Deputy Advocate of Special Initiatives, Executive Director of the Fund for Public Advocacy
By now, Reshma Saujani’s life has been examined and reexamined: child of political refugees fleeing Uganda, a lucrative career in the financial sector, a stint bundling donations for Democratic candidates like Hillary Clinton, an uphill run for Carolyn Maloney’s congressional seat.
“I had ideas I wanted to put out into the world,” she said. “I felt like there was a dearth of leadership.”
She lost the race in 2010, but Saujani says she’s back on track toward making a difference.
Today Saujani is doing something she feels is more important than anything she has done yet. As a top aide to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and executive director of the Fund for Public Advocacy, Saujani is involved in multiple projects, from surveying immigrant small-business owners about city-provided technological and legal services to mentoring girls from low-income neighborhoods to help them get more involved in computers and technology. Perhaps more important, she is charged with raising money to help subsidize de Blasio’s seriously cash-strapped office.
And there are bigger projects to come. Saujani says she is preparing next year to launch a new program through the public advocate’s office that aims to promote public-private partnerships to improve government services.
“I’m a political entrepreneur,” said Saujani, who added that contracting government services will lead to a bigger role for the private sector to fill that gap. “That’s the future of government.”
How did your past jobs get you to where you are now?
“I think coming from a private-sector background has been tremendously helpful, both being able to use the skills I learned there to create programs, and to use the resources and relationships I’ve built over the last decade.”
What will your business card say in five years?
“‘Political entrepreneur.’ ”
If you weren’t working in politics, what would you be doing?
“I’d be a teacher. I’d teach failure. I spend a lot of time talking and teaching about taking risks and embracing failure. I believe in failing first and failing hard. Life isn’t your successes but a culmination of your failures, and we don’t talk about them. And it makes young people, especially young women, risk-averse.”
What would be the title of your autobiography?
“A Woman Who Doesn’t Wait in Line.”
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