A Day With… Jesus “Chuy” Uranga

We’re going behind the scenes with communications professionals across the APAC region, learning more about their diverse roles, what they love most about their jobs, and how they got there in the first place. In the tenth part of the series, we sat down with Jesus Chuy Uranga, Public Affairs Officer at the United States Navy.
Could you describe your role in your current organization?

I’m a Public Affairs Officer in the United States Navy. PAOs, as we are called, are the communications professionals responsible for advising senior leaders and the organization on all aspects of communications. As a PAO, I am an official spokesperson for the Navy, interacting with the media and the public. It’s a multifaceted role encompassing crisis communications, public outreach efforts, crafting communications plans for military operations, generating content for social media, and occasionally assisting commanders in preparing remarks presented before Congress. I may have missed a few things here, but as I mentioned, all things are communications-related.

Typically, our assignments, known as “tours,” extend for two to three years. My tours have included deploying on two different aircraft carriers throughout my career. I participated in a humanitarian disaster relief mission when Typhoon Yolanda (Typhoon Haiyan) struck the Philippines. I’ve worked at the Pentagon for the Navy Chief of Information, I was the media officer for Naval Special Warfare, and currently, I’m the officer in charge of the Navy Public Affairs Support Element in Yokosuka, Japan.

Tell us what a ‘day in the life of a communications professional’ looks like for you. 

In my current position, I’m responsible for a small command made up mainly of Mass Communications Specialists, the enlisted communications professionals in our organization. In this region, these Sailors deploy on various ships and are entrusted with documenting military operations (specifically Navy operations but on occasion will support other military branches) and serving as the communications department for that vessel. My responsibility is to ensure that those Sailors have the equipment they need, are trained and proficient in using their equipment, and are prepared to deploy at a moment’s notice. Admittedly, this is only possible with my staff’s dedication and hard work.

What’s the best part of your job?

In my organization, I am not only a communications professional but also a commissioned officer; it is my duty to lead others. As a leader, the absolute best part of my job is empowering others to grow and develop into leaders themselves and witness their transformation into experienced and sought-after communications professionals.

How did you enter the communications industry? (i.e., university study, internships, worked your way into communications, another route?)

I often tell people that I fell into this line of work. I never intended to work in the communications industry. In my mind, I was going to be a world-renowned graphic artist, which, looking back now, is also a communications profession, but I was going to be more of an artist than commercial. Then, on September 11, 2001, after two commercial planes flew into the World Trade Center in New York, my world changed. I didn’t immediately join the military, but I wanted to do something like many in my country then. Given my background and training, once I finally approached a military recruiter, a job in communications was the best fit. I’ve been here ever since.

What’s the best piece of communications advice you’ve been given?

Be honest, be sincere, and “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer. We’ve probably all known one or two people who have misspoken or given inaccurate information in a misguided attempt to “help out” the organization. Early in my career, several people stressed the need to be accurate, and they would often say it’s okay not to know; obviously, one needs to rectify a lack of knowledge with haste, but never sacrifice your integrity for a quick and possibly inaccurate answer.

What’s your superpower as a communications professional?

I wouldn’t call it a superpower, but if I had one – it’s finding the superpower in others. I once worked for a CEO whose philosophy was that a good leader wasn’t the smartest person in the room but that good leaders needed to have the ability to recognize who on their staff was the smartest during any given situation. I look for those people on every team I have been entrusted to lead, and I believe I have done well in finding them.

Do you have a favourite quote that inspires you?

I’ve always loved the following quote by Jim Henson, “When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. I hope to leave the world a little better for having been there.” While I will never come close to reaching the recognition of the creator of the Muppets, I do hope to make a difference in my small sphere of influence, positively.

What do you like about being a communications professional in Asia?

Asia is such a diverse region with many languages, cultures, and a deep and rich history. It can be difficult for someone like myself, who grew up on the other side of the world, to truly appreciate and grasp how vast and complex it is here. I feel fortunate as a professional communicator to have had the opportunity to live and work in this region. It has allowed me to learn and grow as a person and a communications professional.