Kish Rajan, communication, government

By Brandon Keller

Earlier this week, the Master of Arts in Professional Communication program at the University of San Francisco welcomed Kish Rajan to its Speaker Series. His fascinating background in government and the private sector gave our students a new perspective on the type of work that professional communicators can do. Kish gained experience working as an aide to United States Senator Barbara Boxer, as a business development executive in mobile technology, and he was elected to the City Council of his hometown, Walnut Creek, in 2008. More recently, he was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2012 to oversee the new Office of Business and Economic Development to create jobs in California, and in 2015 he became Chief Evangelist for CALinnovates.

During Kish’s years supporting economic development in the governor’s office, California grew to the world’s seventh largest economy, and he continues to help organizations work effectively with government. Policy makers typically want to regulate business, so his chief concern is to build beneficial connections between the government and businesses amidst the challenges and opportunities of the current tech boom. According to Kish, communication between the tech industry and public policy is key in order to advance a modern economy.

Kish offered our students some great advice to keep in mind as we pursue our career paths. Here are just a few highlights:

There’s no substitute for experience:

Seek out internships, because organizations love bringing in young energy. It can be difficult to find the time for new opportunities later in a career, so years in school offer the best chance to pursue relationships in various fields of interest. According to Kish, there’s “no substitute for experience,” and he credits his internship with the California Democratic Party for helping him land his first full time job while he was still an undergrad.

Make your own luck:

How has Kish managed to seize so many great opportunities over the course of his career? He would say, “I made my own luck,” continually putting himself in the right place to succeed. If students strive to diversify their work experience they can open doors to opportunities that they might not have explored otherwise. After starting his professional career in government, Kish’s interest in the private sector led to his long stint with business development in the mobile technology industry. Back then he sold pagers, so it’s safe to say he understands the full scope of the tech boom over the past few decades.

Be curious and stretch yourself:

Kish’s curiosity and ambition have taken him into the local, state, national and international spheres. From his aide position in the US Capitol to his seat on the Walnut Creek City Council to his position in Governor Brown’s administration to his work in economic development and global commerce in places such as China, any opportunity, no matter how various or far-flung is an opportunity for personal and professional growth.

Towards the end of his talk, Kish helped students examine how the government and businesses can communicate together. A challenge during today’s influx of information and “fake news” is that citizens lose faith in the government. This makes it all the more incumbent on people in the government to reshape how businesses interact with communities. We can see that with the issues Facebook is facing from last year’s election. It will be fascinating to see if and how skilled professional communicators bridge the gaps between public and private in the ever more hard to predict future.

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