CLAgency Alumni Spotlight: Pooja Shah
When did you graduate and what did you study? What were you involved in?
I graduated in May 2017. I earned a BA in strategic communications and minors in design and leadership. While in college, I was involved in various sectors of the student community. I was the president of UNICEF at the U, a peer mentor and advisor at CLA Career Services, founder and president of Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority, Inc. (a multicultural sorority for women of color, as part of the Multicultural Greek Council), and managing director of CLAgency for three years.
What is your current position? What do you enjoy most about your job?
I have embarked on a journey to go independent and create my own LLC. My specialty is in curated visual storytelling with a focus on global citizenship. When my LLC is developed, I will be able to share more.
I currently freelance as a photographer, creative director, brand consultant, and strategist, working for midsize to large companies and entrepreneurs to enhance their online presence and add clarity to their missions. I love the fact that I am interacting with people from all sorts of industry sectors. I’m always learning. Being able to share my talent with them and learning from them in exchange is so fulfilling.
What has your career path looked like thus far, and what is your vision for your professional career?
My path has taken so many different turns—and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
After college, I landed an internship with ICF Next (previously Olson Engage) in Chicago. I worked on some amazing clients, dabbled in influencer relationships, celebrity campaigns, and the consumer beverage industry. I developed a strong PR portfolio, which then led me to intern at Weber Shandwick. At Weber, I became involved in their diversity and inclusion programming, which inspired me to think about ways the marketing/agency world could benefit more diverse communities. I took a break from the PR world shortly after and accepted a job as a store manager at Anthropologie—a brand I adored. I traveled the world in between these positions and continued to learn about how brand management was executed across the world.
Back in Chicago by July 2018, I landed a job as the communications manager at a personal branding startup in Chicago. Personal branding is a rapidly growing industry, and the company was at the forefront of its thought leadership. I built the PR sector of the firm (which didn’t exist prior to me) and began to develop the social impact leg of the business (inspired by my travels abroad). Working at a startup reminded me of my experiences at CLAgency.
I have been freelancing for 3 months now, working closely with a career coach and many mentors-turned-friends to develop my ideas of elevated storytelling. My vision for the next year is tackling entrepreneurship head-on!
How did CLAgency help you get to where you are now?
CLAgency gave me my first taste of entrepreneurship. Beyond the practical lessons like writing and editing, I learned how to think critically and ask important questions that led to real, honest conversations.
CLAgency was built on the fact that the College of Liberal Arts needed to better showcase the value it brought to the U. The students involved brought unique ideas and talents to make it the multifaceted, thought-provoking platform and cutting edge organization it is today. I remember being in meetings looking around at new faces from different majors and being pushed out of our comfort zones. We were all so accustomed to staying in our lanes. By working together, we learned how to adapt, exercise creativity and find a voice that was in service to our greater community. When the message finally hit home, the energy in the organization changed because we became invested in something bigger than ourselves.
For me, CLAgency was more than just a job. It was proof that “adulting” and “the real world” could really use a lot more play, friendship, honest conversation, and community spirit.
Plus, I will probably always count Scott Meyer as one of the most influential people in my life. I hope he’s still rockin’ those stylish vests.
Any advice for students?
Your degree or choice in career should never limit you from thinking BIG and BEYOND. Treat the passion you have for your work as fuel to look for opportunities to change and innovate what already exists. As you network and speak to industry experts, ask them what they wish they had or what is lacking in their fields. You may find yourself dreaming up something truly extraordinary that speaks to the talent you have to share with the world.