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Symone Sanders on the power of effective communication in the office

June 24, 2021, 5:33 PM UTC

Symone Sanders has been breaking barriers throughout her career. 

At age 25, she served as national press secretary for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ monumental 2016 presidential campaign, the youngest press secretary for a presidential candidate on record. After a brief interlude as a political commentator for CNN, she joined President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign as a senior adviser. She now serves as chief spokesperson and senior adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris.

Harris, like Sanders, is also making history, serving as the first female, Black, and South Asian Vice President in U.S. history. 

“Every single day in my job we are making history,” Sanders said on Wednesday at Fortune’s virtual Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit.

Sanders noted that Harris is the type of boss who understands that there has to be some sort of work/life balance, even in the West Wing. Just after Sanders got engaged this year, she was scheduled for a flight on official business, but Harris called her and told her to take the day off. 

Harris, she said, is also “always great about giving advice.” 

One piece of wisdom the Vice President wants to impart to young women? Just focus on what’s in front of you, and don’t worry about what comes next, Sanders said. “Women are often made to feel like they have to be focused on the next thing, jumping and jumping,” she said. The VP says if you focus on the task at hand and do it well, “the next thing will come to you” based on your performance. 

Sanders said that Harris is also quick to point her staff toward the big picture, so they don’t lose sight of who they’re working for and why they’re doing what they do. “She doesn’t allow us to get trapped in our bubble as professional politicos,” Sanders added. 

As for Sanders’ personal workplace advice, she said it’s important for young women to always have an ally in the office. Ahead of meetings, she likes to run her ideas past a coworker to make sure that person has her back in the conference room and can affirm her points publicly. 

Before she presents ideas in meetings, Sanders said she thinks about her message, her audience, and how to tailor her communications to reach them.

Much like Harris, Sanders understands that sometimes it’s important to see the forest instead of the trees.

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