Published on April 11, 2019, at 11:40 p.m.
by Whitney Blalock.
Jessica Randazza-Pade’s successful career commenced long before she declared a major or was hired for her first job — public relations was beckoning her from just 14 years old. A day in the office at o2ideas sealed the deal for her. Even as a stapler and a filer, she felt the transparent and invigorating energy of agency-life and knew she always wanted to be a part of that buzz.
Like most children, Randazza-Pade was unfamiliar with the term “public relations,” until her mother explained. While witnessing the stories unfold after the 1992 McDonald’s coffee scare, young Randazza-Pade turned to her mother and blurted, “McDonald’s should just apologize. They should recognize that they did something really wrong, and they should apologize.” Her mother immediately picked up on Jessica’s ethical inclination and honest disposition — traits that have since set her apart in the industry. It was a few years after this conversation that Randazza-Pade’s mother let her spend the day in o2ideas’ office where her close friend worked.
Randazza-Pade grew up in Homewood, Alabama, to a modest family. Her father was a chef, and her mother a stay-at-home mom until she decided to go back to school. Her mother’s commitment to education was Randazza-Pade’s inspiration for enrolling at The University of Alabama. “[UA] was really a great foundation for me to fall in love with the thing [PR] I thought I was in love with, but better understand it,” said Randazza-Pade. “I spent countless hours in Reese Phifer Hall [home of the UA public relations program]. When I was in school, the computer labs had giant computers — big desktop computers — and I learned InDesign on one of those giant computers, and I just found it all so enchanting.”
Even more enchanting was Randazza-Pade’s guest relations internship her sophomore year at Walt Disney through the Disney College Program. “Being able to be a part of a brand that is so thoughtful from end to end on what they are, what they represent and what they want to bring to the world lit me on fire,” said Randazza-Pade. That fire still burns as she deliberately works to bring that memorable experience to life for other businesses that have a responsibility and good intentions for the world.
Unfortunately, interning at Disney meant losing her scholarship to UA, a risk Randazza-Pade was willing to take. Her mother worked at The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), so Randazza-Pade continued her education there to avoid graduating with heaps of debt. “It was truly the right thing,” said Randazza-Pade.
During her time at UAB, Randazza-Pade served as the president of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and the Public Relations Council of Alabama, and later the vice president of chapter development on the national board of PRSSA. “I got to be with these people who now have gone on to do exceptional things and connect with [UAB] in a real way, becoming less about academics and more about the practical or practitioner side of it. Really understanding what the implications and applications of public relations are in the world, how does that actually manifest itself and then trying to do real work and understand that more thoroughly before I even graduated, it was quite a gift,” shared Randazza-Pade.
Putting what she learned in and out of the classroom to work, Randazza-Pade has held positions at Publicis Seattle, Danone and, currently, Ideo. In these roles, she has made her ethical, innovative and strategic thoughts evident. While at Danone, Randazza-Pade was a client of Sofia Hernandez. Hernandez called Randazza-Pade “a breath of fresh air” and “innovative in her thinking.”
Hernandez described “Jess” as casual and personable, while still exuding brilliance and adding value, a testament to Randazza-Pade’s humbleness.
“I’ve always been impressed with [Jess’] ability, as a woman and as a senior leader, to really own who she is and not play into the stereotype of what a ‘boss lady’ is supposed to be,” said Hernandez. “A lot of times women feel like they need to act like the boys once they get to the top, or to even make it to the top. Or that they have to be very serious. Jess is very smart but also very personable.”
And make it to the top she has! Named one of Brand Innovators 40 under 40 and Elle Magazine’s 30 at 30, Randazza-Pade is no stranger to accolades. She responds humbly and embarrassed to such praise, crediting her success to hard work.
Randazza-Pade’s love language is words of affirmation, so while compliments motivate her, she is deeply driven by feeling good about the work she pours herself into. “The guiding principle for everything that I’ve done, and though it seems a little nonlinear, has always been do I wake up and feel good about [what I do],” said Randazza-Pade.
Inversely, Randazza-Pade has received her fair share of constructive criticism. Being told by a previous boss that she had “imposter syndrome” spurred her to take a step back and assess herself. Coming from an agency background, Randazza-Pade was accustomed to having a competitive edge and speaking up so her ideas were heard first. Shifting gears to a more corporate environment required her to collaborate and “actively make sure [she is] a person that pulls people with [her], versus just trying to sail past them.”
Zoe Finch Totten, a consultant for Randazza-Pade at Danone and constant mentor, attested to Randazza-Pade’s active response to criticism. “Jess is really committed to consciously growing herself, personally and professionally. And that’s a striking quality in a human being,” explained Finch Totten.
Evident through conversations with Hernandez and Finch Totten, Randazza-Pade is unmistakably “curious,” “intelligent,” “approachable,” “honest,” “kind,” “connective” and “courageous,” just to name a few characteristics.
Hernandez emphasized Randazza-Pade’s willingness to build others up, connect, promote collaborative improvement, and work toward shared success at the end of the tunnel. Hernandez compared Randazza-Pade to a meme of women lifting other women up, a testimony to her character.
Randazza-Pade is now expert-in-residence at Ideo, a job for which she said she should kiss the ground every day. “Being able to share the work that [Ideo is] doing in a way that is meaningful for the world, and being in a place that is entirely built on trying to create meaningful change and then being able to tell those stories is exactly the mashup of everything I’ve ever dreamed of,” said Randazza-Pade.
Finch Totten acknowledged her biggest impact as one of Randazza-Pade’s mentors was “reinforcing her confidence, and her smarts and her ethics — her hard-working ethics.” From an early age, Randazza-Pade’s moral compass has been a guiding force. Honest and direct, Randazza-Pade embodies characteristics that are far too uncommon.
Grit, purpose, curiosity, innovation and collaboration — just a few reasons Randazza-Pade is where she is today. Her suggestions to her 21-year-old self are to spend more time listening than talking, to not be afraid to ask questions, to really give yourself the presence while you’re there and to allow yourself to be present in the work. The 21-year-old Randazza-Pade may not have known all of this, but it’s safe to say she’s found success regardless.