Skip to main content

Process, Progress and Thought Partners: Takeaways from First-Year Hogans Fellows

Process, Progress and Thought Partners: Takeaways from First-Year Hogans Fellows

May 2024

By Laura Horsley,
Senior Director of Marketing and Communications
Public Affairs Council

When Brooklyn Bass was selected to the inaugural cohort of the Hogans Fellowship in March 2023, she was excited to be one of just 12 Fellows chosen from over 100 applicants for a new program that provides skills training and mentoring for emerging public affairs leaders from diverse backgrounds.

Although she was eager to make quick progress, she was a little surprised at what she found was the best way to thrive in the program, which was to allow herself to “sit in the process.” She explains, “There’s a perception among millennials and late Gen Z professionals that things need to come quickly. I learned from the program’s mentors that every experience is meaningful, and you need to take your time and sit in the process.”

Trusting the Process

Bass, a senior public affairs communications associate with JPMorgan Chase and a professional in the field since she graduated from Duke University in 2019, recalls a program mentor telling her that when you’re patient and trust the process and experiences, it “might work out better than your original vision.”

What that process entailed for the Fellows was an intensive 12 months of several in-person professional development events in the D.C. area, the most recent of which was the Council’s Spring Executive Conference; regular one-on-one and group connections with mentors; and participation in professional development programming, such as Council webinars and workshops.

For Hogans Fellow Daniel Pino, manager of media relations and external engagement with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, the focus on process meant running his own race and not letting his ambition get in the way of excellence. “The best way for me to run my own race was to be immersive and take advantage of every opportunity — receptions, trainings, networking events, you name it, I was there,” says Pino.

Not a Siloed Profession

That immersion also included leaning on mentors and other cohorts. Pino recalls, “When I had a professional crisis, I texted my mentor, we talked through the challenge and she assured me that I knew what I needed to do. That helped me realize that I really can run my own race.”

Marisa Sanchez, a legislative correspondent with U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (NM), is another Hogans Fellow from the inaugural class who is grateful for the connections she made through the program. “Spending time with other young professionals and mentors helped me think about career development in a different way,” she says.

For Sanchez, who worked as manager of government affairs at Ferox Strategies before recently taking a job on the Hill, a big part of that was experiencing the breadth of the profession. “The Fellows cohort experience opened my eyes to the many different roles within public affairs. Working in the government affairs and lobbying space as I have, it is easy to become isolated from professionals that work in PACs and communications. This experience opened new doors to connect with friends and mentors in the greater public affairs ecosystem,” she adds.

Pino, who works in the communications sphere of public affairs, echoes these sentiments. “I thought comms was mostly about press releases and strategic messaging. Hogans [Fellows] taught me that it’s also about making connections through advocacy efforts and government relations. The program connected me to people in business, government and nonprofits. Seeing these interconnections made me realize that public affairs is not a siloed community, and it encouraged me to get out and learn.”

Natural Leaders

Adrienne Marks, a program mentor who works in U.S. government engagement for Visa, saw the leadership potential in the Fellows early on. “They are an amazing group of natural leaders from varying backgrounds,” she says. “The Hogans Fellowship brought individuals from all walks of life together for a program that taught numerous skills, including the soft skills that are so important in this profession.”

Marks, who still meets regularly with her mentees even though the first-year cohort has concluded, was thrilled to see them grow and receive promotions over the past year. “My experience as a mentor has been a 12 out of 10,” she says. “In D.C. you go to what seems like a million events and there’s lots of networking, but the intimate circles of professional relationships the Fellows experienced are priceless. In a world where connections can sometimes feel transactional, the Hogans Fellowship was about authentic relationships.”

Supporting a Strong Executive Pipeline

Sanchez points out the core mission of the Hogans Fellowship, which is preparing early to midcareer professionals from diverse backgrounds for leadership roles. “The program supports the executive pipeline through diligent mentorship and fostering pathways, especially for those that are the first in their family to build a career in D.C.” she says.

When the Foundation for Public Affairs launched the program in March 2023, strengthening the executive pipeline was among the first priorities. Findings from the Foundation’s 2022 Social Impact Report show that the average share of public affairs staff who are people of color is just 20%. The aim of the Hogans Fellowship was not just to provide opportunities for early career professionals to advance through professional development and networking, but also to ensure that the unique perspectives and skill sets of emerging and midcareer professionals from diverse backgrounds, identities and professional experiences are being used to help strengthen the profession.

Hogans Fellow Sierra Grimes, director of federal affairs at Southwest Airlines, notes that the profession has a long but important road ahead. “When we attended the Council’s Spring Executive Conference this past April, I was thinking about what the room would look like if we [the Fellows] weren’t there,” she says. “It’s a multiyear process and things won’t change overnight, but each year, as the program continues, there will be more and more people like us in that room, changing the dynamic. I appreciate that the Fellowship was intentional about building engagement and relationships for an inclusive environment.”

Bass also emphasizes the importance of attending events like the Spring Executive Conference. “It was amazing exposure to some of corporate America’s leading public affairs executives,” she says. “I not only learned how executives developed and grew into their roles, but also made personal touchpoints that impacted how I view my career growth and journey.”

Thought Partners

Perhaps the biggest draw of the program, though, goes back to the relationships built with other Fellows and the program’s mentors.

The Fellows speak enthusiastically about the relationships they’ve made. “I met people who became thought partners,” Bass says. “Daniel Pino and I connected as we have similar jobs and we were attacking some of the same problems. He was a great thought partner for things like navigating workplace dynamics or how a story will land with the media.”

Pino says that he “made an intentional practice of grabbing coffee with other Fellows” and that one of the Fellows helped him make an important media connection and placement in a high-level political outlet. “Building that relationship helped make that happen,” he says.

For Grimes, the relationships she made helped her navigate a big career move to her current role at Southwest Airlines. “The easy part is filling out the job application,” she recalls. “But when it came time for things like interview prep and making the big decision to accept the job, having the cohort and mentors there to talk it through with was so helpful. The Hogans mentors reminded me that all the challenges and growth I had experienced had prepared me for this and that I had the skills and confidence to do this. When you’re leaving the known for the unknown, talking to people who have been there before is huge.”

The inaugural cohort of Hogans Fellows will continue to participate in the Hogans Fellowship program as alumni. The new class of Hogans Fellows was selected in April. You can read about them here, and look for a feature on the new class in the June issue of Impact.

The 2023-2024 Hogans Fellows attend the Spring Executive Conference this past April

Featured Event

Covering emerging issues affecting local, state and federal government relations professionals, expand your network while getting answers to your toughest policy questions.

Washington, D.C. | Sept. 25-27