BABE #65: MARISOL SAMAYOA,
Communications Deputy @ Office of Mayor Robert Garcia
Marisol is an absolute delight. She was nominated by my BFF (hey Dayli) so I knew way before chatting that I'd love her (and of course I do!) The BWH community has been lacking women in politics so I am super excited to add Marisol's perspective and work experience into the mix. She's passionate, talented, ambitious and so damn lovely. Thanks for chatting with us and sharing your experiences, Marisol! You're a certainly a hustlin' babe and we are so inspired by you!
Hometown: Boyle Heights, CA
Current city: Los Angeles, CA
Alma mater: California State University, Long Beach
Degree: B.A. in Political Science and Journalism
Hustle: Communications Deputy @ Office of Mayor Robert Garcia
Babe you admire and why?
Hillary Rodham Clinton has been an inspiration to me since I was eight years old. She helped fight for the Children’s Health Insurance Program that gave my sister and I the insurance we needed. Her leadership quite literally saved my life and my family’s financial future, and I thank her for that. As I grew up, I followed her career and it positively affected my perception of myself as a girl. Her success gave me the motivation to be a nerd like she was and to really value being a leader who knew what she was talking about. Even though I was young, I was aware of how negatively she was perceived in the media and on late night comedy T.V. shows. Her work inspired me to become a social justice activist at age 14 with Inner City Struggle in East Los Angeles. Had I not known of women like Hillary who were speaking their minds and leading fearlessly, I wouldn’t have had the motivation to be equally as fearless in my own life.
Favorite app, website or blog?
Dear Mona on Fivethirtyeight was my favorite column (it ended in 2015). Readers submitted questions that Google did not always have an answer to like “are women more likely than men to end a relationship?” or “what does it mean to die of natural causes?” Data writer Mona Chalabi compiled data and studies to find an answer to her readers’ questions. It sparked my interest in data journalism. I am not a statistician, but it opened my eyes to various kinds of journalism that exist and how it is evolving.
Must-have item in your purse?
Chapstick. It’s also in all of my pockets for every item of clothing that can possibly have a pocket. And in my car. And at work.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Favorite social media account to follow?
Colourwars on Instagram. She is a Refinery29 editor and her account is eye-candy for an art lover like myself. I take inspiration from accounts like hers that find beautiful colors in the mundane, like pools or walls. It pushes you to take a harder look at your surroundings while other people do the classic latte shot.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
Thailand, swimming in the warm ocean followed by eating sweet mango sticky rice.
Tell us about your hustle:
As communications deputy for Mayor Robert Garcia of Long Beach, my role is to bring the Mayor’s message to residents and stakeholders through social media and traditional media.
What does your typical workday look like?
Every day is different. It’s a fast-paced role where I'm constantly juggling multiple tasks: speech writing, drafting email blasts, coordinating press events with other departments, scheduling interviews with reporters, updating social media accounts, and monitoring the daily news cycle. I typically attend groundbreakings or speaking events with the Mayor every week. Basically, if the boss is working, so am I. It’s not for the faint of heart.
Do you think your academic experience prepared you for your current role?
I am grateful to have taken quality journalism courses and newspaper writing gigs at my university, which taught me how to write for all mediums. They forced me to get out of my comfort zone by interviewing officials, and allowed me to be creative in finding information when I needed it. My political science courses taught me how to collect data and undertake academic research while harnessing my critical thinking skills. I found a new appreciation for data-driven reporting when combining my degrees in journalism and political science. I highly encourage those looking to enter into the world of communications to be able to master both creative writing and those 20-page research papers if you want to be successful.
What is your work environment/office culture like?
I worked on Mayor Garcia’s first run in 2014, and most of his campaign staff from that time went on to become his mayoral staff. It feels like I went back to a job with old friends. I love our office dynamic. First of all, we are all fans of seafood. I am never at a loss for a friend to have a long lunch with at a sushi or poke restaurant. We are also a very diverse office, which makes sense, as our boss is the first young, openly-gay, immigrant mayor of Long Beach.
Do you receive any negativity for pursuing your current career? How do you deal with that?
I think there has always been a stigma around jobs in government, and it has only grown as people have become more divided in the way they think about politics and policy issues. It's almost taboo to mention my background is in political campaigns and journalism, but I’ve never shied away from hot topics. Young people need to know that yes, you can make a difference in politics, and no, it’s not all divisive rhetoric. Your voice does matter, particularly in local affairs. That’s why I'm so outspoken about policy and social issues and embrace my role in political communications. I think, in Long Beach, we are changing negative perceptions about government and politics with our mayor and his progressive and inclusive policies.
How would you say that your gender or ethnicity has affected your professional experience?
