The winner of the Women Communicators of Austin Outstanding Austin Communicator Award is Denise Bradley,VP of Communication & Community Affairsat St. David’s HealthCare. Named a Central Texas Woman of Influence by the Austin Business Journal, Denise Bradley oversees the strategic direction and coordination of internal and external communication; media and public relations; community relations; and crisis management.

Read more about her story and gain helpful advice from this Q&A with Denise:

Q: How did you begin your career in the communications field, and what inspired you to move towards a career in healthcare?

A: I grew up in a large family with 7 siblings, so I learned very early that being a clear communicator is essential to being heard. As I got older and considered my career, I didn’t set out to work in the field of communications. My professional journey has taken the path of a winding road. The one constant—I’ve been blessed with rewarding positions that allow me to serve others.

Initially, I focused on academia and education, completing my doctorate degree while I was in my twenties. After that, my husband and I made the decision to relocate our young family to Washington, DC, so that I could continue a career of service, this time for the U.S. government. As Texas natives, this was a big step, but it was pivotal for my career because it led to my position working for First Lady Laura Bush in The White House. I learned so much during that time, and I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity to serve a presidential administration in that capacity and to work for a first lady who I greatly admired.

After many wonderful years in Washington, DC, we decided to come home to raise our family in Texas. It was here that I had the opportunity to direct a nonprofit organization, the Texas State History Museum Foundation, which raises money to support the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Once again, I used communication skills while serving an organization that made me proud and that honored and celebrated the history of our great state.

Most recently, almost eight years ago, I received an unexpected call from a family friend, Jon Foster, then-president and CEO of St. David’s HealthCare. He invited me to apply for a communications position with St. David’s. I’d never worked in healthcare, but the opportunity to flex my communication skills for an organization dedicated to caring for and serving the community was intriguing. I was offered the position, and I haven’t looked back.

Since then, I’ve grown from a team of one to a team of 9 professional communicators who feel like extended family. At St. David’s HealthCare, I have found a professional sweet spot, working in communications for a mission-driven organization that saves lives, brings new lives into the world and positively impacts lives of countless people every single day. I may not be the one delivering care at the patient’s bedside, but I get to support – and tell the remarkable stories of – those who do.

Q: What is the single most important lesson you’ve learned about the field of communications?

A: Communications is a direct extension of your organization’s mission. You may work for an organization with a very worthy mission, but that mission must be communicated clearly to be effective. Additionally, I think how and why you communicate are just as important as what you are trying to impart.

Q: What are three important skills you think are vital for women communicators?

A: First, don’t second-guess yourself. Have confidence in your ideas, and communicate them clearly.

Second, lift one another up. We judge ourselves most harshly, so lift up other women communicators with your words and support.

Third, study the art and science of communication, and master it. Don’t waste your energy on constantly trying to position yourself for what you hope will come next in your career. Instead, stay focused on what you’re doing at that moment, and be great at it. Advancement and opportunities will take care of themselves.