Monday, March 18, 2013


Digital Pathways | Posted on: Saturday, March 16 2013
By Carol Varney, Executive Director, BAVC

Last week I attended the Civic Center Community Benefit District Mixer and Reception for San Francisco City Supervisor London Breed. When addressing the assembled crowd, Supervisor Breed shared her desire to create jobs for youth in her district, to equip them with the tools they would need to attain jobs in the City, and her hope that this would be possible not just for young people in her district, but for youth citywide.

Supervisor Breed’s words were in my head as I listened, two nights later, to a career panel of six Bay Area-based media professionals sharing their career stories with an audience of BAVC Next Gen students, TechSF participants, city officials and the public. Over the course of two hours we got to hear from panelists who were the first in their families to go the college, many of whom took career paths that were not exactly “direct,” and each of whom gave straight talk based on their journey. Every one of them had a passion, but in the beginning, no real network to help get them to the their destination.

Michelle Channel from Mission Graduates moderated the discussion, and below are 13 take-away tips from Emma at Twilio, Carrie – an investigative news reporter and documentary filmmaker, Judy from IDEO, Jonathan from Zynga, Ryan – an independent audio engineer who works with Overlap and Ghostcat Studios, and CB from Community Bridge Video.

Top 13 Career Tips from the Field

1) Don’t burn bridges! The people sitting next to you right now are the ones who will hire you – and the ones you will hire – in the future.

2) Network. Stay in touch with people. You’ll get more jobs and connections from networking and the people you are talking to and in class with right now than from anywhere else. Don’t just call these people for work, call them to find out how they are doing. Do it because you want to and because it’s smart.

3) Don’t just send emails to the places you want to work – pick up the phone and call. Talk directly to people and ask to meet them in person.

4) Live below your means. Don’t spend all that you have.

5) Follow your passion. Keep a focus on what drives you because it will get you through the hard times.


5a) It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do right now. Pick a direction and be okay with going that way for a while. You can change direction and it’s not going to be the end of the world.

6) Limit how much you will work for free. Volunteering is great but you have to eat. If you are doing a job for no pay, make a deal with yourself about how long you will work for free and when that time is up, ask for a paycheck.

7) Persist. If you know what you want to do, persevere. Not every idea is a good idea and sometimes things will go very, very wrong, but do not give up. Learn from the mistakes you make, pick yourself up and get back to it.

8) Identify mentors. A mentor could be a teacher, a friend, someone in the industry you want to break into – anyone who provides you support and good advice. Along with your passion, mentors will help you to see your way through challenging times.

9) Be a generalist with a specialty. Understand the technology you want to work with, because even if you aren’t a hands-on technical person in the industry, understanding the language and how things work will get you hired and keep you employed. Keep those skills updated.

10) Know if a place you want to work is a good cultural fit: This is where being an intern, going for an informational interview or talking with employees at the place where you think you might want to work will make a difference. Is it the kind of place you can see yourself being happy?

11) Collaboration is key. Being able to work well with other people is extremely important. Learn how to work well on a team and you’ll keep being asked to join successful groups.

12) Show up on time. Be the one who is trustworthy, who works hard, and who people know they can count on.

And the final word from Jonathan Bach at Zynga?

13) “Don’t assume something is out of your reach. Try.”

BAVC supports students from throughout San Francisco and the Bay Area, including residents of Visitacion Valley, North Beach, Ingleside, Balboa Terrace, Bayview, Sunnyside, the Mission, the Fillmore and Civic Center (including 10 students from Supervisor Breed's district), and youth who travel from as far away as Alameda, Daly City, Oakland, and even Suisun City. I hope the panel brought students in the audience one step closer to Supervisor Breed’s goal for youth in the City and the Bay Area to find employment right here. I know that when they had a chance to talk with the panelists in small groups the students asked questions for 20 minutes and I heard several asking for ways to stay in touch.

After the event I walked with panelist Carrie Lozano from San Francisco Public Library to Powell Station, along Market Street. Around Seventh Street we passed a group of five older men standing on the sidewalk chatting, and as we walked by one of them shouted out “Hey! Lady in the glasses! I just heard you talk and it was really inspiring! Thank you!”. Lesson 2 and 3? Check.

From all of us at BAVC, thanks to the panelists, to Mission Graduates, and to the library for hosting us after a last-minute site change! And thanks to the BAVC funders who believe that panels like this and programs like Next Gen and TechSF make a difference in the lives of the young people, and all of us, in the Bay Area community.

Photos by Ian Davis

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