There’s no place like Pittsburgh

“We live in an imperfect world that doesn’t accept imperfect people”

-my co-worker quoting someone else


As I prepare for my YAV year in South Korea, I first must reflect on what I have learned since graduating college. This past year I was a PULSE Fellow, working at the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board (TRWIB) doing research and data retrieval/analysis.  I really enjoyed my experience and loved the city of Pittsburgh.  But I struggled at times.  In college, everything was structured.  I knew when assignments were due and how long it takes to complete them.  I could plan everything out.  It was really nice. But not always true in the real world.  I am very thankful that I got to serve in Pittsburgh and especially at the TRWIB. Here some key things I learned about work life and myself:

  1. Don’t have too many expectations for yourself. You get frustrated real quickly if you expect too much.
  2. Clear, consistent communication is important. Didn’t think I’d ever have trouble with this one.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes I got in my head I would just figure out the answer to a problem. But when more tasks arise unexpectedly, it’s better to ask how to do the task you’re working on and just get it done. Pride and ego don’t get results. They lead to frustration. Further, you may think you’re wasting other people’s time by asking them for help. But you’re usually not.
  4. Prepare for the unexpected. Things will come up that you can never foresee.  Be ready to roll with the punches.

And here are some things I learned about economic development and the non-profit world:

  1. Clear, consistent communication is important. (It’s true!) People working on the ground need to communicate the issues and challenges they encounter to the higher ups, who make the big decisions. Without proper communication, decisions are made that will not have the intended positive impact on the community.
  2. Money matters. I already knew this, but the bidding process for grants and funding can create a competitive non-profit system. The loser in this competitive system is often the community, which does not receive the best services or is not consulted about what they actually need before spending decisions are made.
  3. Change takes time. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight. But it also doesn’t occur over a year. Real change in a community starts by building strong relationships.
  4. Economic development problems and social justice issues are all tied to history. Racism, sexism, and religious intolerance exist because of historical events/concepts that shaped societal attitudes. Then laws/processes were put into place that reflected those attitudes, even if not obviously stated. The result is a system in which the haves and have nots of society are partially pre-determined. It doesn’t matter if the issue is housing, transportation, or education.   Finally, “them vs us” attitudes will not lead to any positive change.

This is from one experience in one city in the US. I’m excited to see how my work in Korea will add to or re-shape this list.

This blog will be a space where I ponder my world view, current events, and yes, share some cool photos.  I hope this blog  will be thought provoking and encourages discussion.  Feel free to comment!

Thank you to everyone who is making my experience possible. And to those who have supported me throughout my life.

Now let the adventures (and the blogging) begin!


3 thoughts on “There’s no place like Pittsburgh

  1. Simon the man!!!!

    It was great getting to know you and I know that you will do well and I look forward to reading more of your Blogs.


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