Young Professional Profile: Jessica Shaver

February 1st, 2016

Jessica Druce

Jessica Shaver

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.

Carlos Paz

December 1st, 2015

CARLOSXPAZThis month in our Young Professional Profile, we sat down with Carlos Paz Jr. Carlos is the principal and co-founder of Bridge Strategies, an external relations firm that works at the cross section of public and private interests to bridge relationships in support of his vision for a multicultural, inclusive and globally connected society.

Let’s start with a simple question: What drives you?

Oh, wow [laughs] — Being able to create opportunities for other people. I know it sounds cliché, but to make the world a better place; that’s what drives me. Who I am and what I do is guided by the importance of human relationships, integrity and innovation.

There’s an on-going dialogue about the Millennial generation; that they have a sense of “entitlement” or are self-centered. What you just said is contrary to that notion.

Yes, I hear that also. My response is that our parents and older generations have participated and have “created us this way.”

We’ve been brought up in a world that has asked for dynamic people and we are products of that requirement. Throughout our lives we’ve been told to have “well-rounded goals and accomplishments.” Good grades aren’t enough; we need to “outshine” the next person, because everyone we are competing with has good grades and is “just like us.”

We’ve been told we have to “stand out.” We need to be the unicorn in the crowd. So, we have focused on ourselves and constantly compare ourselves to the other person.

How has that empowered you?

Ever since I was young, people told me to step outside of my comfort zone. I look for those moments often – when I feel uneasy in the pit of my stomach – I look for those opportunities. It’s at those uneasy times that I grow the most.

Finding people who push me is important. I had a mentor who would always say she wouldn’t ask me to do something, unless she knew I had the potential to do it. I’ve been blessed with good mentors and friends.

Is that one of the reasons why paying it forward, or giving back, is so important to you?

Yes! I am passionate about investing my time in the leadership development of young people. There is a lot of lip-service paid to the importance of leadership but few opportunities to actually practice leadership – to fail and to succeed and thereby learn. I am deeply involved in a leadership, hands-on role with several organizations.

Currently, I chair the Advisory Board of The LiveSmart Initiative, an organization that was founded by a seventh grader. It’s been an honor to mentor that young man, Samir Rahi.

In addition, for the past eight years, I have been the regional leadership director of the National Hispanic Institute. Our purpose is to ensure that the Hispanic population, which will soon become 1 in 5 Americans by 2050, has a sustainable talent pipeline of skilled, creative and socially developed leaders able to influence the direction of our communities and contribute towards the benefit of society as a whole.

Finally, in my role as the founder and co-curator of TEDxYouthHouston, I bring together a team of youth and adult volunteers to plan an annual one-day conference filled with brilliant speakers, thought-provoking video and mind-blowing conversation. Our aim is to create a unique gathering in our community that will unleash new ideas, inspire and inform.

These endeavors have provided real life leadership opportunities, along with creative outlets, for thousands of young people, and because of them, I was recently awarded Houston Grand Opera’s Ovation Award for my philanthropic and civic contributions to Houston.

Congratulations! Here’s another unique opportunity to give back. What advice would you like to share?

Don’t give up when times get difficult. People give up too quickly. I’ve been told I’ve been lucky. But I truly believe what the Roman philosopher, Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

You are either prepared, or you’re not. Be ready to change the world when the opportunity presents itself.

For more on:
Carlos: http://carlospazjr.com
LiveSmart Initiative:
http://livesmartinitiative.org
National Hispanic Institute:
http://www.nhi-net.org/Pages/index.aspx
TEDxYouthHouston:
http://tedxyouthhouston.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.