Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means a reason for being. Learn how to apply it to your career journey.

June 3, 2021

After seven years with the San Diego Workforce Partnership, our Chief Programs Officer Andrew Picard is moving on to pursue the next chapter of his career. Here we asked him about his time with the Workforce Partnership and what workforce development has meant to him.

What professional moment or project are you most proud of?

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During my 7+-year tenure at the San Diego Workforce Partnership I have had many “pinch me” moments – those professional moments where I was so proud I couldn’t believe it happened. Some of those pinch me moments include sharing the stage with then Governor Jerry Brown and co-presenting at a summit where we gave speeches on the importance of restorative justice or getting to meet the iconic Sarah Koenig (Serial Podcast Creator) and support her work with us at the Opportunity Summit. Another was when the Department of Labor asked me to lead a national speaking tour as the plenary speaker on our human-centered design work and I shared the stage with thought-leaders in four different states reaching audiences of 50,000+.

But while all of these moments are certainly exciting and noteworthy, when I look back at my time at the Workforce Partnership the moments I am most proud of are with our people and building our teams. People are the foundation of our work and I am most proud of welcoming to our Workforce Partnership family so many talented, diverse, hard-working leaders.

It is not winning a grant, or launching a new program or taking the stage at an event that creates the most impact in the community – it is our people. Helping bring to our team incredible voices and leaders like Brooke Valle, Parina Parikh, April House, Shaina Gross and countless others are what brings me the most pride. I value our unique mix of perspectives, backgrounds and personalities that are the foundation and future for us to achieve our mission.

What do you like best about working in workforce development? 

One word—intersectionality. I’ve worked in the government/non-profit sector my entire career and what’s different about workforce development than my prior roles is the ability to intersect, collaborate and drive impact within a variety of interdependent systems to bring about social justice and greater equity to our region.

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I strongly believe that every single person deserves the same opportunities for prosperity and economic independence. I also know that the intersectionality of our identity can create disadvantages in the labor market—where you were born, gender, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and socio-economic class. Recognizing that not all people are born with the same opportunities and that the varied diversity of our community is a critical starting place for workforce professionals. This is personal for me as an member of the LGBTQ+ community and as someone who was once disconnected from higher education because of my struggles with coming out and mental health. It’s given me a deeper sense of purpose and connection to our work.

And there’s such fantastic diversity in our mission – I may spend one day thinking about program design for disconnected youth, the next day writing a grant focused on homelessness and the next day talking about gender pay gaps in the workforce. This variety and overlapping nature of our work is intellectually stimulating and allows me to lean into different passion areas where I feel we can bring about the most positive changes.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working? Any new hobbies since we started working from home? 

Prior to the pandemic – you would most likely find me spending my free time trying out new baking recipes, at Hillcrest Brewing company competing in bar trivia with my 10-year strong team, taking weekend trips to Palm Springs or out enjoying a local drag show.

Since COVID, my baking hobby has skyrocketed, particularly in baking and decorating cakes. My proudest creation was a two-tier wedding cake I made for a former coworker and close friend. I also became a proud cat dad during quarantine. And much to my partners delight, I started playing Nintendo Switch and his favorite video game of all-time–Zelda Breath of the Wild–which was a wonderful escape during tough times.

I have had an exceptionally fortunate and fulfilling career while at the Workforce Partnership and I am eternally grateful for all my colleagues who I will dearly miss. Our organization created a space where I felt so empowered to bring my authentic self to work and gave me opportunities to grow in ways I never thought possible. I may soon no longer be Chief Program Officer – but I will be a friend to the Workforce Partnership for life.

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