WOW – Pat McNeil

Words of Wisdom is a monthly interview on the Metro EDGE blog with an executive who is making an impact in the Sacramento community. Think of these interviews as a mini Executive Insight where you will receive valuable career advice that will help you grow as a young professional! This month's interview is with Pat McNeil, Chief Communications Officer at VSP Global. VSP Global actively supports professional development for their under 40 team members, many of whom have come through the EDGE pipeline. Pat is a member of the 2022 Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Read Pat’s interview below to learn more about him and his advice to young professionals everywhere.

What are three things you wish you’d known as you embarked on your career?

  • This is a LONG journey. Try not to sweat the small stuff (but do learn from them).
  • We are all human. Given time, you can find the human in everyone - from the newest employee to the CEO. And you can learn something from all of them!
  • If your situation allows, remember to call your mom and dad and share the work journey you are on with them. In many cases, you are where you are because of them. They are proud. Give them a few highlights to brag to their friends about.  

Did you have a mentor? If so, what was the most important piece of advice they gave you?

I’ve had, and continue to have, people who have made a positive impact on my life. One of the best pieces of advice received so far was to be prepared to answer this question:  What are the five questions you hope you don’t get asked but you better be prepared to answer?

How did/do you handle work/life balance? 

I have always been an early riser and committed to getting my physical activity in before the sun is up. That sets me up for success at work and strengthens my focus. Regular exercise and a focused and disciplined workday allows me to be more present and engaged with my family and activities outside of work. 

Do you have any suggestions of books, articles, websites, podcasts, etc. that might help a young professional?

As a card-carrying introvert, I love when a business leader pens a memoir that shows just how deep their thoughts are and how focused they were on every little detail of each interaction. Few books that I have read do a better job of that than Nike creator Phil Knight’s memoir, Shoe Dog.  The book offers great insight into better understanding the introverted preference type. 

How important is it to be involved in organizations outside of work (church, networking, philanthropy, community-based, alumni, athletics, etc.)? Why?

I am proud to be a Metro Chamber Board Member and to have served on several nonprofit boards through the years. These board experiences have forced me to be uncomfortable, stretch myself and ultimately allowed me to meet people I never would have otherwise. These interactions stimulate my brain, broaden my point of view and are, sometimes, even fun!

From a work angle, the more people you interact with outside of your job helps ensure you will avoid having “group think”. Bringing that different point of view might allow you to share an opinion that no one else has, provide a personal anecdote that brings value to a meeting and further establish your reputation as a value add to any conversation. 

What do you love about Sacramento? 

I have been in Sacramento since 1992. This great city has provided me with so much, both personally and professionally. My career journey in Sacramento started at Mustard Seed School, then moved into working with adults with developmental disabilities as a case manager, that was followed by my joining Perry Communications Group; and finally, for the past 19 years, I have enjoyed a challenging, stimulating and ever-evolving career at VSP. 

On the personal side, I met and married a life-long Sacramentan, raised two now teenagers, lived in nearly all parts of Sacramento, hiked the bluffs above Lake Natoma and ran the California International Marathon eight times. This is home, and I love it. 

Is there anything else you’d like to tell the 40 and under business professionals in our region?

Over the years I have developed my 10+1 Guiding Principles because I thought my work experiences may benefit those just getting started on their own career paths. Here are my guiding principles…

    Don’t get into a rhythm. Stretch yourself.
    Be vocal. Stir it up. Use the “what if we?” Play devil’s advocate.
    (not just a PR pro or comms expert)
    So you’ll be at the table when strategies are formed and decisions are made.
    Push each other through healthy competition based on trust.
    You can’t do #3 if you don’t know what’s going on outside of your circle.
    Use your active listening to ask great questions. 
    Take risks – but make sure they’re smart, agile, educated and strategic.
    Be good at both.
    Spend time on what’s memorable/the game-changers.

Talk and work with the most diverse group possible. It will make the end product stronger.

To connect with Pat, you can reach him on LinkedIn.