Getting to Know the La Piana Team: An Interview with Kyu Kang
This blog post is part of our continuing series featuring the La Piana team. This week, we spoke with Kyu Kang, who joined the firm as Associate Consultant in June 2019.
What are three words you would use to describe your new role with La Piana Consulting?
Exciting, challenging, and impactful.
What attracts you to working with nonprofits, foundations, and/or the consultants who serve them?
I would say that the biggest draws for me are the fact that I want to make a difference and I want to work with people who care. It makes a difference to be with colleagues and clients who care about more than profits, who are passionate and driven to make the world, people, and environment better.
What skills or lessons from your past experience do you expect to draw from the most in your new role? And what stands out as a career highlight for you to date?
I would say that my experiences with project management and research will serve me well in this role. I’m used to managing multiple grantees and projects, as well as facilitating conversations and identifying themes or important points in what people are saying in order to translate them into best practices or issues to work on.
A career highlight would be helping to set up All In: Data for Community Health, which is a collaboration network focused on connecting grantee communities from multiple funders and bringing them together to share best practices and learnings. In addition to hosting an annual meeting, we facilitated an online learning network, put on webinars, released a monthly newsletter, etc. It was a lot of work, much like a startup, and not something we needed to do. But we took it on because we wanted to, we believe in collaboration, and we felt it would add a level of sustainability for our grantees. The network now has more than 1,500 participants and it was very cool to be a part of building that from the ground up.
What is your favorite place/sight/sound in the world?
My current favorite place is Telegraph Cove in British Columbia. I just went kayaking there and we went whale watching. In the morning if you kayak out before the sun is too bright and before there are too many boats, the water is very still and the sky is misty white. It feels like you are gliding out into the clouds. One morning we were just sitting on the water and heard a humpback whale trumpeting. You could feel it vibrating through the water. (Kyu Kang pictured at right at Telegraph Cove)
One of my favorite sounds is when you are hiking and your boots crunch on gravel or dirt.
What are your favorite types of challenges/projects/opportunities?
I would say my favorite type of challenges are the ones that require I learn something I don’t know anything about. I’m a big nerd – I love school and I love learning. So whenever I’m put on a project to work on topics that are out of my wheelhouse it can be stressful, but I like that in the end I come out having helped somebody and having learned something along the way. I’m always discovering new fields and issues people work on – like “oh! That’s a job!” – it’s fun.
You bring a lot of experience in building and administering surveys, coding qualitative data, conducting secondary research, and leading stakeholder interviews. Are there any connections from this experience to your current role that you are particularly excited about?
I particularly enjoy going through survey results and doing stakeholder interviews. People place a lot of value on quantitative data and hard numbers, but you miss a lot by not taking into account people’s narratives and the way they tell their stories. At La Piana, when we are trying to get a better understanding of an issue we conduct interviews – giving everyone an opportunity to speak and share their views. This allows us to fill gaps and get a more nuanced understanding as opposed to if we just looked at numbers. I’m excited to flex that muscle here in this role. It’s also just fun to talk to people and get their stories – kind of like being a reporter without needing to report to a newspaper. It’s also fun to find themes in what people are saying. I’ve found that people may think what they are feeling or experiencing is unique to them, but they are usually more alike than they realize.
What do you most enjoy doing when you’re not working?
When I’m not working I enjoy rock climbing, backpacking, and taking care of and shopping for more plants.
Is there a book or film that has left a particular impression with you lately, and why? Or If you could have lunch with anyone famous, who would it be and why?
A book that I read recently called The Soul of an Octopus left a particularly strong impression. It’s written by a naturalist who spent a few years studying the giant Pacific octopus and grew very attached to them. Octopuses are incredibly intelligent, playful, have distinct personalities, and are capable of the most unworldly things. They can squeeze their giant bodies through cracks so tiny that anyone who wants to raise one, including aquariums, have to have escape-proof tanks. They can recognize people and change color based on how they are feeling. It made me think about how little we know about the ocean and other species, and also about how much there still is to discover. It can be easy to feel down about climate change or how over-run the world is, so it’s encouraging to remember that the majority of the world is actually untouched and unexplored ocean, and that is amazing.