The ELP Kaiwa Series is an initiative launched recently to connect USJC’s emerging leaders with established leaders through meaningful conversations. The goal of these conversations is to foster the next generation of leaders in the Japanese American community through shared insights, skill development and new connections.
For the series’ third event on March 17, we welcomed USJC Board Member Sachi Hamai, the former Chief Executive Officer of Los Angeles County. Ellen Kamei, 2015 ELP alumnus and a councilwoman for the City of Mountain View, served as moderator. Ms. Hamai began the conversation by sharing her early years growing up in the suburbs of Colorado with her Japanese American parents, her undergraduate studies in business and accounting, and her eventual foray into public service in Los Angeles right out of college. She told a story of how she packed up what she could fit into her two-door Honda Civic and headed off to Los Angeles for what was initially supposed to be a five-year commitment she made with her parents. Five years eventually became a career for Ms. Hamai as she took on more responsibilities in the county government in various leadership roles.
During the Q&A discussion with Ms. Kamei, Ms. Hamai answered questions from the audience and shared a couple of pieces of advice. Her first piece of advice was to know one’s value, and how we can contribute as individuals. However, she cautioned, it is not all about ourselves. Learning to work with people other than ourselves is just as valuable. Ms. Hamai encouraged attendees to meet new people, build networks, and cultivate an inner circle that can be leaned on throughout their lives. Lastly, she urged the group not to forget to help those behind them and pull them up as they progress in their professional lives.
True to the spirit of the USJC ELP community, Ms. Hamai said, “It’s not just about us but it’s also about the next generation, and it’s about the next group of leaders that you want to help”, sharing her own experience of investing in the EMT program in her county to uplift the next generation of emergency medical technicians amongst underrepresented youth. In our lives, what seems impossible or difficult at first will become tangible only if we take a leap of faith and lean on others when we cannot do it alone. She concluded by reminding the group, “Don’t be afraid to do things that seem beyond our reach.”
In response to a Q&A question on what she loves about Los Angeles, Ms. Hamai recommended everyone try out the bone marrow gnocchi at Bestia, an Italian restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. In summary, attendees had a lovely time getting to know Ms. Hamai, her collaborative spirit, and her remarkable journey as a public servant and a USJC member.
This event would not have been possible without the support of USJC leadership and staff, ELP advisors, and so many others. Special thanks to Sachi and Ellen for your time and dedication, and Kira Teshima Conlon (ELP ’14) for making this occasion possible.
ELP Steering Committee
Thank you to Ryota Sekine for the above write up!