Interview with Haniya Shariff, PRSSA National

For this year’s International Women’s Day, our team at Slice is proud to celebrate women across the marketing and communications industry through an interview series.

This interview is with Haniya Shariff, the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at PRSSA National. Read our full interview series here.

How do you define your leadership?

As someone who values the insights of my team members, I lean toward a democratic or participative style of leadership. I believe it’s important to listen to different perspectives and nuggets of wisdom to discover solutions that better serve all members and meet their needs. 

I always enjoy facilitating these kinds of discussions so we can reach more collaborative decisions and ultimately a better society. And when I can inspire my fellow members to speak up, they’re more likely to feel part of something bigger when it comes to fulfilling diversity and inclusion initiatives. 

How has your leadership changed in the past year?

At the beginning of my term as vice president of diversity and inclusion, I was nervous to take on my first big leadership role. The responsibility of overseeing 300+ PRSSA Chapters nationally and internationally seemed like a daunting task. 

As the year progressed, I also gained the knowledge and experience necessary to lead with conviction. Now I have the confidence to take more initiative and even coach those around me. In return, I love learning from our members! As much as I am enriching others, they are enriching me, too.

Can you share a story that demonstrates a key learning for you in your leadership journey?

In my role, I learn something new almost every day. Recently, in honor of Random Acts of Kindness Day, PRSSA National tweeted that they would give away free PRSSA memberships to three random people who liked the tweet. I personally congratulated and welcomed the winning members, one of whom I later believed would be interested in a unique professional opportunity dedicated to members of color. I shared the opportunity with the new member and encouraged her to apply.  

As the midnight deadline quickly approached, she asked me to help edit her application and cover letter. I was genuinely happy to take the time to make sure her application accentuated her strengths and personality. When she wasn’t able to submit her application due to a technical glitch, I was able to rectify the situation. Throughout our short interaction, she and I quickly developed a friendship which I hope will develop into a mentor/mentee relationship.

This experience reminded me of myself years ago: when I first joined PRSSA in 2018 at my alma mater, Temple University, I met a mentor who also became my friend. She showed me the ropes and made me feel comfortable in an unfamiliar space. As a leader for PRSSA National now, I try to give back to our members by supporting their needs. Going the extra mile, I learned, can make someone’s experience that much more memorable. 

Who do you follow on social media that you would recommend to other women leaders?

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