The PLNU alum’s career trajectory is a lesson in how to succeed while staying true to your values and empowering others.
Saying yes to opportunities that scare you.
Closeness to family and friends.
Perseverance and hard work.
These are some of the ingredients necessary to thrive in any career, but were of particular importance to PLNU alumnus and corporate communications professional Christina Hastings (‘05).
Over the course of the past 18 years, Hastings has navigated through two major career shifts, learning some important lessons along the way about the value of learning, hard work and staying faithful to your values.
Hastings’ story is one that inspires in more ways than one. Hailing from a single-parent household, she took the values placed in her by her family and used them as a foundation to guide her into a thriving corporate communications career.
Home is where the heart is
Hastings was born into a single-parent household in Southern California between Long Beach and Orange County.
Despite growing up with a single parent, she was always surrounded and supported by her large African-American family. She is one of eleven grandchildren.
In Hastings’ family, unity and closeness was of great importance, particularly during special events like birthdays, celebrations and holidays.
“I’ve never had an Easter or Thanksgiving where I wasn’t present in the midst of my cousins,” she said.
Growing up, Hastings was surrounded by strong women but also had several positive male role models.
“I look at my grandpa, I look at my uncle, and they were raised by strong women, but I was also raised by kind men,” she said.
Hastings explained that she and her sister were frequently involved in extracurricular activities. In high school, Hastings participated in the marching band. She was an assistant drum major, and ended up playing the clarinet for 13 years.
“My mom made sure that we were always doing something,” Hastings said. “Always active, always shaping us to become as multifaceted as possible.”
Her family is so close that except for Hastings, none have left the city she grew up in. Now residing in San Diego, Hastings is the family member that lives the farthest away from home.
“I am a whole whopping 2 hours south of my family,” she said with laughter.
A time of shaping and learning
It makes sense then that when it came time to choose a college to go to, Hastings didn’t want to travel too far.
“When selecting a college, It was important for me to be able to get back home and stay close to family,” she said.
She began looking at colleges and universities in San Diego and Los Angeles.
In addition to wanting to attend a university close to home, Hastings also wanted a community that would share in her values.
“When I toured colleges, it was important for me to make sure I’d be surrounded with valued and like-minded people, so I only looked at Christian colleges.”
Eventually she decided on PLNU. She explained that PLNU’s welcoming environment, sense of purpose, and academic rigor were all important factors to her.
“There was a little bit of a different spark at PLNU for me,” she said. “I felt like a student, not an ID number. There was a balance between getting the job done and the authenticity that really landed with me,” she said.
Hastings enrolled in 2001. Initially, she went in as a liberal arts major with a focus on early education, wanting to be an elementary school principal.
However, she eventually realized that education wasn’t her calling. Instead, Hastings felt called to turn her speaking and communication skills into meaningful work.
“My calling was to leverage my mouthpiece,” she said.
After graduating in 2005, Hastings began venturing into the first chapter of her career in the field of talent acquisition.
From intern to industry-shaper
During college, Hastings had interned for an HR department where she learned the art of recruiting.
“I was like, ‘I get to talk to people all day long about this job, and I don’t have to actually do the job?’” she said. “I could do that.”
She started out as an intern representative at internship fairs inviting people to apply for internships.
“Then it transitioned into a career in talent acquisition,” she said. “I started out as this little gangly intern learning the skill sets of mastering the art of communication, of talking, of reading people and was able to translate that into helping create and set pathways for people in their careers.”
She started out working with professionals in middle management who were looking to transition into a new career or make an industry transition. Eventually, she elevated her career to recruiting for executives only.
“I started out as this little gangly intern learning the skill sets of mastering the art of communication, of talking, of reading people and was able to translate that into helping create and set pathways for people in their careers.”
“Whether it was for a Chief Financial Officer coming to a new organization or a new Chief Human Resources officer, I was able to kind of cultivate those business relationships and my network in San Diego,” she said.
She worked for over 10 years in talent acquisition. At the end of those 10+ years, not only had she honed her communication skills and built a robust network in San Diego, she had also built an entire department from scratch, overseeing 30 recruiters.
Saying yes, afraid
The story of how Hastings transitioned from talent acquisition to corporate communications is one marked by perseverance and courage.
She had been working for a for-profit education company at the time. This company had been going through some public challenges which were beginning to affect her recruiting work.
She also began to notice that information was not flowing as smoothly as it could to the workforce. Employees were finding out about the latest news about the company through Google faster than through the company itself.
As someone who is very passionate about information and making sure people know what they need to know, Hastings had already been sending out regular newsletters to her team of 30 recruiters in the talent acquisition department she had helped build.
In seeking a solution to wider communication issues at the company, Hastings spoke to a mentoring executive asking how to best get information out to employees. Instead, the superior suggested she start making a newsletter for the entire company rather than just her department. He then offered her an opportunity to build a brand new corporate communications department at the company.
Even though Hastings held a communication degree, it had been years since she had taken those classes, and she wasn’t quite sure what corporate communications specifically entailed.
Despite some fears, she said yes to the challenge.
“It kind of really put me on a completely different trajectory and it was scary,” she said. “It was new and unknown.”
I had to be open to failing fast, picking myself back up and admitting what I knew and didn’t know, while leaning into what people needed to know.”
Hastings went from managing a team of 30 to becoming one member of a two-person team in the brand new corporate communications department she was set to build.
In the beginning, Hastings taught herself much of what it took to do her job. She began by asking herself what people needed to know, seeking out that information and incorporating it into the materials she’d release.
The good thing is that she had already established a strong network within the organization and had built credibility due to her tenure in talent acquisition.