I think that my gender and ethnicity have a played a critical role in some of my work experiences. For example, as a social justice activist, it was beneficial for me to be a Latina working to increase civic engagement among my Latino neighbors as I speak fluent Spanish and English. It’s harder to dismiss a message coming from someone who looks like you and holds a similar background. That’s why I felt it was so important for me to work in politics to increase civic engagement among young, Latina/os and to mentor friends who are interested in pursuing a similar career but don’t know where to start.
What are some of the everyday struggles with your job that we might not see?
The truth is, feelings of elected officials, business owners, constituents, and reporters get hurt, but you have to do your best to manage expectations versus the reality of certain situations. It’s a delicate balance, and we have to do it every day.
What is one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work? How’d you overcome it?
I think it was the simple things like feeling confident in speaking up and saying what I think is best. I learned to have confidence while working on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, where I had endless opportunities for creativity in how I approached social media outreach campaigns. In a government office, it’s easy to get stuck in a process because it’s always been that way. However, in my office, I feel supported in voicing my ideas on how to make certain processes more effective or creative instead of sticking with the norm.
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
Every day is different! I get a behind-the-scenes look of the hard work and back and forth that goes on before a policy decision is made or reached. Our mayor is a data-driven, facts-based leader and he is always careful about whether our office is being accurate when we post something or how a firm reached a conclusion with a report related to certain estimates and figures. It’s great to work with a leader that truly cares about the city and the effects on residents and businesses alike.
How does your work personally motivate you?
People want to feel like they have somebody on their side, working to address their concerns. That’s why I provide updates and information to residents, whether through graphics or including facts in the mayor’s speeches to show residents that progress is being made on issues they care about. So many people want to see results right away, and people forget that progress or resolutions to issues they care about take time. So I try to find moments in special events and appearances where I can highlight the progress of our city.
Has working for a city official changed the way you view government?
Yes! Elected officials hear your concerns and ideas. Sometimes we may incorporate your ideas. The biggest thing that works is persistence. Call your mayor, your congressperson, your council member, and your assembly member, because when we continue to receive the same call or complaint, we listen. This isn’t to say that elected officials don’t listen the first time - they do. However, continuing to speak your mind about what you care about and getting two or three other people to join you does make a difference. My job has allowed me to truly see that in action.
Has your role in PR affected the way you read/view/perceive news?
Yes. Headlines that are eye-catching are not always straightforward. Please read the full article... or at least half of it. I think it was the 2014 NPR April Fool’s article that proved a point (before the Russians started to infiltrate our daily news cycles with fake news,) which is that average Americans don’t do their research about what makes the news, and rush to believe a headline. It’s time consuming to do so, I know. However, I think consumers of news need to be able to identify credible news outlets and I think credible news outlets have a responsibility to be factual - even if it won’t make for a more exciting story. NPR is the gold standard, in my personal opinion, for news that is fact-based, educational and won’t depress you if you listen to it every day.
Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
I regularly have lunch and catch up with fellow women in journalism, communications and technology for their advice on how to manage big expectations and challenges at work or in their personal lives. I’ve met these women through campaigns and I make sure to foster those relationships. I wish I had met women like them when I was younger, but I am grateful to have these friendships now. I’m excited to offer the same quality friendship/mentorship to other women, too.
What’s your ultimate dream job?
I can’t say for sure. I want to stress to readers that it’s okay if you don’t know what your dream job is! I thought being a doctor was mine, so I took all the courses and then realized I never wanted to do that. I know my strengths and my passion for civic engagement, voter outreach, digital communications, and social media have prepared me for jobs in campaigns and digital marketing. Ultimately, I want to be a part of a process that is helping, not hurting, our diverse community of men and women-- and those in between-- to gain equal economic and educational opportunities.
How do you find a work-life balance?
If I am out with friends or family and I get a notification on my phone, I ask myself, “does this need my immediate attention?” I prioritize what needs to be taken care of so I can enjoy my personal time and be efficient during work time.
What helps you wind down and manage stress?
Eating really, really good food with great friends and then going hiking to make up for it.
What are some notable (funny, embarrassing, intense) experiences you’ve had on the job?
Don’t ever "reply all." That’s all I will say on the matter.
Career advice for other babes?
Master the basic grunt work early. Take every paid or unpaid internship opportunity with a company or organization you really admire, and give it your all. If you learn the basics early in your career, you’re better positioned to have a job you love when graduation comes. If you want to work in politics, read “Hardball: How Politics Is Played, Told By One Who Knows The Game” twice, and take notes. If you want to succeed anywhere, develop your writing skills and seek challenges that will make you a better writer. Exercise your critical thinking and analytical skills. In addition, make friends everywhere you go! You never know when you will meet again or how you may be able to help each other in the future.
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