Week 8: Bigger Than Myself

Leann Pham with Norman Mineta

“I think we should get Leann on board – she seems like a great fit for the project”

A few weeks ago I was working in my office at Nakatomi & Associates and I heard Debra say this across the hall. “Me?” I thought “What have I contributed to show Debra my skill set?”

Soon enough, my mind was shifting between thoughts and wonderment about my capabilities as I wasn’t sure what impact I could create on this mystery project. A few hours later, Amy, a senior associate, approached my desk and asked if I wanted to help with the Mineta Legacy Documentary that Debra was producing. I eagerly jumped on the project and soon enough, I was working on the program insert for the Los Angeles Premiere. With each draft I created, I was sensitive and nervous to feedback – a constant feeling of needing to be perfect with each dot and cross. However, there was a moment when Amy came back to my desk and asked me what I wanted to work on and flipped a switch in my mind. I was so focused on doing what I needed and trying to match some expectation that I lost focus on why this work mattered to me and what the office saw in me as a member of the team.

Stories. Stories are what I wanted to work on. Soon enough, I found myself crawling through search engine results learning about Norman Mineta’s story. Norm was the first Asian American on a presidential cabinet, but he is also so much more. He is a fearless leader and passionate advocate. I was so proud to work on this project and saw beyond some arbitrary measure of my contributions. The work of highlighting his life goes beyond myself.

Aside from creating editorial calendars and design overlays, my intern project was at the forefront of my passion. I designed small slips of paper with Mineta branding on it and acquired a passion board for people to post on. I went around at the community reception and engaged the patrons to share their Mineta Legacy story. How has he impacted you and I? People from varying generations shared their thoughts on his life and impact and posted it to the inspiration board. I took polaroids to capture these crucial moments as well.

Looking back on this experience, I am thankful for the ups and downs. I can now reflect on how much I’ve grown through working on a project that I really care about. Most of all, I was in an environment that fostered a positive growth and working culture. The women at the firm were there to support me in so many ways and eventually gave me the opportunity to spearhead my own project.

It has been an honor working at Nakatomi & Associates, and I will really miss the office. I will cherish this experience and ensure to champion the healthy work environment that the women at Nakatomi foster—an environment where the work has meaning that is bigger than myself.