We are so proud to have chosen Jacqui Kitchen as the 2016 Alumni Rising Runner for the School of Arts & Humanities and feel very excited to profile her on our blog.
Jacqui Kitchen received a BA in History in 2006 and followed up with an MPA, Organizational Leadership, in 2014. She is currently the Planning Director for the City of Bakersfield which provides expertise and administrative support on all planning and zoning related issues for the city.
How did your experiences at CSUB help you find your first position after graduation?
Throughout my time as an undergrad at CSUB, I worked full time in the retail industry. I initially thought that my bachelor's degree would help me continue in that field or move into the teaching profession. However, right around the time that I graduated, Kern County was hiring for land use planners and the job sounded really interesting. Typically, this type of job requires a degree in Planning or Engineering or a related field, and I wasn’t sure that I would qualify with my History degree. However, my time at CSUB taught me how to talk to people, and more importantly - how to really listen. This was important because I was able to talk with others before my interviews and gain an understanding of what the job would require. And, of course, the History Department taught me how to research!!! I was able to walk into my interview armed with the right knowledge and excitement for the job; and they took a chance and hired me!
What career advice would you give our students?
Find Balance. In ALL THINGS.
This is critical. I’ve learned that, in order to really be effective in your chosen career, it is important to work hard, be dedicated, and put in the long hours when needed. Good old-fashioned hard work really is the key and we all need to put in the time to gain knowledge and earn respect from our colleagues. But in order to do this effectively and to the true benefit of your employer and self, you must balance your work life with your home life and keep yourself mentally healthy. Plan your day, devote your time, try to stick to your goals, and prioritize. Speak your mind, but also be respectful of the opinions of others. The best ideas often are the result of a balanced conversation and a calm approach.
How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today? Was there a pivotal moment?
The pivotal moment came late one night after a long day at school, then a 10-hour shift at Walgreens. I came home around 1am, sat down at my computer and did my usual search over the usual job sites. When I read the job description for Planner, I was intrigued. Was this job really an opportunity to help make our community a better place? To help plan roads, housing, transportation, recreational facilities and beyond? Having never gotten into the gaming world beyond the occasional round of Chutes & Ladders with my brother, I wasn’t too savvy about development practices at that point (boy, I wish I had played SIM CITY!). But this job sounded so interesting and like such a great opportunity to do something that would have an actual impact. I was smitten from day one.
What do you attribute your success to?
My family and my advisors. My family has also loved me and encouraged me to chase my dreams. My Dad let me run ahead during family hikes, my Mom always told me to shoot for the stars, and my brother has incredible insight that keeps me grounded. Other family members and friends have been incredible guides, and I have learned so much from watching them and talking with them about their life experiences. The professors at CSUB provided incredible inspiration and encouragement, and I never felt afraid to ask a question.
How do you foster creative and innovative thinking within your organization?
Communication and Transparency! I am a firm believer in having an open door and clearly conveying expectations, policies and openness.
What are the most important decisions that you face daily as a leader in your organization?
How do I ensure the continued success and growth of my staff, both from a staff perspective, and overall organization perspective, and from a community perspective. I truly feel that part of my job is to help everyone achieve their personal maximum potential.
What have you accomplished or overcome in the past that you thought was impossible at the time?
Early in my professional career, I would get incredibly nervous before meetings, both big and small. Public speaking felt intimidating, and I had fears that I wouldn’t have the answer or be able to provide enough information. Now I know that the answer often becomes apparent as you talk through the process, and the information reveals itself as you work and collaborate with others. Meetings are not a showcase; they are an opportunity to be productive. If you walk into a room with a positive mindset, a basic understanding of the topic, and an open mind, then you can really accomplish something.
Who is a person that you considered as a role model early in your life?
My Mom was the first person I ever met, and boy am I lucky it was her! Her support has never wavered and she has taught me strength, patience and courage. I can only hope to live life as gracefully as she has.
Which accomplishment are you most proud of?
I was really honored to be selected for my current position at the City of Bakersfield. As a local that grew up driving up and down Rosedale Highway, enjoying the annual Family Reunion at Hart Park, making the journey downtown to see shows at the “Centennial Garden,” watching decades of planning and construction of a brand-new freeway, and enjoying Basque food, Dewars Ice Cream and Smith’s cookies, I was so excited to have an opportunity to help our city continue to grow. We are the ninth largest city in the state, and I look forward to our continued evolution as the original place to Sun, Fun, Stay, Play!
Where do you expect to be in five years both personally and professionally?
In five years I hope to be continuing to help our city grow and prosper, and to also bring another little life into the world to join my family.