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Conversations with the Inspiring Rebecca Smith

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rebecca Smith.

Rebecca, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My childhood Halloween costume was dressing as a gypsy. A while ago, I studied gypsy flamenco culture by visiting Sevilla, Spain. While I experienced joy in their gatherings, there was also an underlying melancholy that resonated with me. Life is hard, and yet, we dance. Gypsies are outsiders. They take risks. They’re restless. I moved 14 times before turning 17 and landing in San Diego.

Once here, I thought, “I am never leaving this city.” However, I do move around in my career. I’ve worked as a Career Coach for students at High Tech High and engineers at Qualcomm. I was Vice President at San Diego Workforce Partnership and Senior Recruiter at Eastridge Workforce Solutions. I hosted a Public Broadcasting Service series, “Career Advantage,” in the Bay Area.

A mentor recently said, “Rebecca, your career reminds me of all your moving around, when you were growing up.” Like the gypsies, I don’t always get to be comfortable where I end up, but these transitions keep me resilient as a professional.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Women who look like me, who were raised like me, don’t always end up in leadership roles. When I completed graduate school at the University of San Diego, a professor said, “You’re a woman, so you have to work hard. You’re a young woman, so you have to work twice as hard. You’re a young woman of color, so you have to work three times as hard.” I rounded up and worked five times as hard. I realize I was given the opportunity to make a greater impact, not that I was handed a raw deal. I’m an optimist.

My advice for young women? Discover and affirm your purpose. Are you a communicator, an investigator, a healer, a designer, a stylist, a builder, an organizer? I’m not referring to job titles. Are you into travel, literacy, cybersecurity, wellness, environmental policy, modern art, entrepreneurship? Find mentors – even sponsors – who already live out that purpose. Sponsors do more than teach you about networking; they make relevant calls on your behalf to get you through the right doors to decision makers.

What change do you want to be in this world?
I believe my purpose is to make San Diego a better place to live, work, play, learn, and visit.

Last year, I participated in a leadership conference at a sleek downtown hotel, but stepping out of the Uber, I walked by seven homeless men, sprawled on the sidewalk. That day, while studying leadership concepts was important, I was so aware that I need to be a leader who is concerned that “the rising tide lifts all boats.”

We have work to do to make life better for everyone who calls San Diego “home.”

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into your business story. Tell us more about the business.
As a career coach, I believe people should have meaningful and sustainable work.

We spend more time at work than hanging out with our families, learning, exploring, taking care of our health and the environment, serving our communities. Our work should represent our purpose. As an undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego, my favorite professors were journalists and sociologists. I started out writing features for campus publications and local magazines. I was drawn to people who enjoyed their work, who embraced their craft, their calling, through circuitous journeys, often with failures.

I could tell their stories as a writer – and as a career coach, I could partner with people to transform their stories, too. “Rewriting the narrative,” indeed.

When we work to our purpose, we create the capacity to be better parents, spouses, neighbors, voters, volunteers, friends.

Since 2011, I have served as a board member at the United Way of San Diego County. I’m proud to partner with regional employers to invest in making sure that children in all neighborhoods succeed in reading and math. I was appointed as an Art Commissioner with the City of San Diego in 2012. These public funds go to nonprofit organizations to inspire audiences who don’t usually get involved in the arts, such as veterans, prisoners, refugees. Successful cultural initiatives contribute to San Diego’s reputation for innovation and design.

While my professional trajectory and community engagement are important, the educator role I cherish most is parenting. My favorite accomplishment is teaching my son, Ezra, how to ride a bicycle, running up and down our street in Mission Hills together, until I let go, and he could fly on his own. Ezra is now at the Naval Academy, and I’m beyond proud!

It would be great to hear about any apps, books, podcasts or other resources that you’ve used and would recommend to others.
Essential resources? Real conversation over local coffee in my neighborhood. I can walk to Bread & Cie, Kettle & Stone, and Caffe Italia. My friends know I’m a fan of handwritten notes, too.

Contact Info:

  • Email: rebecca.smith.community@gmail.com


Image Credit:

Parallel 33 Photography

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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