Sunday, June 7, 2015

You're doing it wrong

What makes an expert?

This morning I was at the gym taking a swim. I was in a lane next to a kid, maybe 12-13 years old, who was getting coached by a young woman. As a former collegiate water polo player and high school swim coach, I noticed the woman's coaching methods were not working for this kid. She wasn't offering anything constructive to fix his form, and I thought to myself, "You're doing it wrong."

Being good at something does not necessarily make you an expert. As my husband and I watched my beloved Golden State Warriors take on the Cavs in the NBA finals, my husband mentioned how weird it was that Mark Jackson was commentating on the game. Just the year earlier he was coaching the team, and he was mediocre at best (he did, however, lead the Warriors to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years, but he also had the Splash Brothers). Jackson was a great player, but as a coach, he couldn't lead his time to the finals. As a coach, he was doing it wrong.

Using sports analogies got me thinking: what make a planner an expert? Planners generally go to planning school where they learn about common issues, and learn strategies to solve these issues by applying planning theories. Does getting an "A" in an Economic Development class mean you're an expert? Robert Moses and Pruitt-Igoe have shown that past "experts" did it wrong. A planner that knows a lot about planning theory and was academically successful is NOT an expert. Planning, to be successful, takes a team. We rely on community members, city staff and officials, and motivated stakeholders and community leaders. Much like Steph Curry needs Clay Thompson to be the Splash Brothers and Steve Kerr has effectively used all the players on his team, planners need a team of people, which should include other planners, to be successful. Expertise comes from a broad understanding of issues and the exchange of ideas for possible solutions.

The swim coach at the gym should have watched how other coaches work with different swimmers. She should have consulted with the kid's parents to understand the best way to communicate with him. She cannot be a good coach without having a community of people helping her understand what coaching techniques could make this specific boy a good swimmer. Similarly with planning, without out a community-based approach that combines known planning strategies, we could not be considered experts; we'd be doing it wrong.

And on that note:

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Really?! Sidewalk Rage IV

Oh goodness, all work, no play makes me a terrible blogger. Although, I did write one in the capacity of my job. It's posted on my firm's website: Really?! Sidewalk Rage IV

Friday, July 25, 2014

#Winner #Again

Ya, I hashtagged! I received word that my master's comprehensive project, Cultivate L.A., won the California American Planning Association Academic Award. This is in addition to winning the Los Angeles Chapter Academic Award. Winning is fun (and very well deserved for all the hard work from my colleagues and me)! #BraggingRights #UCLA

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Woman, A Minority, A Planner

It's been quite a long time since I've last posted. This whole work thing really takes up a lot of the day! My job as a real life planner is going swimmingly. I have great colleagues and interesting projects. The one thing I did not expect, naively so, was to face racism and sexism while on the job.

Now I understand that racist and sexist remarks happen all the time, regardless if I pay attention or not. I have experienced my fair share in the past as a half-asian woman, but never in the course of my work. Let me be clear that it is not directly from my colleagues or clients, but from members of the public or other people involved in the planning process as we do community outreach and other activities. The tone is never mean or mocking, but seems to stem from a lack of understanding or even knowledge that words or actions are hurtful and disrespectful, so much so they can even be funny. Here's a few examples:

1. Man at a public meeting walks up to me to ask a question.
Man: So, what language do you speak other than English?
Me: Just English.
Man: just English?
Me: Yes, and a little bit of Spanish.
Man walks away with a confused look on his face.

2. I stand in a line of consultants introducing ourselves to a line of people walking into a meeting. As one man approaches, I drop my pen. I reach down and pick it. After I stand, the man says to me: "Oh! I thought you were bowing!"

3. Walking into a room with a male colleague to great a group of people before a meeting. The gentleman that is leading the group sees me and I say hello and extend my hand for a greeting. He looks at me, then over my shoulder my older, male colleague. He then walks past me to shake the hand of my male colleague and introduce himself, then comes back to me to shake my hand.

While the first two incidents didn't really get to me, the last one definitely did. It was so blatantly disrespectful and was really an act that served to put me in my place. It motivates me to hold my head up high, learn more, and be better at what I do. I know I will encounter many more of these types of incidents in the future, but I will always be proud to be a woman, a minority, and a planner.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Made it National

Yup. I'm quoted in a National Public Radio article. NBD. It's a blog about food and isn't some ground-breaking front page story, but still, it's pretty cool.