Back in January, I predicted that individual career moves would accelerate civic innovation by promoting collaboration across sectors. Of course, many of the largest problems facing the Bay Area – housing, transportation, urban sustainability – require a cross-sector approach to create lasting positive change. As 2016 winds down, this blog series will check in with members of the Bay Area civic ecosystem who have not only changed jobs in the last year, but also changed the sector in which they work. What does a former non-profit employee bring to a corporate role? What happens when a journalist joins the public sector? How do these shifting roles and perspectives affect the largest civic issues facing the Bay Area – and how might they create innovative solutions? Let’s find out:
— Jessica Weare
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an actor. I mostly pictured myself as a movie star but I would have been ok on TV too… sitcom star or even a soap opera.
What was your very first job?
My official first job was at Suzanne’s Muffins Bakery and Café selling muffins, making lattes…but mostly eating all the leftovers.
What was your previous job?
I spent 12 years working in the nonprofit arts sector in Silicon Valley, most recently with Silicon Valley Creates.
What were your personal and professional goals there?
Feel inspired, advocate for the arts, build a network, and make an impact
What were some of the challenges you faced in that role?
Arts funding is always tough. And making the arts relevant across other sectors.
Why did you decide to change jobs?
It was time. I had reached, what I felt, was my ceiling. The highs weren’t as high as they were before. But the lows were lower. I felt it was time to step to the side and get myself re-energized and allow the organization to find someone ready to continue what we had built.
Did you intentionally change sectors? What were your thoughts and feeling about changing sectors?
Yes, I wanted to experience a corporate environment. But, I also wanted to stay engaged in the arts, and found the best of both worlds solution by joining the board of Silicon Valley Creates and working at Bank of America in philanthropy, where the arts is one of our focus areas.
What is your current role, and what are your personal and professional goals now?
I am the Silicon Valley Market Manager for Bank of America. I am responsible for driving local philanthropy, engaging our employees and driving volunteerism, and helping build a strong local brand.
What are some of the challenges you face in this role?
This is the first time I have ever worked for a large company, so my biggest challenge to date has been trying to understand and navigate the company, understand processes and work on making an impact within existing guidelines and frameworks.
How does your previous work inform your current job?
Working in the nonprofit sector for 12 years and leading our capacity building and philanthropy really helped prepare me for this role.
How has cross-sector collaboration influenced your field of work?
Every conversation helps inform my thinking. Listening and then seeing how different sectors connect together.
What challenges in your field of work are well suited for cross-sector approaches or solutions?
The Bank of America Charitable Foundation focuses on three areas: Workforce Development and Education; Community Development (including environment and the arts); and Basic Needs. All three are very well-suited
Why do you think it is important for different sectors to work together to reach solutions?
Because there is never one solution for any major region-wide issue. It takes resources. It takes shared leadership. It takes research and conversation and action. If solutions were easy, they would be tackled already.
In your previous role what did you identify as the biggest problem facing the Bay Area, and has your thinking changed in your new role?
When you work in a certain focus area such as the arts, that is the lens you come in with everyday. I now have a much broader lens and while I still feel the same way about the arts and the role it should play in our lives, I am also seeing the incredible challenges the Bay Area faces with the cost of living, lack of affordable housing and homelessness. It is all interconnected and it is a crisis.
What civic problems would you love to help solve over the course of your professional life?
I want my children to grow up having access to arts in their schools as I did. I want them to be able to afford to live nearby. And to be prepared to enter this highly competitive workforce and follow their dreams, whatever they are.
Knowing what you know today, what is your dream job?
Well, since I launched my first children’s book in June of 2016 called, “Little Boy Soup,” I have thought about how fun it would be to travel across the country going from library-to-library, bookstore-to-bookstore, reading and writing more books. I think that may be my retirement plan but a dream job for sure. I think I am doing my dream job. Leveraging and investing resources to make the community a better place. Helping people find their passions and get involved. This is it. I think I’m doing it!
Josh Russell is Bank of America’s Enterprise Business and Community Engagement (EBCE) Market Manager for the Silicon Valley market. Josh is responsible for leading nonprofit grant and sponsorships, driving revenue growth, brand favorability, and executing Bank of America’s corporate social responsibility strategy in the market. He also oversees employee engagement such as; Bank of America Community Volunteers, Leader Development Program (LDP) and Employee Networks.
Josh joined Bank of America in one year ago after a 12-year career working in the nonprofit arts sector in Silicon Valley. Josh was responsible for developing and driving capacity building including grants to the region’s nonprofit arts organizations and individual artists. He serves on the board of SV Creates, the Silicon Valley Chamber Foundation, and Silicon Valley Reads.
Josh is a proud father of two and launched his first children’s book on June 9, 2016, called Little Boy Soup – which was featured as a “Top New Release” in Children’s Personal Hygiene books on Amazon.