This month in our Young Professional Profile, we sat down with Jessica Shaver, Director of Corporate Strategy at the Port of Houston Authority. With a seven year career in the transportation industry, Ms. Shaver is responsible for development of the Port Authority’s strategic plan and management of its implementation.
You are the Director of Corporate Strategy at the Port Authority. That sounds impressive, but, what does that mean?
Well, basically I’m an intermediary between internal and external stakeholders of the Port Authority. I take stakeholder input and create a plan that aligns their contributions with the Port Authority’s business plans. This provides an opportunity for engagement both within and externally to the Port Authority. In aligning these ideas, we can move collectively with our communities to establish organizational priorities and reach mutual end goals for our port and the community at large.
Wow! That seems like it could be a tough job. There are so many stakeholders with various positions.
Yes, it is a challenge. But it’s one that I welcome. Our stakeholders are important to us, and listening to their collective voices is important to successfully meeting our business objectives. I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge. In fact, I’ve confronted many challenges in my career and I always look for opportunities to improve. We can easily create barriers for ourselves. But, as one of my mentors insightfully shared with me one time, “Don’t look at the world in terms of barriers, because often you will just run right into them.”
That’s really great advice. Is having a mentor important to you?
Absolutely! In fact, I suggest having more than one. Each mentor can provide you with a wealth of diverse ideas, opportunities, and viewpoints.
It sounds like you’ve had experience with a number of mentors. So, in your experience, what characteristics do you look for in a good mentor?
A good mentor is definitely someone you admire. Not only for their business acumen, but ethically, personally, etc. It has to be someone with whom you share the same values. That would then provide a great baseline for your relationship.
A common misconception I have found in people trying to find a mentor is they think the best mentor looks like them. That’s not always true. I have found some of my best mentors to be men. People who have the propensity to be a mentor are just honored and appreciative that you have asked them to share their experiences with you. So, I would recommend to those that may be looking for a mentor now – don’t box yourself in, someone with a different background than you could make an awesome mentor!
So, if someone wants to be mentored, what advice do you have for them?
First, don’t be afraid to ask. People are honored that you think they are valuable enough to ask. And if they say no, that’s okay; there are plenty of people willing to be your mentor.
Second, be open to new ideas. The mentor you chose probably does things a little differently than you, and they are successful. So, be open to new ideas and trying their suggestions. Mentoring is a two-way street. Both people in the relationship can gain a lot of value and learn from each other. Remember the mentor is taking time away from other things to spend time with you. So, don’t forget to thank them, regularly, and demonstrate that you are taking their advice. Even if some advice doesn’t quite go the way they had intended, it’s okay to let them know, they are learning from this experience too.
Anything else you would like to add?
I would recommend to young professionals reading this, don’t be afraid to take risks. Always have goals in mind, but don’t be set on how to achieve them. You’d be surprised at how life changes around you. Find mentors to guide your path, but challenge yourself to always be open to growth. Opportunities and recognition of your hard work will always follow.
For more on the Port of Houston Authority: www.portofhouston.com
About the Young Professional Profile
The Young Professional Profile is an effort to create a forum for those under 40 who are excelling in their respective fields across Texas. There is a depth and breadth to the Millennial generation as a group of adults that is marked by a commitment to higher principles in the work they do, the ability to professionally marry what were traditionally separate streams of expertise, and a voracious appetite for new skills.