Involvement with IABC has been integral to Molly Walker’s growth as a communications professional. A decades-long member, she has served as SF IABC president and lead chapter advocate for the IABC Pacific Plains Region; she is currently co-moderator of SF IABC’s Independent Communicators’ Roundtable (ICR). As principal of her own business, Walker Communications, Molly recognizes the value in IABC’s professional community of members and volunteers.
Molly has contributed quite a bit to the IABC community over the years, and in return she has met many wonderful communicators who continue to strengthen and enrich her professional life. Molly recently described the many rewards of sustained, active engagement with IABC.
How did you first become involved with SF IABC?
I am a longtime member of IABC, so you are talking about decades here. Most likely it was Fred Reicker, my first communications manager (at Fibreboard Corporation), who recommended I join IABC. There is nothing like a recommendation from a boss to sell an organization. I enjoyed the events and I really liked the people I met in the Bay Area’s communications community — and I still do! I eventually got more involved and joined the board, initially working on programs.
You’re an active, long serving SF IABC member. What value do you derive from SF IABC and why do you continue to stay so involved?
IABC, and SF IABC in particular, have played an important part in my professional growth. My membership and my active involvement have given me the best combination of opportunities to enhance my communications skills and to hobnob with a first-rate professional community. I am a fairly social person, so having a ready-made group of people whom I respect and can learn from, and work with, has been an invaluable part of my business life. When you contribute your best to a worthy community, which IABC is for me, the community gives back. I have met the best people, locally and around the world, and have learned a great deal from them.
Which board position was your favorite and why?
I enjoy my current role as co-moderator with Michaela Hayes of ICR. But in terms of learning, the position of chapter president was both my most demanding and my most rewarding experience. I stepped into the role with a gulp; I was not sure how it would go. I began by asking my fellow board members for their support, and they gave it. However, leading a group of volunteers, even the most dedicated IABC volunteers, offers certain challenges that you cannot anticipate. You must do your best to be collaborative and compassionate, yet decisive when the situation calls for it. I enjoyed the challenge of seeking, and I hope finding, that balance.
You have also served two terms on the IABC Pacific Plains Region (PPR) board. What did you find most rewarding in this role?
Serving on the PPR board was a valuable learning experience because I got to work closely with many outstanding IABC leaders across the country. The region board works to bring together and support IABC chapter officers in strengthening their leadership skills. As chapter advocate, I worked closely with chapter presidents, principally by listening and brainstorming ideas with them. In most cases, people already know what they should do; I was there to make a few suggestions, ideally at the right time. It is most rewarding to see people blossom and become really successful leaders.
You’ve worked as a communications consultant for the past 16 years. How has your IABC membership helped you as a consultant? What advice would you give to other consultants who may be considering SF IABC membership?
My membership and chapter and region board positions have raised my professional profile in a highly positive way. I would not have the following I do on social media or the large network of professional colleagues I have if it weren’t for IABC. It has made a huge difference in my business life. I have numerous colleagues to turn to for advice and counsel and to whom I can refer work or enlist as partners for projects. This is also what we try to do with ICR. Although we don’t require those who attend to become IABC members, I believe you get more out of your involvement in any group when you give more to it.
As a consultant, you have a range of specialties and you’ve worked in an array of industries. Which specialties and/or industries do you enjoy the most?
There are few industries in which I would not work; I believe most are interesting and employ good people with worthwhile stories to tell. My specialty is finding and sharing those stories. I have enjoyed working for a public policy advocacy organization, community college and K – 12 school districts, a clean energy and technology initiative, a pharmaceutical firm, several hospital systems, a port authority, an international mining company, two banks, a major utility, the beef industry and more. A onetime journalist, I am interested in what makes society work, so the more relevant an industry or a company is to how the world operates, and what I think the world may need, the more I enjoy learning about it.
Who has been a mentor to you, and how has that relationship shaped your career?
I have had a few great bosses. Ron Beagley at AT&T was an early one. He inspired us and helped us aim higher creatively than I think we would have otherwise. We did our best work and he backed us up when we had gone too far, which some did. Not me, of course! I’ve also learned a lot from my clients. I think it is important to remain open to learning throughout your career because knowledge can come from unexpected, wonderful places.
What is the best piece of professional advice you’ve received?
When I first began working on my own, I took a job that was extremely challenging and probably wasn’t ideal for me. A colleague said, “Now that you are working for yourself, you get to decide what you want to work on. You don’t have to take everything that comes through the door.” That is excellent advice. It’s not always obvious if something is a perfect fit for you. Projects need to be a good fit for the client and the consultant for the best possible outcome, which is what everyone should want.
What’s something that most IABC colleagues may not know about you?
I am a fourth-generation Californian and come from a ranching family. Many members of my extended family still work in ranching in the United States, and my brother moved to Australia more than 40 years ago to own and run a cattle property in Queensland. Several of his children have followed his lead. As a child, I had a pony and I got to ride it in the Alameda County Fair and the Livermore Rodeo parades. I love my cowgirl roots!