Civic Leadership Session II

On February 6, 2016, the CAUSE Veterans Initiative fellows participated in the second Civic Leadership Session at the Special Service for Groups Headquarters in Los Angeles, CA. This session’s theme was “Navigating the Workplace,” and was specifically designed to help fellows leverage skills and knowledge from their military service background for their own professional and leadership development. The fellows also learned how to integrate skills learned to advocate for veterans needs through their personal professional career paths.

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The session started with a professional skills development workshop called “A Mentoring and Networking Lifestyle for APA Professionals” and was hosted by John Kobara, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at California Community Foundation. John led an in-depth discussion with fellows about their career aspirations and provided invaluable advice on how to build a fulfilling career.

“If you love your work so much, there is no need for a work-life balance because you will want more of everything,” John said.


During lunch, fellows met with mentors including:

  • Gary Arakawa, Managing Partner at Covington Capital Management

  • Todd Hickman, Executive Director at the Bunker Incubator – Los Angeles

  • Andrew Kwok, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at Southern California Gas Company.

Each mentor shared some of the opportunities and challenges that veterans face in navigating their professional careers and how these experiences work to strengthen and build leadership styles.


“The skills we learned from the military service should not be overlooked,” commented Hickman, “We managed talent, assets, and most importantly, we manage them under chaotic situations. The experiences we gain from serving are invaluable!” Arakawa echoed Hickman’s message and encouraged fellows to expand their network outside of the military, “Don’t stop learning from others.”

Kwok emphasized on the importance of giving back, “You gain a lot through giving back. When I sit on the board, people sitting next to me are successful and willing to help others. And that presents a great networking opportunity.”


The fellows then met with Blas Villalobos, Veteran Affairs Manager at the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office. They learned about the veteran employment initiatives as well as other resources available to unemployed veterans. Villalobos, a veteran himself, also shared his journey in becoming an advocate for veterans through public service and policy work.


The session concluded with a community organizing skills development workshop on veteran advocacy and issue awareness through press and media. The workshop was hosted by John Ismay, the Veterans and Military Issues Reporter at Southern California Public Radio. Ismay stressed the important role media plays in bringing light to veteran issues. He also shared his remarkable journey from his career of being a Navy Special Operations Officer to becoming a journalist.

This program is made possible due to the support of: