KamnaNarainSmallBy Julie McCrady

If you have volunteered with SF IABC in recent years, Kamna Narain most certainly helped place you into a rewarding volunteer role. For the last five years, Kamna has been the go-to person for recruiting and engaging volunteers for our chapter. It’s no wonder that she’s so skilled at the task; Kamna’s professional life is deeply rooted in communications, leadership development and coaching.

And speaking of deeply rooted, I learned that Kamna has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for most of her life. All of her on-site jobs, with the exception of a short-lived stint in L.A., have been within a two-block area of each other right in the heart of San Francisco. In fact, despite a recent career transition, Kamna still finds herself traversing that familiar territory in her new role as an independent consultant.

Where did you get your start in communications?

I started as an internal communications specialist with the U.S. headquarters of Jardine Insurance Brokers, a corporate insurance company. In fact, I found my first job through an IABC contact. The position was writing-intensive with an emphasis on internal communications, a key piece of my core capabilities now thanks to the strong foundation provided by my two mentors at the company.

Tell us about your recent career move.

I recently launched a solo practice, CK Consulting. This move allows me to offer services in three areas I am extremely passionate about: internal communications, leadership development and coaching.

Transitioning from my most recent role at McKesson Corporation as an internal communications manager gave me the perfect opportunity to merge a potential communications consulting practice with my existing coaching practice. Coaching is something I’ve always found really rewarding. As Coach Kamna, I have a strong online presence, including almost 800 followers on Twitter and 240 “likes” on Facebook! Along with coaching individuals, I enjoy providing inspiration and ideas to people via these social media channels.

What led you to strike out on your own?

It actually wasn’t the most optimal of circumstances. At the beginning of 2013, I was dealing with some issues related to my visual disability and other health-related challenges. I ran into some unexpected setbacks that forced me to take stock of my lifestyle and what’s involved in having a demanding full-time job. I came to the conclusion that I could not manage my health the way I needed to and maintain the standards I held myself to in my work.

I wanted to make the transition to consulting full-time while I was still at the top of my game and do it right. My manager and colleagues at McKesson were extremely supportive. We ended up with a win-win — I’ve been fortunate to continue consulting with McKesson on various other projects.

What has been the biggest challenge so far in starting your consulting practice?

I’m adjusting to being content with not working as much as before while realizing that the value in what I do hasn’t decreased.

When did you join SF IABC? And have you always played such an active role?

I joined IABC as a student in the early 90s. With a few exceptions, I have stayed active in the chapter, taking on VP of Membership (twice!), in addition to Communications and Student Outreach. For me, working with other members on chapter projects brings the network to life.

What is the biggest career challenge you have faced?

As demanding as any of my previous full-time jobs were, I loved the work and unique brand of chaotic excitement that every communications professional knows so well. My love for my most recent job made it very hard to imagine leaving it.

What is the best piece of professional advice you have received?

A couple of years ago, I felt that I was being pulled in too many directions at work. At that time, I was participating in SF IABC’s mentoring program and working with a very talented mentor. I asked my mentor, “Who am I supposed to please here?” He responded with a question of his own, “What do you want to be known for?” That really resonated with me and helped me to clarify my goals.

Aside from your new venture, what is the most rewarding position you have held and what made it rewarding?

The various positions I’ve held in my career have all been really rewarding. Each offered a blank canvas or opportunity to create something lasting, such as a communications infrastructure or multi-disciplinary team. It’s gratifying to know that when I walk away from a place, things I’ve created will live on.

Given your recent career change, do you have any advice to give to those who may be contemplating a career change?

Be authentic and honest with yourself throughout the process of making your move, be it big or small. Recognize that you’ll need to take risks to find opportunities. And do what you’re passionate about because it will open other doors for you.

What advice can you offer our chapter’s student members about pursuing a career in communications?

Communications is an art and a science. Some of that you can learn in a classroom and by learning how to use tools (PowerPoint, SharePoint, etc.), but a large part of it you can only discover by working with other professionals.

Any other words of wisdom?

The key to being a happy and satisfied communications professional is to strike a balance between being bold enough to make creative, out-of-the-box suggestions while remaining detached enough to know that, in most cases, the ultimate decision is not yours to make. If you’re bold enough to put yourself out there, sooner or later someone will seize on your idea. And there’s nothing more satisfying than that.