Halla Rafati; Toronto; @haloprgroup
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I get paid to have on-demand ADD—running an agency like Halo PR requires the ability to be flexible and juggle many things at once.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I went to Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas and got a bachelor of science in business administration with concentrations in international business, marketing and management.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
My first paying gig was with the San Antonio Spurs and my first salaried position was with the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation. I created marketing materials to make the city of San Antonio desirable for investors, i.e. anything that created a lot of jobs.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
My first real break was as regional marketing coordinator for the Jordan Tourism Board. I saw a full-page ad in the only English newspaper in Amman, The Jordan Times, for what sounded like a dream job: tour the country, travel around Europe, manage agencies, host media, et cetera. I was 24, and I couldn’t believe a job like that even existed. I got an interview and the rest is history. I have been poached and recruited into all my other positions since then, until Halo PR made me an entrepreneur.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
I was working as the director of communications and PR at Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, and we had talked about me keeping them as a client if I transitioned and started my own agency. During the discussions, they reminded me to send them our business contract. It was only then that I realized that this was actually happening and there was no turning back. Whether or not it was going to work was not an option!
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
A very wise woman named Sorya Gaulin told me very early on in my career, “You can have it all, just not all at once.” As I progress in my career, those words ring true every single day.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
Stay in your lane. As long as you don’t act like you know something you don’t, I don’t think you should stay in your lane.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
When we started Halo, I had an interaction with an older male client that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. He was offended by the way I spoke to him and I could not understand why since I was articulate and professional. My business partner, Catriona Smart, turned to me and said, “It’s because you’re a woman.” I was in shock. The man was upset because I spoke to him as a peer and, in his mind, I was not. We fired that client and never looked back. It was only then that I woke up and realized that being a woman will be a battle we will fight for a long time. At Halo, we have an all-female staff and Catriona and I feel that it’s the responsibility of women in power and leadership to help other women.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
Halo PR is my full time job and [lifestyle blog] Coco & Cowe is my side hustle. I am dedicated to growing our businesses with Catriona.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
That millennials are too emotional. Damn right we are, and we’re not afraid to share those emotions when we feel they’ve been infringed upon.