What is your elevator pitch when someone asks, “What do you do for a living?”
I oversee the City of San Francisco’s community development programs. That means doing my best to see that San Franciscans who are struggling with all the issues that accompany poverty are provided with services and support that would allow them to move towards economic self-sufficiency in a dignified and empowering way.
Describe the path that led you to this career.
I took a fairly indirect pathway and never really imagined I’d be where I am now. I was an English teacher in China, a corporate attorney, a patient’s rights advocate, a discrimination investigator, a director of a youth center, director of San Francisco’s LGBT Community Center, director of a civil rights group in Chinatown, and finally ended up here. Each job led to the next job, but not in a way that I could ever have predicted at the beginning.
What are the elements of a successful workplace?
For me the most important element is unquestionably the quality of the people with whom you work. Without a good team around you, your best efforts will never reach fruition.
What is the one piece of technology you cannot live without?
It’s unoriginal, but I’d have to say my iPhone. For someone that didn’t have a cell phone until a few years ago and was still using paper calendars until last year, I’ll admit I finally have turned the corner and rely probably too much on that phone. I worry that smart phones are making their users less smart sometimes…
What are you reading?
Lost Languages: the Enigma of the World’s Undeciphered Scripts; Swann’s Way; Aeschylus’ Agamemnon; and (intermittently) the Game of Thrones novels.
If you could, what advice would you give your 20-something self?
Don’t worry so much about planning out your future, because it’s just impossible to predict where life will take you. Just enjoy life as you go through it.
If you could do anything and know you couldn’t fail, what would you do?
I’d be an astronaut and convince NASA to send people to the moon again.
At Double Forte’s San Francisco office, the conference rooms are named Rock and Roll, Motown, Hip Hop, Mambo, Jazz and Disco. Which name best describes you and why?
I guess I’d have to say Rock and Roll, although my working knowledge of rock really ended in the mid-’80s. I’m pretty good from the Everly Brothers up through the British new wave, but it ends there.
What’s in your Netflix queue?
BBC’s great version of Sherlock; We Were Here, the documentary about the AIDS crisis as it affected San Francisco in the ’80s; and Troll Hunter, an obscure Norwegian pseudo-documentary about giant trolls really living in Norway.