Q&A with Nicole Rodrigues
Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Nicole Rodrigues, CEO and Founder of NRPR Group
How would you describe your career path in a few words?
The entirety of my career trajectory can be encompassed in two simple words: unconventional and manifested. When I was first starting out in public relations over 20 years ago, I was a young mother who was eager to make her mark on the communications world, but there was no clear-cut path for me to take that would get me to where I wanted to be. So, like so many other things in my life, I carved one out for myself. I combined my three greatest passions — sports, public relations, and leadership — when I decided to take two dream jobs with the Raiders as a Player Development Coordinator for the team behind the scenes and as a Raiderette on their cheer squad. My time with the Raiders exposed me to consumer, sports, and entertainment PR strategies and radically improved my time management and prioritization skills. While this opportunity opened up so many doors for me down the line and was an experience I will forever be grateful for, it was by no means a traditional in-road to the industry. I just knew I had a vision and a purpose when I started studying the art of public relations in college, one that I was determined to bring to life in any way possible — and at an elevated level. In that sense, everything I’ve accomplished to this day has been manifested out of an incandescent inner ambition that’s existed within me since my childhood.
What was your most challenging experience and has it changed your mindset?
Like countless other business owners and leaders, the pandemic posed an ongoing series of make-or- break-it challenges that our team also had to navigate over the last several years. Many of our clients had to pivot or pause their business operations, and our industry is still shifting and reverberating with the ripple effects of COVID-19, lockdown, digitization, separation, and misinformation to this day. My agency managed to make it through intact without having to take on any outside funding or resort to staff layoffs, but it took almost every ounce of my energy and capacity as a human being to see us through. Not only that, 2022 was an extremely tumultuous time in my personal life — I lost 12 family members in less than 12 months, making it by far one of the most difficult years of my life. I had to remain strong and optimistic as my team’s leader, even on days when that felt impossible to do. Experiences like that remind me that not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur; we have to set aside our personal grievances and losses to prioritize the livelihoods of our employees, a responsibility that should never be taken lightly and often comes with great sacrifice. Still, those challenging times only reinforced the values and principles that have carried me this far into my career. They are what have made me, my team, and my business stronger, and they signal the unbreakable foundations I worked so hard to lay for the agency from the start to establish resilient longevity even in the midst of tragedy.
When faced with unusual or uncertain context or challenges, what's your first thought? I’ve always believed in “good business karma” and that all challenges are meant to test and strengthen our spirits. As such, my process for tackling uncertainty is three dimensional: First, I check in with my higher self — which, for me, means taking a moment to pray and reflect on the issue at hand, making sure I have the clear mind and faithful attitude necessary to guide the best decisions. Second, I check on my team, a product of my mama bear instincts kicking in. It takes a village to do what we do, but if my team feels ill-equipped to handle something that’s been thrown their way, my first priority is to oil our machines, answer their questions, support their efforts, and fine-tune our foundation. Lastly, to round-out our internal checks and balances, I always stay in high communication with my clients in times of crisis. My job is to be a critical business advisor, ensuring their needs are met and sustained at all times. That’s why these pulse checks are actually crucial at various junctures of our business processes, and they are a huge reason why we’ve been so successful, especially throughout the pandemic.
Based on your experience, what's the key success factor for a female leader/manager?
Your network, hands down. Find yourself a mentor and several trusted advisors who align with your core values and vision from the outset — and trust/empower those people to help guide you through the challenges, through the growing pains, through the elements of business you still have yet to learn or understand or master. They will bring out your best attributes and support you along your path toward success. They will be the pillars of a valuable professional network that can help you gain exponential momentum when tapped thoughtfully and maintained intentionally. And keep your trusted friends and family close, as they are the network that will uplift and support you (and scream with you and cry with you and celebrate) when things get tough in ways you may never reveal to your professional network. Beyond building out a network, the most unequivocally important advice that I can give to other female professionals is this: people are always watching you, and most love to see a woman fail or falter. So be bold, be informed, be unwavering. The relationships you nurture, the integrity you exhibit, the quality of your work, your attitude under scrutiny and in the light of success — all of these factors are always on display and being analyzed by those in your network and outside of it. Remember that the best leaders and professionals will always want to do business with good people. More often than not, they will be willing and eager to support young, ambitious professionals who exert the qualities they value most. Everything I’ve accomplished in my career has been in part thanks to the teachers, mentors, and business partners that have supported me along the way, but these relationships were not born from superficiality. The fruitfulness of these connections came from a steady and organic partnership over the years. You have to be patient, but the time you dedicate to your network is one of the most valuable investments in your career.