Name: Shirley Chow

Vocation: Public relations

Location: New York City


1. What do you currently do now and how did you end up here? Any pit stops along the way and did those pit stops help you get to the career and woman you are now? 

I'm currently part of a team at 2U, Inc. that manages public relations and all communications for the company and our products. 

I started in public health research - found it too boring and pivoted to biotechnology public relations. 

I had one major pit stop. It was my first job after graduating college where I was a public health researcher for the Department of Defense's Naval Health Research Center.  I pursued biology and psychology degrees and research seemed like a natural next step.  It was also a struggle to find a job soon after college graduation and this pit stop was one of my limited job options while living away from home and really needing to earn income!

This pit stop proved productive and it was key in helping me realize what I didn't want to do (research), and realizations like that are half the battle in getting closer to what you do want in a career! 


2. What are your current gaps, barriers, facilitators, or motivators? Any of those in particular that helped you along the way? 

Between us girls, I think holding down a full time all consuming corporate job like the one I have may be a barrier to pursing my personal dream of becoming an entrepreneur. But it's not to say that I can't work on personal endeavors on the side - it's really a matter of me deciding how much of my personal "free" time I want to spend on "working" vs. relaxing.

Something that's helped (and sometimes hurt) me along the way is that I've had managers in my career who have had majorly influenced not only my career but my outlook on life, both in positive and negative ways. I've had a manager made me believe that I was in the wrong profession which was devastating but that experience was followed up with me having a new manager who saw my potential and was able to bring out the best in me and reminded me that I was in the right profession. He also championed for me at work and it made a huge difference in my career and I was very fortunate to have him as a manager and mentor. 


3. What is your ideal state / dream state of being as a woman in your career and a woman in this world? How will you get there?

An ideal career for me involves work that excites me, makes the world be a better place and allows me to do what I'm best at. 


4. What common misconceptions do you find about your field, your life, about women in general?

Public relations is not an easily understood field. It's broad, multi-faceted and isn't typically glamorous (a common misconception - at least in my field of corporate communications!) Becoming a successful public relation strategist and communications professional really does requires years of experience and exposure to a diverse range of situations and scenarios. I've been in PR and communications for 10 years now and I'm still learning so much! 


5. Any advice or tips & tricks you want to give to a younger you? Whether it be how to apt hunt on craigslist to getting your shoes cobbled to getting a work mentor etc

Sometimes it's ok to fake it until you make it. Even if you don't always feel confident, you can act like you do (without going overboard!) and after a while you might be surprised how your new demeanor and attitude will have helped you to become not only more effective in your interactions and meetings, but make you realize you have every reason to be confident.

A mentor once suggested I think about my body language and posture. It was a simple yet insightful piece of feedback. If you aspire to be seen and thought of as leader, project yourself as one. How do you hold yourself when walking around the office? Are you slouching or sulking around often? Even walking around with your head down or being hunched over from bad posture can send certain signals and may affect how people perceive you. 

As influential as your manager can be in your life, don't ever let them get away with defining who you are. 

If any TYW readers want to chat about public relations (or pizza), I'd love to help. Find me on Twitter at @ShirleyC or we can connect on Linkedin. Thanks for pulling together this series, Tran!