Headshot of Bobby Amirshahi, Senior Vice President of Communications for Macy's.
Bobby Amirshahi, Senior Vice President of Communications for Macy’s. — Macy's

Bobby Amirshahi, Senior Vice President of Communications for Macy’s, on three simple-yet-critical lessons learned from his mentor:

  • Always attend to your blind spots.
  • Always feel comfortable asking for help.
  • Always pay it forward.

Bobby Amirshahi, Senior Vice President of Communications for Macy’s, initially met Bob Jimenez while working in Atlanta at media firm Cox Communications, almost like ships passing in the night—or so it seemed.

At the time, Amirshahi was Director of Media Relations at Cox Communications, where his mentor-to-be Jimenez had just taken on the role of Senior Director of Corporate Communications.

Amirshahi, however, soon left for a media relations role with Viacom.

As fate would have it, the two men rejoined one year later at Cox Enterprises. But this time, Amirshahi returned in a much more high-profile role as Director of Public Affairs.

That’s when Jimenez began to quickly evolve in his life from boss to more of a watch-what-I-do mentor. Amirshahi’s mentor not only taught him how to be an extraordinary communicator, but how to patiently build relationships, how to collaborate, and how to embrace his Middle Eastern roots.

All this learning is still fully visible today in how Amirshahi has grown into his current role as Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for Macy’s, where DEI work is critical to his role, and where he is now a mentor to others.

CO—: Who is your mentor and why?

BA: Bob Jimenez. When I came back to work for [Cox Enterprises from Viacom] it was a whole new ballgame. I went from working in a fast-paced, customer-centric environment which welcomed a strong proactive approach to one that required great space and time for thoughtful and strategic planning around my work.

I was like a bull in a china shop. Bob had to take me aside to introduce me to this new work as head of public affairs for a large corporation invested in many lines of business. This work required balancing the needs and demands of older, legacy subsidiaries and others that were nascent and required more attention.

He helped me realize that I couldn’t get things done in the same manner I had before. I stubbed my toe over and over. I had to take the time and make a concerted effort to build even deeper relationships with more senior colleagues.

[That meant] learning to understand the motivations and the track records of certain executives and being more integrated into the strategic imperatives of the enterprise before making bold recommendations. Furthermore, the intrinsic value of investing the time with executives to build trust was crucial.

CO—: What did your mentor teach you?

BA: He helped me to understand how to build relationships and how to be more collaborative with other teams and departments. He taught me how to play the long game. In the past, it had always been about striking fast. He taught me patience. Those were the skills I needed to learn if I wanted to be head of the communications department someday.

CO—: What has your mentor meant to your career?

BA: It’s been so enriching to have a person who does what I do and who knows me really well. When I feel as if I can’t solve a problem, I can still text or call him even if we haven’t connected for nine months. I can always reach him within 24 hours and have a conversation that helps me to reset and reassess. Having that kind of reliable lifeline for so many years is priceless.

[Read: Execs From Hershey’s to Microsoft Reveal Their Mentors’ Best Advice]

He taught me how to play the long game. In the past, it had always been about striking fast. He taught me patience.

Bobby Amirshahi, Senior Vice President of Communications, Macy’s

CO—: What’s an example of your mentor’s imprint in action?

BA: Back in 2007, he helped me to understand the business value of spending more time on diversity and inclusion — which wasn’t so common back then. He was the only non-Caucasian person on the senior team. He leaned into his identity as a Hispanic male. That was a way for him to open doors for other relationships outside the company. His comfort in that role gave others comfort in being themselves with him. Until I met him, I’d never considered leaning into being Middle Eastern or openly gay. Now I understand how important it is to lean into your identity to help others in the company feel safe.

CO—: How does your work at Macy’s reflect your mentor’s imprint?

BA: I go back to diversity. It’s not just a subset of HR but a part of our business strategy. Today at Macy’s I believe that how we activate our DEI muscle is one way that we advance the brand. That should be my job as Macy’s senior communicator. It’s good to know that I can be more myself in helping the corporation to be a better employer.

CO—: Can you give a specific example?

BA: At Macy’s, our social purpose platform is called “Mission Every One.” The idea of empowering the next generation in our communities and in our nation is critical. The most effective way to do this is to bring in mentorship partners, so we brought in Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. With Big Brothers Big Sisters, we are putting a lot more resources into formal and informal mentoring. At Macy’s, we think of diversity as a business strategy. We’ve even started the “Best Mentors of Macy’s” contest.

[Read: Top DEI Execs from Carter’s, Thumbtack, and Fossil on Diversity Strategies That Drive Real Results]

CO—: How has your mentor shown you how to think ahead of the curve?

BA: Before I left Cox, the company created an “Issues Management Council,” and I didn’t know exactly what it was. It was asking executives how the company might react to events and changes that take place in society. At Macy’s, years later, we created the “Societal Topics Strategy Group,” which I chair. It would never have entered my mind to create this group had Bob not coached me on the need for it.

CO—: Please finish this sentence: 'If not for my mentor, I would never…'

BA: If not for my mentor, I would never have gotten to where I am today as quickly.

CO—: Are you a mentor?

BA: Yes. There are two or three folks who have worked for me or near me and many jobs later, they are still in my orbit and I’m still coaching them on how to consider career offers. It’s fun to have these kinds of relationships and see where people end up.

CO—: Why is mentorship so important?

BA: It’s an added bonus in your own set of relationships in life. It’s someone who isn’t getting compensated for doing the right thing. It’s a bonus when you have a connection with someone who knows you and can give you the truth. That’s just rich.

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