Kaplow’s lifestyle EVP Jee Nah Chang Walker said her greatest challenges have come with having to lead others and ensure their optimal productivity while she tried to facilitate her own — and doing so with two young children in a new city across the country to which she moved not that long ago.
We caught up with Walker to get her take on the current work of a PR pro and how she sets herself and her team up for success every day. Here’s what she had to say for our “Day in the Life” series:
1. What’s your favorite part of your morning routine?
Walker: Trading time commuting into the office for walking my daughter to school and hearing all about what she’s looking forward to most each day.
2. Who’s the most important person you talk to every day?
My team. You know who you are! Whether it’s during a standing meeting to review client deliverables or an impromptu call, one of the most important things remote leaders must do is create moments to connect personally and professionally with their teams.
Zoom meetings aren’t great for small talk unless it’s while you wait for everyone to join, so I make a point to call team members in lieu of short emails, which enables me to fit in personal conversations about their day, their families, and their friends.
3. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Reenergizing a team that was frustrated, delivering work they weren’t proud of, and on the edge of burnout. I was also brought in as a new lead on the account, so I had the extra challenge of quickly earning the team’s trust and proving my value as a leader.
I decided to operate first in a consultant-like capacity, observing how the team worked together, then coming back with objective feedback and actionable suggestions. This helped the team face what they had been struggling with: accountability and communicating with one another. Ultimately, we came together with a reignited commitment to the business and each other that allowed the team to thrive.
4. What’s your best book or podcast recommendation for PR colleagues?
A shout out to our operations manager who created and hosts Kaplow’s weekly podcast, The Branch Break. He started it during the pandemic and interviews one employee each week, digging into their personal interests, favorite movies, books and more. It’s funny, it’s lighthearted, and, most importantly, it has allowed us to get to know our co-workers in ways we might not otherwise in our new hybrid-remote structure.
5. What’s your favorite tool you use regularly for your work?
I oversee a large portfolio of clients across lifestyle and retail, requiring me to stay deeply informed on the state of business and commerce. For me, one of the most valuable tools are the daily newsletters and recaps from leading business and retail industry media that hit my inbox every morning.
I just love poring over these resources each day; from Fortune Broadsheet, NRF SmartBrief, RetailBrew, Fast Company’s Compass newsletter and more.
6. Are you in an office/remote or both? What do you like (or dislike) about your current setup?
I worked in Kaplow’s midtown Manhattan office for years, eventually becoming one of the first employees to work remote full-time when I moved my family to Denver. Today, our agency is a hybrid-remote structure. I love the flexibility of remote work because it gives me more time with my young daughters and family without having to pick or choose whether to prioritize work or home responsibilities. But I do miss our office snacks, impromptu happy hours, and the bagel shop downstairs!
7. What’s one trick you use to promote well-being, make yourself feel good at work?
Get outside! When you work in PR, one thing is certain – the emails won’t and don’t stop, so it’s easy to get stuck in front of your computer. I’m more productive and happier when I walk away from the screen and get outside for a walk around the block. I remind my team to try this and encourage them to multi-task by taking conference calls or informal meetings on the go.
8. What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you in your career?
To believe in myself and not be afraid to face what I don’t know. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have Liz Kaplow, a renowned communications leader and PR industry titan as a mentor. This advice from Liz has helped me overcome moments when I haven’t always believed in myself. Today, I go into everything with curiosity and a learning mindset to strengthen what I know and not be afraid to face what I don’t.