Pay It Forward “Don’t Be Afraid To Knock On Those Doors And Then Open Them For Others”

“My colleague once told me that I should ‘always perform the job I wanted, and the job that I had,'” says Yudi Fernández Kim of Schwartz Media Strategies.

By Tasha Norman | November 16, 2021

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Yudi Fernández Kim

Yudi Fernández Kim is the first female and Hispanic partner at Miami-based communications firm Schwartz Media Strategies and leads the firm’s commercial real estate practice.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle as a woman in your particular role and how have you overcome those obstacles? When I started my career at Schwartz Media Strategies, I was initially concerned about being able to grow within my role. When you are a younger female in the business world, sometimes it’s about being the youngest person in the room and not knowing if your ideas and input will be valued in comparison to male counterparts who are in more senior positions. 

I also believe that we become stronger and more resilient by facing challenges. In my experience, my biggest challenge was emigrating from Cuba with my family at just nine years old and having to learn a new language and get acclimated to a new culture. By facing these challenges, taking the time to be prepared and working hard.

Commercial real estate has historically been a challenging industry for women. Where would you say commercial real estate needs to improve for women? Working in the commercial real estate and construction industry for the past 10 years, I have seen more women sitting at the table, in management positions, and overall, more interest from women in joining these industries over time. However, there are two areas we need to enhance in order to open even more doors for women to pursue careers in commercial real estate. 

  • First, by creating more awareness about the opportunities available in the industry. When I’m mentoring young women and talk about my work and my clients, I notice that they oftentimes have such little knowledge about these industries. When women are not aware of how they can have a successful career in areas of real estate – from finance, to development and brokerage – then they are less likely to pursue degrees in those careers. 
  • Another area that is in need of improvement is mentorship and sponsorship. In my career, I’ve heard women speak about how they’ve climbed the ladder. Most of the time, they had both male and female mentors that helped guide them in the direction of their career and expand their education and training. 

There are many ways in which we can create these opportunities that give more women and minorities real-world exposure and educate them on these industries. For example, I organized visits from the local Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter to Schwartz Media’s Miami office and arranged a PR career seminar, which included activities where students were asked to create pitches and present them to a panel of ‘clients.’ I also spend time visiting inner-city schools across Greater Miami to talk about growing up as an immigrant and my career path.

I often hear from clients that there’s not enough women or minorities who are applying for positions and that they are very much interested in creating a more diverse workforce. As businesses, we need to take a deeper look to see what steps we should be taking to reach out proactively and ensure these groups feel that there are opportunities available for them. 

How can women better position themselves for success in this industry? One of the skill sets that women in particular possess is that we tend to be very strong communicators. Since a young age, I gravitated towards the field of communications because I wanted to be in the business of storytelling.

Women also tend to be effective at connecting people and building meaningful relationships. We have an ability to listen and to provide support and guidance. Through these skill sets, you develop a pipeline of trust in business by spending time getting to know a client, what their needs are, how you can help, and how you can connect them to other like-minded people. This is critical to gain a deeper understanding of their business and develop winning public relations, marketing and digital campaigns for companies that are aligned with their business goals.  

What is the best piece of advice you have received that has helped you succeed in your industry? My colleague and friend Aaron Gordon, my partner at Schwartz Media Strategies, once told me that I should “Always perform the job I wanted, and the job that I had.” It’s important to go beyond your job description to find ways to show your company that you’re committed, driven, and that you can provide more to the organization if the opportunity is given. That’s something I now share with mentees and when providing guidance to our own team members.

I would encourage the next generation to continue to develop strong written communications skills. They have a comfort level with social media and are going to have the capacity to communicate through different channels due to the many different platforms available. 

Would you advise your daughter to begin a career in CRE? As a new mom to my now six-month-old daughter, I often think about what her future will look like and what her story is going to be. Commercial real estate or communications are certainly industries I would encourage her to pursue if it aligns with her interests. I would tell her that to get her foot in the door, it’s important not to be afraid to ask for the opportunity. I would also encourage her to find mentors and to work extremely hard, whether it’s through internships or starting in an entry-level position to understand every facet of the profession and gain as much experience as possible.

When I emigrated here with my immediate family, I didn’t have a big support system – I didn’t have family or friends that could open doors and advocate for me. I had to knock on those doors myself and be very proactive about finding mentorship and guidance in order to find business opportunities. Through programs like Women of Tomorrow and All-Stars After School and Summer Camp programs, both organizations in which I was a mentee growing up in Miami and since then served as a mentor for, I had the chance to find those opportunities. My biggest piece of advice for women across all industries is to not be afraid to knock on those doors and then open them for others.