Poised to take on a new role as CEO in January 2024, Jessamyn Katz, president of Heyman Associates, plans to elevate the firm’s growth and reputation in the industry and continue to address the talent demands of the world’s leading brands, corporations, foundations, and academic institutions.
Katz has dedicated nearly two decades to the international executive search firm, which exclusively focuses on senior talent in the communications sector. Since 2019, Katz has been at the helm, driving the firm’s strategy and day-to-day operations. Under her leadership, the firm has expanded its capabilities and client base, now encompassing senior roles in government relations, marketing, and investor relations.
As Katz prepares to step into her new role, we thought it would be the perfect time to get her thoughts on the future of the communications industry.
What book, podcast or other media do you recommend to other comms pros?
At Heyman Associates, we work with clients of all industries which means I try my best to keep a pulse on general news and media, with some specific focus areas on our world of communications to get insights more specific to our day-to-day work. From a generalist perspective, I’m a big daily listener of The Daily by The New York Times and LinkedIn has become part of my morning ritual and news routine. And from a communications perspective, if you haven’t already subscribed to the Axios Communicators newsletter, it’s a must-add to your cycle. It’s in a clear and digestible format and provides great insights on key leaders, market trends, and unique perspectives across the industry. And I try and keep some fun fiction and reality TV in my routine as well for balance!
What’s your favorite tool you use regularly for work?
In our field of work in executive search, we are on the phone constantly with clients and candidates. I have always found that taking notes on paper and in writing allows me to be more actively engaged in the conversation versus taking notes on a computer. A few years ago, I recently started using the reMarkable tablet which gives me a customizable and paper-free tablet to take personalized handwritten notes that can be easily uploaded to my laptop. It has been a lifesaver! And of course, more sustainable.
What excites you most about the future of communications?
For some, a future of the unknowns can be overwhelming, but I find that’s what makes the future of communications so exciting. With new technology, media, and innovation introduced daily, our industry is constantly having to keep up and that’s exciting to watch. With new tools and tech, it raises the stakes and expectations for communications leaders; the need for judgment and critical thinking skills will only become more important.
What communications challenge keeps you up at night?
In our field of work, we are helping some of the world’s best organizations find leaders across communications, corporate affairs, marketing, and investor relations. These are high-stakes, high-pressure jobs and our team often is coaching individuals through their decision-making process. We take our relationships seriously, so making sure we are thorough and thoughtful about our advisement and what is right for both the client and candidate through the process is crucial.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career?
It’s no secret that the pandemic has caused challenges for businesses of all sizes over the last few years, but it’s been something I’ve reflected on even more recently as I look toward the future of our company, and the growth and evolution of the industry at large. As a small firm, we handled the health and economic stress with as much grace and dignity as possible, and I’m really proud of how stable we were throughout the peak. From a career perspective, it also taught me a lot about how to maintain balance from both the business and personal perspective. There were plenty of challenges that forced me out of my comfort zone from a leadership perspective that were lessons learned – and still being learned – building me into a stronger leader today and for the future.
What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
One of my longtime colleagues and advisor to our firm always told me: “It’s never the wrong decision to tell the truth.” That has always stuck with me. In the client service business, especially one that is centered around people, purpose, and relationships, there can be plenty of difficult conversations. It is inevitable that there will be times when a client will be disappointed, but regardless of how challenging a conversation might be from both sides, being upfront, honest, and transparent is always the best approach. Not only has this been crucial in my personal career development, but it is also part of the ethos of Heyman Associates and the care we put into our client relationships.
Isis Simpson-Mersha is a conference producer/ reporter for Ragan. Follow her on LinkedIn.