What Our Young Professionals Are Reading

Leaders in the Sacramento region share the books that inspired them

Back Web Only Mar 10, 2017 By Michael Scott

The late business leader Jim Rohn once remarked that “the difference between where you are today and where you’ll be five years from now will be found in the quality of books you’ve read.”  

Ask the recent crop of rising young professionals featured this month by Comstock’s and they would likely say this quote rings true. We reached out to some of them to find out what one book has made a major difference in their personal or professional journey. Here is what they said:

Rachel Zillner, assistant vice president, SAFE Credit Union

Favorite book: The Startup of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

This book pushed me to create what’s referred to as a Plan Z, and to be bolder and ever-evolving in my actions. It’s a call to do more, learn more and grow more in your current role. So I now do. I own my actions. I own my insatiable need to move faster, think bigger, challenge the norm and ask “why not” everyday. Personally, it’s a pretty bright and hopeful space to live in. As well I challenge myself, my team, my peers and my friends to stop dreaming about it and just do it! Failure isn’t scary, rather it’s where all the best learning happens.

Patrick Harbison, executive director, Patrick Harbison Public Relations

Favorite book: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

On the surface, The Giving Tree seems like a very simple children’s book. But if you dig deeper, the story provides opportunities to reflect on love, self-sacrifice, greed and happiness. It shows the stark contrast between selfishness and selflessness, and portrays the tree — identified as female — as an image of motherly love. As an adult, I’ve often thought about this book in many ways: What is man’s relationship to nature? What is the most effective way to give back? How should we navigate the changes we go through in our relationships?For me, author Shel Silverstein has created a moving parable — for readers of all ages — that offers an affecting interpretation on unconditional love.

Michelle Cross, cultural resources practice leader, Stantec

Favorite book: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

Related: Today’s Visionaries, Tomorrow’s Vision

I read the Five Dysfunctions of Team in a training class I took early on in my career during my mid-20’s. The lessons of the book really stuck with me in terms of looking for the strengths in others and how different team members have different attributes and skills to contribute that make the team strong as a whole. I hold these lessons with me whenever I am assembling a team for a project or program that I manage and lead and look to find the strengths of each team member and how they can contribute to making the entire team successful. I think this has aided in my career immensely as I have been able to understand multiple points of view on the teams I work with and take that into account when making decisions.

Kindra Montgomery-Block, program officer, Sierra Health Foundation

Favorite book: The Zahir by Paulo Coelho

My favorite author is Brazilian author Paulo Coelho … I love his writings and stories. His ability to connect the reality of personal trials with unapologetic frustration, love, universal faith, grace and real inner super-power is fantastic and always inspires my soul.  My favorite book of his is The Zahir. I love the message it shares about life’s tragic events and finding strength and humility through love.

Elena Ruiz, manager of engagement, Greater Sacramento Economic Council

Favorite book: The Life You Can Save: Acting to End World Poverty by Peter Singer

As I studied philosophy in college, I was particularly drawn to ethics, and Peter Singer quickly became one of my favorite philosophers within the field. The Life You Can Save asks us to consider the preventable suffering that poverty causes around the world, and questions our true commitment to ending it. He argues that our aid efforts are out of sync with our perceived ethical standards, and proposes different models that would more closely align with an ethical life.  

This book had a meaningful impact on my views because it gave me important perspective — it pushes you to consider policy response, personal instinct and our moral duty around issues such as world poverty. Singer forces you into an uncomfortable space to truly consider the impact that our choices have on others. It’s needed grounding in the political and policy world, and provides a framework by which we can measure our response to any human crisis.

Lange Luntao, school board trustee, Stockton Unified School District

Favorite book: Little Manila Is in the Heart: The Making of the Filipina/o American Community in Stockton, California by Dr. Dawn Bohulano Mabalon

This book has had the most meaningful impact on my career/life trajectory. I found it when I was in college, and it was one of the first academic pieces I ever read about Stockton. It’s about more than just the history of the Filipina/o community in Stockton — it’s about urban renewal, the promise and peril of assimilating into the American Dream, and what happens when government fails to engage and include all of the stakeholders in an area. This book constantly reminds me to do better as a teacher, community organizer and now as a public servant to hear the voices that aren’t often part of our policy discussions.