While the shiny monuments of Washington D.C. have lured Christin Fernandez away from her hometown of Staten Island, New York, she has never forgotten about where she came from. DC may have the sizzle, by NYC will always be home. OBB sits down with Fernandez to discuss her career path and hear all about her favorite spots on the Rock.
Christin Fernandez is vice president of communications for the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), the trade association for America’s largest and most recognized retail brands. In her role, she is responsible for advancing the retail industry’s policy and operational objectives with industry stakeholders, policymakers and the press. She helped launch the Retail Innovation Center which is dedicated to providing America's retailers with the tools they need to navigate the industry’s transformation through research, insights, and collaboration.
Prior to her role, she served as the director of public affairs and spokesperson for the National Restaurant Association. Fernandez began her career in television as an assignment editor and producer for Fox News. She graduated with a BA in Journalism from Lehigh University.
Q: You’re a Washington, D.C. resident, who’s originally from Staten Island, New York. Can you tell us about your career path that ultimately landed you in D.C.?
A: I began my career working in television and got my start in the political space covering the '08 election. Once the election wrapped, I covered both national and foreign breaking news but always kept an eye on politics. Following the 2010 midterms, I knew D.C. is where I needed to be if I wanted to be at the epicenter of political journalism. After a few great years and thousands of incredible stories, I left the news business to explore the world of communications. I now run media relations and external communications for a trade association that represents America's most recognized retail brands.
Q: What do you love most about what you do?
A: Well, I love politics and I love shopping. My two loves have finally intersected.
The retail industry is America's second largest, representing hundreds of thousands of businesses that provide millions of American jobs. I love being able to tell policymakers, press, and the public the story of retail that goes beyond what we see in stores. Retail really is the cornerstone of American communities.
Every product, every employee, every brand has an amazing story to tell. Whether its responding in the face of natural disaster, unleashing the most innovative products to the market, or providing opportunity to designers and suppliers across the globe, the very fabric of retail is what makes our country great (pun intended).
Q: What would you say some of the challenges are of being a woman in business?
A: There have been many times throughout my career where I have been the only woman in the room.
While this may seem frustrating, I remind myself that this should NEVER be a deterrent, only an advantage. If you are the only woman, that means you are the only person with a truly different perspective.
In these instances, instead of looking at the negative, I like to make this a positive. I always tell women in the workplace, don't ever be afraid to speak up. Offer your thoughts, share your opinions, and don't be shy about telling someone why you think their way might not be the best way.
I like to say, when the room fills with hot air, offer a cool breeze.
Q: What do you aspire to in your career as you look 10 years out?
A: As I think about the future, I know I'd like to move into a position of leadership. While we have come a long way, there is still not enough representation of women in the C-Suite. It's high time that the faces of America's top companies and boards reflect the reality that women make up nearly half of our country's workforce.
Q: I’ll have to switch gears for a moment and ask about Staten Island. As we fondly refer to our home borough as ‘the Rock’- what would you say you miss about living in New York, most notably, Staten Island?
A: The food! I've traveled all over the world, lived in Italy and can honestly say, some of the best food is right on Staten Island. There's such a variety of cuisines and flavors. I asked one of our (very) few bakeries if they carried rainbow cookies and they gave me a blank stare. You don't know what you have in Piece of Cake, Royal Crown, or Bruno's until it's gone. Cupcakes are about as close as we get to baked goods. And the pizza here? Fuggedaboudit.
Q: What are some of your favorite go-to spots when you’re back home?
A: My father's family is from Spain so I grew up going to Real Madrid which has delicious and authentic Spanish food. And of course, no trip is complete without a trip to Denino's, Pizza Giove or Joe and Pat's. Living in D.C. has its perks, but I miss living near the water. I grew up in Grasmere with Cameron Lake right in my backyard. It's a freshwater lake complete with beach, paddle boats and a dock. I also love heading down to the boardwalk for a long walks in the warmer months.
Q: In your opinion, what do you think it means to be an Outer Boro Broad?
A: Being an Outer Boro Broad means that no matter where you are, New York will always hold a special place in your heart. Growing up in New York City truly prepares you to handle anything life may throw at you.
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