Words of Wisdom with Amy Thoma

Amy Thoma
Director of Public Advocacy and Public Affairs, Kaiser Permanente

What are three things you wish you’d known as you embarked on your career?AmyThoma

1. Everything is going to be okay.

2. Take some risks because if you fail, see #1.

3. Have goals, but don’t be rigid because you never know what opportunities are going to come your way. And don’t make a 5-year plan because it’s going to change anyway.

Did you have a mentor? If so, what was the most important piece of advice they gave you?

I’ve had a lot of great mentors. One of the best pieces of advice they’ve given is to protect your reputation and integrity at all costs. No one is going to remember the memo you wrote 6 years ago, but they will remember how you treat people. You never know when the intern or staff assistant will become your boss or new business prospect. And, “wear the glitter belt to the interview. If they don’t like it, you will never fit in there.”

How did/do you handle work/life balance?

Thankfully I work for a company and a boss who value work/life balance and support my priorities. Plus, my life isn’t terribly complicated! I’ve figured out what isn’t negotiable for me and made work choices based on those priorities. For me this means time with my family, time in my morning to exercise and time to devote to causes I care about. Getting it all in sometimes requires an alarm clock in the 4am hour, but it’s worth it. If I get those things I’m a much happier and productive contributor at work.

Do you have any suggestions of books, articles, websites, etc. that might help a young professional?

"A Million Miles in a Thousand Years," by Donald Miller. It’s not a professional book per se but he writes about how we can live a good story and find passion for our vocation. Don’t live a boring story!

For those of us in PR/marketing/public affairs, “Made to Stick,” is excellent.

I also cannot live without People magazine. Can’t be all business, all the time.

How important is it to be involved in organizations outside of work (church, networking, philanthropy, alumni, athletics, etc.)? Why?

Extremely important. I’m passionate about philanthropy in particular. I feel strongly it is up to our generation to change Sacramento for the better and to give back to our community. I’ve been involved with the GreenHouse (www.theGreenHouseCenter.org), a non-profit in South Natomas for more than 9 years and it’s the best thing I do. It’s rewarding to use my professional skills to advance a cause (kids!) I care about and spending time there grounds me. Plus, I’ve developed really strong relationships with amazing people outside my professional circle.

It’s important to have diversity in your friendships and organizations outside work are a good way to meet people who share your interests. For those of us in the political/government affairs/public affairs world it is easy to keep your social circle in that bubble which can make you dull and insular.

Plus, life is short. Get involved in things that are fun with people who share your values! For me that means running groups, church and the GreenHouse.

What do you love about Sacramento?

More than I ever thought I would! I love that we have big city amenities like professional sports, great restaurants and good recreation without the annoyances of a big city like traffic and smog. My heart will always belong to the American River Parkway.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell the 40 and under business professionals in our region?

We all need to keep doing what we’re doing. Sacramento has changed so much in the nearly 10 years I’ve lived here. When I travel and tell people I’m from Sacramento their reaction has changed from, “oh… is that where Arnold is governor?” to “I hear it’s getting very cool there and is a nice place to live.” They’re right. It is cool here and it is a nice place to live.