Please tell us about yourself. How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and exciting career?
Priya Ramesh M.S. ’03 was a journalist in India before making her way to Radford University to pursue a career in corporate communications.
Ramesh initially entered the working world after earning a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Madras in Chennai, India. After a few years of being a journalist, she realized she wanted to apply her communications skills in a different way.
“I realized I could have a bigger impact,” explained Ramesh. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to be on the side of a company I believe in and help them be more relevant to the news cycle?’ That was my introduction to corporate communications.”
What did you study?
However, she soon discovered that there were not corporate communications programs at the university level in India. It was then that she decided to look to the United States to further her education.
She began by scoping out the larger universities in the United States, in the hopes of finding the best-of-the-best corporate communications programs. Though not originally on her radar, she found Radford’s Corporate and Professional Communication program. After researching the university online and reading about the faculty and their research, she decided to apply.
Ramesh was accepted into all seven universities she applied to and felt lucky to be able to pick and choose between them; however, one deciding factor was whether or not she would be able to get financial assistance. Coming from a working-class family in India, Ramesh would not be able to afford to go to college in the United States without the help of scholarships.
“Radford was the one that trusted in me, saw the potential in me and gave me that opportunity,” said Ramesh. “I’m always grateful to Radford University, otherwise I could not have afforded to pursue a life and a career here [in the United States].”
Tell us about your experience at Radford?
Ramesh travelled from India to the United States in 2001 to pursue a Master’s of Science in Corporate and Professional Communication at Radford. She says one of her favorite parts of the program was having the flexibility to take both communications classes and classes from the MBA program, which helped her build her portfolio.
One person that stood out to Ramesh during her time at Radford was her graduate advisor, Gwen O. Brown, Ph.D. As she puts it, Brown was like a mother to her.
“Imagine you’re in a new country, having to start your life from zero, with no one to call a friend or family,” said Ramesh. “On top of that, when you come in on scholarship, you have to maintain a certain GPA. Every semester, I maintained a 4.0 GPA, but to get to that point, I had to have someone like Dr. Brown who I could consider my mentor and my guide.”
Ramesh says Brown was not only a great professor but also a considerate, understanding and nurturing human being.
“There would be silly questions like, ‘Dr. Brown, where can I go shopping?’ or, ‘Where can I go pick up a nice blazer for my presentation tomorrow?’ and she would be more than willing to help you out,” said Ramesh. “She might even give you a ride! That’s the kind of high caliber, absolutely brilliant person she was.”
During her time at Radford, Ramesh also served as a teaching fellow at the Center for Career and Talent Development. She helped students craft their resumes, identify their career paths and find internships. Because Ramesh already had work experience, she felt as though it was the perfect way for her to give back to the student body.
“I absolutely loved being able to make a small difference in the lives of our fellow students, seeing them walk out of the career center with confidence and clarity. We would celebrate them coming back in and saying, ‘Priya! I got that internship! Thank you so much for helping me out!’ It was one of those life moments for me where I could truly have a positive influence,” said Ramesh.
Tell us about your career path?
After graduating from Radford, Ramesh worked in corporate communications for 15 years. Her successes include being a part of global public relations agencies like Burson-Marstellar and running external communications for IBM. Through working with many CEOS and executives across multiple industries, she decided to launch her own company, CEO Communications LLC, in the San Francisco Bay Area to focus on communications coaching.
Now known as the “CEO-whisperer,” Ramesh helps business leaders become powerful communicators, coaching them on how to give speeches, inspire employees, talk to the media and more. She has worked with CEOs and executives at Ford Motor Corporation, GE, Intel, AARP, HP, IBM and 8×8.
Her favorite class at Radford, Leadership Communication, led by David H. Dobkins, Ph.D., was one that has directly applied to her work at CEO Communications LLC. Ramesh says Dobkins’s teaching style and expertise was what really enhanced her interest in the subject.
“When you look back at your life and think of the moments that have led you to where you are today, your university plays a big part – the people you met, the opportunities you had – so I’m always grateful to Radford University,” explained Ramesh. “I feel like coming to Radford was the best decision I could have made.”