“I was able to lean into my network within the organization and start collecting and shaping an employee communications department,” she said.
The big transition brought with it some challenges.
“It was scary and a little lonely,” she said. “I had to learn a completely different skill set. I had to be open to failing fast, picking myself back up and admitting what I knew and didn’t know, while leaning into what people needed to know.”
But throughout this transition, Hastings was able to not only lean on her family but also lean on the lessons her mother taught her.
“Our family [was] raised on the four P’s, which stand for passion, perseverance, productivity and prayer,” she said.
Hastings was able to lean into those four pillars so that when moments of doubt or imposter’s syndrome would rise up, she could use those lessons to help get her through.
Through it all she was comforted by the support from her family and friends when navigating a new position.
“I could let my shoulders down in front of my family,” she said. “I could let my shoulders down in front of my mom, I could let my shoulders down in front of my friends.”
Doing work that matters
Today, Christina works as Associate Director for Corporate Communications for Illumina.
Illumina is a biotechnology research company based in San Diego, California.
According to their website, Illumina’s mission is to “improve human health by unlocking the power of the genome.”
When searching for a new company to work for, Hastings says that she looked for companies that aligned with her values and had a global presence.
Illumina ended up being the perfect fit.
She found Illumina in 2020 as national awareness around race and social justice began to rise in the midst of George Floyd’s murder.
One of the things that attracted Hastings to Illumina was the company’s commitment to clear and purposeful communication around these issues. They were clear about what their values were in regards to race and social justice, admitting their faults and sharing their plans to improve.
“I saw all that their organization was posting around George Floyd, around social unrest,” she said. “And so it was important for me to see the voice of the organization publicly. I was like, ‘I like that.’ That’s something where I can turn around and be like, yes, that’s an organization that is living out their values in real time.”
She accepted a position in corporate communications at the company and made another big transition in her career.
“I went from a 3000-person organization to a 10,000-person organization,” she said. “It was much bigger, much more space and with a reach to 17 countries.”
The opportunity brought with it similar types of challenges as the previous transition.
“It was the same type of scary (as the last one) just on a bigger scale,” she said. “I didn’t know how to say the word genomics. I didn’t know what DNA sequencing was. So I had to kind of reshape myself. I had to get to know the organization.”
She began making connections and trying to get to know people. Because she started working during the COVID-19 pandemic, she could only do that through virtual meetings.
“I had to really put myself out there and meet people one Zoom call at a time,” she said. “But it was important for me because I knew when I had started that employee communications role 10 years ago with just two people, I had learned what I needed to be successful, so that’s what I did.”
Hastings began learning more about STEM education and the importance of DNA sequencing especially as it pertains to prenatal testing, cancer research, oncology advancements or ancestry data.
“Over my three years here, I’ve gotten to be able to see the importance of being able to have your full genome sequencing,” she said.
Through it all, Hastings realized how important it was for her to work for a company with a worthy cause.
“One thing that I was reminded of is the importance of value,” she said. “And what I valued was the ability to help others, helping others through the power of education, helping others through the power of health. And so that was able to translate from one industry to the next.”
A beacon of light for women
Throughout the years, Hastings has grown cognizant of her position as a woman in corporate America and the challenges that may come as a result.
When it comes to those challenges, she chooses to face them head on.
In previous workplaces, she founded women’s employee resource groups. This was a way to create support for women in the workplace and discuss how to make it more inclusive for women. In these groups, Hastings organized book club activities and dinners in an effort to create community for women of all races and backgrounds. One the groups grew to include over 200 women!
“That type of shift in mentality of workplace culture was very important. We wanted to create space for the full human to show up, let alone the family to show up in the workplace.”
“We would discuss everything from little things such as expectant mother parking, to building nursing rooms, to the ability to say ‘hey, I’m going to attend my son’s football game or my daughter’s recital, I’ll be back online later,’ she said. “That type of shift in mentality of workplace culture was very important. We wanted to create space for the full human to show up, let alone the family to show up in the workplace.”
Over time Hastings has also come to reflect on her position as a Black woman in corporate America.
“As I’ve gotten older, it’s become more and more apparent how much work there is still to do within the BIPOC community in the workplace,” she said. “I still can sometimes count how many people of color are in a conference room or are on campus, but yet I still know now that I’ve got a place and a voice and a responsibility to open those doors and open those barriers.”
Part of the work she does to open those doors is to say yes to certain speaking engagements so that black women are represented there or attend internship or career fairs so students of color can see someone that looks like them.
“It’s important for me to show up in other places because I can now understand the importance of representation because representation matters,” she said.
Hastings believes in the importance of representation but she also stresses how important it is for one to pour into one’s community, no matter what that community is.
“It’s my responsibility to contribute to my community,” she said. “I would encourage people to show up for their community, stand by their community, stand with their community.”
“Lean into your foundation. Lean into your network. Lean into your community. Lean into your people.”
When thinking about advice she would like to share with women who would like to go into the corporate world, Hastings leaves some words of wisdom. Present in these words is not only an encouragement to persevere but also an exhortation to keep those you love close.
“I would say the most important thing is the ability to have faith in the transition, ability to have faith in your skill set, and ability to have faith in your foundation,” she said. “Whichever way your foundation may end up being, whether it’s like me, and you came from a single mother household. Whether it is you were raised with all the resources available to you. Lean into your foundation. Lean into your network. Lean into your community. Lean into your people.
“And if you don’t have that, create that first. Because if I lose my job tomorrow, if I win the lottery tomorrow, I know that I’m still going to have this network of people to lean back into regardless.”