📈 Internal Communications Introductions: Jiyoung Pamela Yoon
Head of Employee Engagement, Comms & Change at Fivetran
About Jiyoung Pamela Yoon
Helping employees feel a connection, and creating alignment and meaning between their daily work and the company's mission is what Jiyoung Yoon currently does as Senior Director of Engagement, Comms & Change for Fivetran, a leading data connectivity startup.
Prior to Fivetran, Jiyoung headed up Internal Comms for Waymo (formerly known as the Google self-driving car project) an autonomous driving technology company. Jiyoung’s specialties include overseeing communications for hypergrowth, global and distributed workforces, with an emphasis in executive communications and DEI.
As the former Head of Internal & Executive communications for Lyft, she led a team during one of its biggest years and milestones, experiencing explosive employee growth (2200 to 5200 employees in a year), office expansions and eventual IPO.
What sparked your professional path into Internal Communications?
There are two driving forces. First, I am the daughter of immigrants. My parents came from Korea when I was really young, so except for a few words, they did not speak English and I became their primary translator. I like to joke that I was doing internal communications most of my life and I didn't even know it — whether it was translating at the doctor's office or at the grocery store.
What's inherent in that experience is there's always text and subtext. There are the words that people say and then there's the meaning behind it. That’s such a natural translation to really good internal communications — it's not just the words, it's the intent, whether you're sending a message or receiving it. Since I had to do this from a young age, I had lots of opportunity to hone my skills.
Second, I really like to be helpful. Intrinsically, I think that that is one of the common traits among people who really love internal communications — you’re not in it for the glory or the glamor, but the reward you get is seeing the organization, employees or executives succeed.
How do you describe internal communications to others?
Internal communications is really about alignment — it's alignment between employees to the business strategy, the culture and to one another.
What is one goal you are particularly proud to have accomplished?
At every organization where I’ve worked, when I walk in the door on the first day as Internal Communications, there are always questions about what it is that we do! I’m proud of my journey to educate colleagues, executives and eventually the whole organization about the true value of our work.
There are a few different scenarios I’ve seen when joining an org as a comms professional: Executives who don't know exactly what internal communications does, but they're generally behind it and willing to work with you. Then, there are the folks who don't know what you do, aren't opposed to what you do, but continue doing their own thing. The third category are leaders who don’t know what you do, and are actively reluctant to interact with internal communications.
Wherever the organization was when I joined, I've worked hard to get to the place where there's more demand for our services than capacity. That’s a great problem to have — when folks see the value you bring to the business, the culture and the mission. This feeling only comes through showing value. Once that sea shift happens, they often want your help for everything!
What are the skills that are most important for someone to succeed in Internal Communications?
There are the obvious technical ones — you have to be able to write succinctly and well. What sets exceptional comms pros apart are the great interpersonal skills, primarily around listening. Great internal communications people don't talk a lot.
It goes back to text and subtext. When you're in a meeting, there are the words that executives are saying, but then there's the actual intent behind them. Unless you are really present and listening, you can easily miss those subtleties. What you are delivering to the org may on the surface be exactly what someone thinks they want, but to perform at that next level, you’ve got to be able to see layers beneath that — the only way to do that is by listening.
In addition, it’s about emotional intelligence — knowing how to read the room and have the judgment to know if now is the time to push or the time to back off a request. It’s always a give and take — you can't make everything a fight. It's about figuring out which things are so critically important to your organization that you want to push forward. Finally, the empathy piece is huge. You have to truly put yourself in the shoes of others in the organization to craft communications that really help.
How do you continue learning about the field of Internal Communications?
It’s so important to broaden your expertise with business knowledge or a speciality. Last year, I took a six-week course on Diversity & Inclusion at Cornell. As communicators, we need enough DEI-specific knowledge to be able to partner with our DEI counterparts as well as translate it broadly for the org.
In continually broadening your knowledge, it's all about being well-rounded. I read a lot of blogs and listen to a lot of podcasts. They aren’t solely about communications — but more generally about life, our common experiences, and ultimately learning how to human better.
I’ll share two shows that I listened to recently that were really great. First, Ezra Klein’s podcast focused on changing the way you think about thinking. It’s all about how we process information and make information more sticky. Second, Hidden Brain recently did an episode about reducing friction in systems, which is what I think good communications really does. The best way to uplevel your communications game? It’s by understanding people better because we’re in the business of influencing.
I also read The Conscious Leadership Group which posts about leading with empathy and intention. They specialize in executive coaching and development. Their content is incredible. It’s challenged me to think about approaching situations differently.
What advice do you have for anyone in the field or considering it?
If you are looking for the accolades and the spotlight, this is probably not the space for you. People will tear up your work, have all sorts of opinions and the buck often stops with you. You’ll be behind the scenes — literally and figuratively, so learning how to not take things personally is key.
It’s important to ask yourself — what energizes me about this work? You need to know what truly motivates and inspires you to figure out if internal comms is the right fit.
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☎️ Every edition of The Switchboard is personally curated by me — Julia Levy. This post is based on a live interview conversation and edited for publication. Learn more about why I write.