Luisa Montes: SHIFTing back to PR

Luisa and some of her English students

By Luisa Montes

As a recent addition to SHIFT’s San Francisco office, Luisa Montes shares her experience and motivation for jumping back into the fray of PR after a year of teaching English in Chile.

If I asked you what you were doing this around this time last year, many of you would probably give an answer related to client services or media outreach – prepping CES speaking submissions, writing releases, pitching holiday gift guides. You know, the usual.

My answer, however, is just about as far removed – both literally and figuratively – from that world as you could get. Before recently joining SHIFT as an Account Executive, I spent 11 months in southern Chile teaching English to elementary and high school students as a volunteer with the Chilean Ministry of Education’s English Opens Doors program.

The program places native English speakers in public schools throughout the country to aid with the students’ regular English lessons and matches each volunteer with a host family to aid in the process of cultural immersion and Spanish language development.

My biggest reason for joining the program was to improve my Spanish and embrace the challenge of living in another country. While I was able to accomplish these goals, what stuck with me the most was the unbelievable kindness I experienced from my school community, host family and even perfect strangers over the course of my time there. As a Bay Area native, it’s nice to return home, but I can’t deny that Chile captured my heart, too.

Chile is one of the more developed countries in South America, and its economy is poised to continue to grow through the end of the year, so transitioning between the two countries on a logistical level was less of an obstacle than I expected. Nonetheless, there are certain aspects of coming home that still take me by surprise. After living in the town of Osorno, 500 miles south of the Chile’s capital, the buildings here in San Francisco’s Financial District seem just a little bit taller and the buses a little bit faster than I remember. 

But where day-to-day city life still catches me off guard, the world of PR has been a welcome sanctuary, and it’s especially gratifying to be experiencing this here at SHIFT. Prior to teaching I worked at another agency representing clients on the B2B side of renewable energy, software security, and personal computing systems. I had some apprehension about returning to the world of PR after a year away, but I was also looking forward to it.

I realized that I missed the thrill that comes with securing that briefing with the Wall Street Journal, the adrenaline rush that comes with putting out that unexpected fire drill, and the general sense of accomplishment that comes from keeping your finger on the pulse of the tech, or any other, industry.

Teaching will always be rewarding in its own way, but as I considered my career path, I was also seeking opportunities for project ownership and leadership potential. Less than a month into my time here, I can already see that SHIFT is the right environment for me to pursue those goals. From training sessions to casual social gatherings, SHIFT has made the transitional process a non-issue and set me up for success from day one. It’s nice to walk out at the end of the day feeling accomplished and appreciated by teammates, clients, and even press contacts. If the past few weeks are any indication of the rest of my time here, I can’t wait to see what lies ahead in the future.

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