Linda Yahya, Public Relations Manager

Linda Yahya, Public Relations Manager

Linda is an account manager at Craft Public Relations in Toronto. 

What is your morning routine?

I try so hard not to press “Snooze” every morning. Most often I fail, but I always give myself a 15-minute buffer from when I REALLY have to get up, so I don’t feel too bad when I do hit that button. After waking up I have to brush my teeth, even before breakfast. It instantly energizes me. I also need to eat in the morning. How strange is it that I crave hearty salads first thing? Anything from chick pea to quinoa salad gives me sustenance for the day.

After all that, I only take about 15 minutes to get ready. I’m a night shower-er and tend to have an idea of what I feel like wearing the next day. The last thing I do before leaving is perform a weird ritual of mine: I take my small collection of crystals and actually sit with my thoughts for a minute. I have this citrine stone I love, which is supposed to promote prosperity and good vibes. Then I’m out the door for my hour-long walk to work, coffee in hand.

Tell us about your career path.

My career path has taken a fairly linear route with little twists along the way. I knew I liked to write, and my creativity always came out strongest when I put words to paper (or screen). I completed a double major in French and communications from McMaster University, and I really wanted to be a travel journalist. I did a lot of freelance writing but was constantly told “Journalism is dying.” So, I turned my attention to public relations, where I could continue to hone my writing and communication skills in a more stable environment.

Right after undergrad, I took the postgraduate public relations program at Humber College. I did my internship at a small (now defunct) agency called Palette, and it turned into a full-time position. I’m so thankful I started off in such a lean company. I got a ton of experience handling the PR for big consumer brands like Procter & Gamble’s Olay and Herbal Essences.

Three years later I moved on to DDB, whose Toronto office has a small PR division despite being predominantly an ad agency. I consider my three-plus years at DDB to be the most formative of my career; not only was I a part of an integrated agency where I got to see the creative and strategic sides of a campaign, but my niche in beverage brands really began there. I worked on and eventually handled the Moët Hennessy portfolio of champagnes and spirits, which was incredible. (Press trips to France, anyone?) I also formed some of my deepest relationships at DDB, and even though many of us haven’t worked there in over four years, we remain a tight-knit group of friends to this day.

I then moved to the client side, spending a few years as the communications manager for Collective Arts Brewing. The experience was again invaluable, as I got to help grow a brand from the ground up and tell its story as it evolved. I did always miss agency life though, and I finally found my calling at Craft. Funnily enough I’m back in the beer world, managing our Moosehead and Innis & Gunn accounts in addition to other clients.

I’ve yet to put in a full year here, but I already feel so at home. This role has given me autonomy and every day I learn something new. My strategic thinking skills are stronger and I’m dabbling in new business, which always interested me. Not to mention I get to work with a small but robust group of people who are all incredibly SMART and creative.

What challenges do you or women face in your industry?

No matter the industry, I think there’s always a lingering cloud around women being under-appreciated for their work. It’s demonstrated in everything from unequal pay to devalued opinions and ideas. The interesting thing about PR is it’s fairly female-dominated, and yet we still face those challenges when men are present. Craft is actually an all-female agency. The founder is truly a remarkable woman, and it’s inspiring to watch her lead with gusto and grace and win client after client. With that being said, bring on the men! I’d love to see a more gender-equal talent pool in this field.

What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?

Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone when searching for your dream job, or even just the next step in your career. Go on informational interviews with people you aspire to be. Don’t underestimate the power of LinkedIn during a job hunt. I’ve personally gotten more positions by foregoing the typical cover letter and resume approach and instead emailing potential employers with stories to showcase my personality.

Always establish your “you-ness” right away, even down to your attire. I haven’t had to trade in my personal style for a business suit yet, and even if I worked somewhere with professional dress I’d still try to make my style unique. Finally, keep yourself inspired: make time to pursue those interests and side projects.

How do you separate work life from your personal life?

Craft is really serious about work/life balance. We’re encouraged to pursue our passions outside of work and we even have an “unlimited vacation” policy (as long as all your work is done, of course). It’s obviously very important to take time to rejuvenate and come back to work with a vigour. Travelling is a big interest of mine, and I try to take even little trips when I can to see, learn and grow. Then I take that excitement back to work with me.

What inspires you?

Human pursuance and resilience. It’s so incredible what we as individuals can achieve, and I’m not just talking about physically: the mental capacity we have to chase a thought, hope or goal really impresses me.

When you’re off the clock, what are your indulgences?

I’m as fond of living in my city as I am of being a tourist anywhere else. I walk everywhere, so exploring a different part of Toronto – even if it takes an hour to get there – and visiting new restaurants with friends is almost a nightly occurrence (though, not so lovely on my funds). I also love MTV reality shows – can those be an indulgence?

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