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Alumni Spotlight: Joanna Pinker Sokol

Updated: Sep 21, 2018

1.) What year did you graduate from Indiana University? May 2010

2.) What did you study as an undergraduate? I created my own major through the individualized Major Program (IMP). My focus: Integrated Marketing Communications; a mix of journalism, business and psychology/anthropology classes. Craig Wood graciously sponsored me and was a tremendous advocate. I also minored in Spanish. In addition to my studies, I absorbed so much from my professors and mentors, like Jim Bright, who consistently brought real-life industry knowledge to the classroom.

3.) What was your extracurricular involvement like at IU? I rode in the Little 500, participated in the 2007 IU Dance Marathon and was the philanthropy chairperson at my sorority Sigma Delta Tau.

4.) Where has your career path taken you since graduating? I spent the last eight years in New York City, starting out in independent film publicity at Falco Ink. I then joined the digital strategy team at Burson-Marsteller, where I supported the Bank of America and Ford Motor Company accounts. My path took me in an unexpected direction when my former client at Bank of America Merrill Lynch reached out with an opportunity to join the investment bank in brand marketing. It was a fascinating time to be in financial services, about a decade after the financial crisis.

Karma threw me for another unexpected (but exciting and life-changing) loop earlier this year. Through another mentor, I reconnected with someone who thankfully remembered me eight years after our initial meeting. We talked about an opportunity on her communications team at Microsoft, supporting communications for CEO Satya Nadella. After several rounds of interviews and a quick trip to the Redmond campus, I received an incredible offer, and my husband and I planned our move out west.

5.) What does your current role entail? I'm a Senior Manager on the CEO Communications team in the Office of the CEO at Microsoft. Microsoft's mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, a statement that truly resonates with me. My job is to help enable Microsoft to achieve this mission by maximizing the scale, impact and voice of the CEO with key audiences, internally and externally. Some of my main projects include: managing Satya's monthly Q&A's with employees, supporting the team during major events and thinking through our communications planning, processes and measurement rhythms.

6.) What are your long-term career goals? My parents are small business owners - my mom started and owns a successful advertising agency in upstate New York - so I certainly have an innate desire to create something on my own one day. However, I'm incredibly happy with the position I'm in and am focusing all my energy on having a long and healthy career at Microsoft.

7.) What did you enjoy most about IU PRSSA while you were a member? I got so much out of the resources: guest lecturers, conferences, advice, etc. PRSSA truly helped me prepare for the "real world".

8.) How should current PRSSA members prepare for a career in PR and communications?

a. Network, network, network. Put in the work to cultivate relationships and the universe will come through for you. The most important thing about networking is maintaining relationships, and there are countless ways to create a touchpoint. For example, send someone an article that you think would resonate with them and include a quick blurb about yourself.

b. Be an intentional listener. Don't listen for the sake of responding, listen to include.

c. Rome wasn't built in a day. There will be a learning curve and ramp-up period with every role you take, particularly your first job. That's OK. Have faith and confidence in yourself.

d. Make a commitment to your company and work hard.

e. Don't be afraid to ask questions!


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