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December 10, 2014

Paul Roben is the Senior Director at the Office of Technology Development and the Director of Business Development at the Salk Institute. He is also a member of SDWP’s Workforce Investment Board. Here he shares why he joined the WIB and the workforce issues he is most passionate about.

SDWP: What motivated you to join the WIB?

Roben: San Diego is an incredible place to work, particularly in the high-tech/life sciences fields. This region has given me opportunities in my career that would be difficult to envision in many other places in the world. This is why, although I am from Ireland, I have made my home here. We have a unique ecosystem here, and the economy of the region is driven by the people who work in it. It is extremely important that everyone be given a chance to take advantage of the opportunities that San Diego offers so that we continue to have a strong and diverse workforce and the economy continues to support rewarding careers. When I was approached by Rebecca Aguilera-Gardiner about the possibility of joining the WIB, I immediately said yes as a way to contribute to workforce development and as a way to give something back after all of the opportunities that I have been lucky enough to avail of here in San Diego.

SDWP: What issues are you most passionate about as they relate to workforce development?

Roben: San Diego is a hotbed of science and technology. We have some of the world’s best research capabilities in our universities and research institutes. We also have some of the world’s most innovative companies in a variety of sectors, such as biotechnology, clean tech and high-tech. This is all driven by one of the most entrepreneurial workforces in existence. In order to ensure that this ecosystem continues to be successful, and continues to contribute to the betterment of society, we need to encourage smart, motivated, ambitious people from diverse backgrounds to consider the rewarding careers that are offered in these areas. I have always been interested in ways to present people with opportunities and show them the possibilities for stimulating and rewarding careers in these fields. I have participated in a variety of initiatives, from introducing science to kids in schools, teaching basic science courses to adults in community colleges, and bringing the public through the research institutions in San Diego. I think SDWP and my participation on the WIB and programs such as CONNECT2Careers present opportunities to connect people with the amazing entrepreneurial environment we have here in San Diego.

SDWP: Tell a brief story about a person, event or project that you were involved with that underscored your passion for these issues. 

Roben: While still in high school, I participated in a program where local business owners came to the school and interviewed us for hypothetical jobs. My interview was horrible, as was the feedback! A few weeks later, I went to the business owner’s store (a pharmacy) to talk about the interview. He spent a lot of time with me to get my résumé in shape and hone my interviewing skills—actually interviewing me again a few times. The time he spent with me set me on the right course and I have used the lessons I learned from that experience over and over again throughout the course of my career. This taught me the value of the types of programs that are supported by SDWP, and I am honored to be able to contribute in some small way to that.

In another project, I have had the pleasure to participate in Salk High School Science days, where I show high school students around the labs and describe some of the research we do here and the benefits of that research for people. It is very rewarding to see students realize that science is not just the domain of geeks, but it can be very cool and can have a huge impact in terms of helping real people in society. It is that spark of interest in science that can open up whole new possibilities in terms of the careers that these students consider getting into.

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