Fleishman Diversity Fellow

January 25, 2024
By Jessica Millett

Welcome to the Fellowship Focus, a new quarterly feature about the Alfred Fleishman Diversity Fellowship program. Here, you’ll get a glimpse into the lives and perspectives of our talented Fellows as they begin their careers and leave their marks on our industry and the world around them.

If you ask Zhiyao (Allen) Yang which first name he uses, he will say “both.” Born in the Guangxi Province of China and raised in Los Angeles, Zhiyao (Allen) learned that it’s best to embrace who you are, where you come from, and the unexpected lessons you learn along the way. We talked to him about his passion for PR, his path to the Fellowship program and what he looks forward to as he begins his career.

Lesson One: See the possibilities

After completing an internship in Austria, Zhiyao (Allen) pursued a master’s degree at the famed Graduate Institute of Geneva. It was while researching the relationship between the European Union and China during this internship that the idea of studying in Switzerland first presented itself. “I always knew I wanted to pursue international relations, but I didn’t care where I went. I applied to The Institute because of the program’s focus on global governance, and I wanted to learn more about how the world works.” It was an unexpected path, but he soon found that his intuition was correct — Switzerland was precisely where he needed to be. “Going to school in Geneva was not my initial plan,” Zhiyao (Allen) said, “but I’ve learned to go with the flow. You can focus on your goal, but your journey there should be flexible.”

Lesson Two: See different points of view

The Graduate Institute housed a diverse class, as students from six continents worked and lived together, many preparing for a future with the United Nations. The work was challenging and rewarding, giving him a glimpse of what it is like to work with international organizations. While studying, he started an internship where his tasks included event planning and social media management. Here, he zeroed in on a new goal— global communications.  “I realized that what I was really doing was helping clients foster their communication skills.” When asked to summarize his time at the Institute, Zhiyao (Allen) said, “The program showed me that there are many perspectives and taught me how different cultures view the world. My classes helped me look at situations, even global conflicts, holistically.” He added, “There is a Chinese saying that when translated states, 5+5 is 10, but 4+6 is also 10. Just because you are right doesn’t mean the other side is wrong.” Wise words, indeed.

Lesson Three: See the opportunities

When asked if he had any advice for college students, Zhiyao (Allen) replied, “Never say no to new opportunities, even if they seem boring.” It’s a perspective he honed during one of his internships. “It was a state agency in California. I wanted to do international work, so it wasn’t something I saw myself doing long term.” Still, it taught him several valuable skills and gave him the experience of working with new people. “In hindsight, I can see how it helped me and why it was a good foundation.” He added, “I learned to look beyond my silos and comfort zones and to be open to trying new things.”

One of the things that Zhiyao is open to is the potential for AI (artificial intelligence). ”AI is here to stay. Our role as people is to learn how to live with it and use it responsibly. However, I think the government should help regulate it because we can’t rely on tech companies to regulate it themselves.” He continued, “When the ATM came out, people wondered if that would take teller’s jobs, but they made teller’s jobs easier. In 5-10 years, I can see myself using AI as the baseline for my work and then editing it to sound like me. I see it as an opportunity that will free me up to do more complicated critical thinking.”

Lesson Four: See your potential

Starting a new career can be scary, but when left unchecked, fear can hold you back. Zhiyao (Allen) shared, “When I first started at FleishmanHillard, I overthought. I was scared to ask questions. I was afraid to ask for help. I soon learned that it was up to me to believe in myself and to communicate my needs. When I did, I saw that everyone here was so nice and that people were more than willing to help. If I had to do it again, I would say to myself, ‘Just ask, don’t think about it.’” It is a lesson he aims to take with him throughout his career. “When I am in a more senior role, I hope I remember not to overthink things and to ‘just do it.’”

Though it can sometimes be easier said than done, we hope he continues to take his advice because he is right – the team at FleishmanHillard wants him to succeed. We look forward to everything that Zhiyao (Allen) will accomplish, and we’re grateful that he saw an opportunity to grow with us.

The Alfred Fleishman Diversity Fellowship Program is a North America-based internship where diverse talent can combine their PR, communications and media talents with their passion for diversity and inclusion. Our teams across the U.S. and Canada hire, mentor and prepare Fellows for entry-level roles at FleishmanHillard. If you want to start your career with us, you can learn more about openings by visiting our Join Us page.