2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty Honoree: Elvira Méndez
Elvira Méndez, Public Information Manager at SEPTA, will be honored during the 2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty on Aug. 26.
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The third annual AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event serves to highlight and showcase some of the most diverse and impactful young professionals across the Philadelphia region.
At this year's event, taking place Friday, Aug. 26, Elvira Méndez will be one of the 40 honorees.
Elvira Méndez has spent more than a decade in the communications industry, using her expertise to help resolve some of the challenges non-English speaking individuals face regarding public transportation.
In her role as Public Information Manager at SEPTA, Elvira Méndez works to deepen relationships with the media through countless TV interviews, podcasts, radio, and print interviews as the face and voice of SEPTA. She played a key role in designing SEPTA’s first-ever multilingual communication plans and tactics to address their needs.
Originally from a small town in Spain, Méndez now serves as an active member of her professional and local Philadelphia community, where she is a mentor through SEPTA’s Women in Transit group, encouraging women to pursue careers in the predominantly-male transportation industry.
She is also the first person in her family to graduate college, earning her undergraduate degree in Foreign Languages, Literatures and Linguistics from Universidad de Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and a Masters of Science in Corporate Communications from Instituto Superior Europeo de Barcelona.
As part of the lead-up to the AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event, AL DÍA asked each of the honorees a set of identical questions and collected their responses.
Here are Elvira Méndez's responses:
What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your professional career?
SEPTA is a vast institution: it has nearly 10,000 employees, 196 lines, 291 stations, almost 3,000 vehicles, and transports close to a million daily riders! So, getting to know and understand all the aspects of the business takes time, interest, curiosity, and dedication.
What steps can be taken to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in your industry? Why is it important to do so?
During my time at SEPTA, one key highlight was designing and implementing the Authority's Hispanic Outreach Strategic Plan under General Manager Jeff Knueppel. In 2017, with the General Manager's support, I helped steer SEPTA in a new direction.
I started producing press releases for the Hispanic media and offered interviews and press conferences in Spanish, including on behalf of the CEO, and focused on strengthening relationships with the Hispanic Media.
In addition, I worked with Government Affairs to engage elected officials with Spanish speakers in their constituencies. I translated community notices about construction projects and service changes, presented plans, and provided updates at community meetings.
With the support of the Communications and Customer Experience Divisions, I translated existing and produced new brochures, signage, and station audio messages – all efforts to assist multilingual customers moving through the system. For example, I translated every screen of the SEPTA Key kiosks, pushed for the first-ever safety multilingual signs on subways and Regional Rail cars, and created and recorded SEPTA's first bilingual audio messages for subways and trolley stations.
In response to the needs of the Recruiting Department, we created recruiting materials and ads displayed on digital screens at stations and printed in newspapers. I also introduced the recruiting team to Hispanic groups to establish partnerships.
Collaborating with the Director of Marketing SEPTA, ran the first-ever marketing campaign in Spanish, and we translated materials for social media and printing.
All these were powerful steps in making the system more accessible to Spanish-speakers. Perhaps most importantly, SEPTA is now more culturally aware and responsive to the needs of these customers.
What does being a leader mean to you?
A leader to me is someone who:
- Inspires others to work together toward a common goal.
- Identifies talent and willingly moves them throughout the organization.
- Recognizes that people work best when there is space for creativity and ownership.
- Takes a genuine interest in the people around them.
- Is constantly learning and seeking to improve themselves.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
After over a decade of working in multilingual and multicultural communications and recently obtaining my Master's in Corporate Communications, I see myself leading a multi-channel and cross-institutional integrated communications efforts to drive visibility and establish a strong brand identity with the multilingual and multicultural stakeholders: communities, customers, visitors, chambers of commerce, government agencies, community groups, and the media.
The 2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event will take place Friday, Aug. 26 at The Vie at Cescaphe. To learn more or purchase your ticket, click here.