Meet the Millennial Turning Young People onto Politics
The results of the 2016 presidential election taught us plenty of hard lessons. One of the most important ones? We can’t wait for others to make change; we’ve got to start from the ground up ourselves. This is precisely why Run for Something exists, and why it’s so awesome. The political action committee (or PAC) recruits and supports progressive millennials—especially women and people of color—who are interested in running for mayor, city council, and other local offices. Hillary Clinton’s a fan, and so are we. One of the rad women leading the movement is Seisei Tatebe-Goddu, whose winding career path took her from a spontaneous Clinton campaign gig to Run for Something’s Chief Operating Officer. See how she got there below...then go out and run for something.
What were you like as a teen?
If I had to describe myself as a teen, I'd say: awkward, a bit of a lone wolf, and insecure about social status. Asking others, they'd say: fierce, fearless, never backed down from anyone or anything, made no apologies for not taking anyone's shit. Go figure.
As an adult, what do you wish you could tell your teenage self now?
You know that thing you're worried about right now? You're not even going to remember it in two years. And the faster you learn how to laugh at yourself, the better off you'll be.
How exactly did you get to where you are now, professionally?
I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was 7, then switched to environmental policy and international relations in college. After graduating, I sailed on a tall ship with the Sea Education Association and did stints in environmental consulting and healthcare policy before ending up in a one-year fellowship in conflict resolution.
After that, I founded a consulting group to help organizations achieve greater social impact. I moved to Jordan where I began working with my first major client. At that time, the economy in the U.S. and Europe crashed, but the Middle East was somewhat buffered and I was, at a very young age, in demand and working with the heads of big companies and NGOs. I stayed for four years and built a company and a team. I was getting tired and needed a change—being a single Asian woman building a company in that region is not easy—so I decided to go back to the U.S. to do my master's degree at Columbia.
Fast-forward to 2016. I was fired from a *terrible* job, and within 72 hours I was on a plane down to Raleigh to work for Hillary and the NC Coordinated Campaign. I had been planning to quit the other job in December, but that would have been too late for the campaign—the timing was actually perfect. Sometimes the universe knows it needs to kick you in the butt because you're doing the wrong thing. That network led to my current job at RFS, where I really couldn't be happier. We have an incredibly talented team that works well together and is changing the face (literally) of Democratic politics in the United States.
What's one thing you wish had known then that you know now about having a career?
You're living your life for you, not for anyone else. It's OK (to a point) to go with the flow or to react to the opportunities that bubble to the surface; you have to learn to be flexible and to respond quickly. But eventually you're going to have to make a decision. What are you going to CHOOSE to do? Because if you don't make that choice, something's going to choose you and it may not be the thing you were meant for.
What work advice do you have for teens or for young people just starting out?
Everyone daydreams about becoming Beyoncé, but few people are actually willing to do the work to get there. My advice is to figure out the conditions under which you are willing and able to do your best work. Does it involve solo work or groups? Fresh air or city traffic? A 9-5 or unstructured days? What matters and what doesn't? These are crucial because you will spend at least 40 hours per week of most of your adult life in these conditions. You better enjoy them—or at minimum, be able to tolerate them. Also, every job has something about it that sucks. You have to decide whether the sucky part overwhelms the good.