Q: You’ve held a variety of different professional positions throughout your career. What would you say they all have
A: I started out in finance after business school, and then worked for Hewlett Packard doing investor relations. I really took to that job and found that I was a natural at processing and absorbing the strategy and information and being able to translate all of that information to help investors to understand the value of the company. All of my professional jobs since that time, and in a variety of environments, have been around relationship building, processing and communicating critical information, as well as solving problems.
Q: You currently work with a close friend and fellow
College Prep graduate. Tell us more about that.
A: I work with Alan Sandler ’81 at Sandler Partners in Los Angeles. I took a risk moving down there from Northern California, but I knew I needed a change from Silicon Valley, and with my kids graduated from college, it was a good time to make that change. We’re a telecom broker and I’m a partner advocate for all of our sales agents and help them resolve any issues with the providers/carriers we work with. Essentially, I problem solve issues every day. Like my prior professional experiences, this role fits my sweet spot of processing a lot of information and data quickly and being able to problem solve to get people aligned on the best course of action. In addition to what I do on a day to day basis, this job has also met many of my passions in life. For example, I also have a very strong passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Alan has created an incredible culture and diverse workforce here and it’s one of the most diverse workplaces I have been in. As a result, it is also the most comfortable I’ve ever felt in any professional role I’ve had and I’ve been able to do the best work of my life. Theoretically we hear all the time how diversity brings new ideas and the ability to get creative because you have a diverse group of thinkers and the freedom to voice your ideas without concern of judgement.
Q: Where do you feel you’ve taken other risks in your life?
A: My philosophy about risk-taking has always been to ask, “Will I learn something from this?” When I look at transitions or opportunities, I’ve tried to link together the vision I had for balancing both what I wanted to do professionally with what I prioritized in terms of my family life and belief system, hence my passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Shortly after I got married and we had our first child, I took a big risk and stepped back from my own career objectives to stay home with our kids. As a Black father I feel so fortunate to have had that opportunity to spend so much time with them and help them navigate life as Black kids in a very predominately white community. How this relates to taking risks in life was that my wife and I thought that once we had kids, we move back to the East Bay into a more diverse community. As time went on, we decided to take a chance staying where we were and having faith that by keeping engaged every day with my own experiences and helping the kids navigate theirs, we would allow them grow and mature in a very healthy and productive way. And it worked out really well. They were able to go to one of the most diverse public high schools on the Peninsula (Sequoia High School) and absolutely blossomed. Both ended up going to great and diverse universities, Michigan and Georgetown.
Q: You mentioned your passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Where else do you apply that passion in your life?
A: The single thing that inspires me most is helping people excel and providing them with support, inspiration, and training whether it’s on a soccer field, basketball court, tennis court, or in the office. I love working with young people to help them grow professionally, especially people of color. During my time in Silicon Valley, I was in finance, banking and technology, and often found myself as one of only a few Blacks in these environments. My thought process was that I wanted to help others find their best selves. I’ve done a lot of mentoring and teaching at both the middle school and high school levels, especially life skills for kids of color who are in the lower demographics, and for the most part, don’t have the opportunity to visualize their life path and feel empowered, regardless of their current situation. I feel I was given a gift of having that type of support from my family and CPS growing up and I have always envisioned helping others recognize their gifts and giving them the best opportunity to succeed and believe in themselves.
Q: How do you help these students visualize their future?
A: I worked at Sequoia High School in Redwood City where they had a lot of kids who were first generation graduates of high school as well as college. One exercise I always did with them was to have them make do a life map collage. I would say, “Where do you want to be in five years or 10 years?” We would start with that and cut out images from magazines, etc. of what that looked like. If they wanted to be an auto mechanic or go into fashion, they would collage what they needed to do at each step through the process to give them the opportunity to achieve their goal in 5 or 10 years. The idea was to create a life map and for them to understand the steps to successfully achieve their vision/dream. It was a powerful exercise for all us, and to see them visualize their dream as a possibility was so rewarding. I still keep in contact with many of these students after many years.
Q: Looking back at your time at College Prep, what teachers stand out for you?
A: Nancy Newman, who taught algebra and biology back in the 70s and early 80s, was not only an inspiration for me, but she represented what CPS was all about—teachers taking a special interest in their students and creating an environment that would allow each of us to be most successful. She was able to look at her individual students and take a different approach to teaching and testing depending on what they needed. For me, I would have some anxiety about taking tests in class, so she had me come after school to take my tests. I felt that she really wanted me to succeed. That’s helped me as a mentor in my own life. Every time I’ve come across a kid that has a different path or a different skill, I say, “Maybe you’re not the same as other kids, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.”
Q: What advice would you give to current students at College Prep?
A: My advice is to try to visualize and understand your vision for yourself. Don’t get caught up with whether it’s at Harvard or Stanford, those may be someone else’s goals or dreams. Look at yourself and understand what your priorities are, not others. Maybe you want a campus that’s smaller, or in a different state, and that’s okay as long as you believe in yourself and you’re willing to work hard. The benefit of visualizing your life map is that you then feel ownership of it, so when you do come to a crossroad or face a challenge, you won’t fall into that trap of comparing yourself to others or making decisions that are not in your best interest. You will own it and as result, you will develop that self-confidence and belief in yourself to meet each challenge and succeed based on your dream.