Tom Ortega II

How I’m Giving Back

In Community, Learning, Life on June 1, 2016 at 5:30 am

How I’m Giving Back – Biggest Dreams / Toughest Challenges Yet

I’m in my 40th year, about to turn 41 in September. As I look forward, I realize that I really only have one more super productive 20 year block in me. My 60 to 80 year will be a good block to offer advice to others, finally have my wife all to myself again, and enjoy grandkids. Therefore, if I have any more ambitious activities, they’ll have to take place in the 40 to 60 year block.

Poverty is a great displacer of equality. I’m not saying it’s all bad. If you recall in my first 20 year block, I was poor but happy and abundantly loved. I know many a kids who grew up in a wealthy home, but did not have a whole lot of love because the parents worked hard to attain and sustain that wealth. I am much more happy I was loved and poor than neglected and well off.

However, we cannot sit here and say “Poor people have just as much a chance to succeed as well to do people.” It simply is not true. Throughout my life, I had chance encounters with people that taught me things that poverty prevented me from learning. Not because I couldn’t understand it, but because it simply doesn’t happen. Like not knowing Stanford was a great school. I bet every well to do child knows who Stanford is, but many poor children like me from the ghetto would likely not ever know because we’re not expected to attend schools like that.

Or something as simple as having a car to borrow to get to work. A well to do teenager doesn’t have to worry about figuring out how to get to work, they can just borrow a family car or even get a ride from someone. Poor teenagers don’t have that luxury, so they tend to pick jobs close to home and live in fear of losing those jobs since they can’t get to another one further away. Yeah, I rode mass transit for an hour to 90 minutes every day, sometimes in a bus through the roughest parts of Los Angeles, but how many parents would let their kids do that for a job barely above minimum wage? If they’re poor, lots but not because they want to but because they have no choice. If they’re well to do parents, not very many would let their kids go through the roughest part of town ever, much less twice a day every week day.

The other factor that separates the haves from the have nots in society is experience. Many people don’t start a business because they think it’s too hard. Many people don’t program because they think it’s too hard. Many people don’t think they could get friendly with a CIO at a chance encounter at a hackathon and convert that into a paying gig. Many people don’t know that they can work together to gain experience needed to demonstrate skills. And lastly, but most sadly, many people don’t think they can make a difference in anything.

All the above is what I’ll be tackling in my next 20 years. Here’s a list of things I want to tackle, all at the same time because advancement will be slow going in all 3.

  • Helping people self represent themselves in court; Whether they are poor folks who can’t afford a lawyer or motivated folks that simply want to feel empowered to do this on their own
  • Teach people who come to Silicon Valley from far off places how to work with each other and develop the highly sought skills that employers look for
  • Bring about a technical revolution in Hong Kong; Leverage the many strengths of that great city to convert it from a financial center into an innovation center.

These aren’t easy tasks, but one could still say, “That’s it? Those 3 things in 20 years?” However, one has to remember that I still have to earn a living, keep my wife happy, raise 4 children, be a good son/brother/cousin, and serve in church callings. When you compound those additional activities, it starts to become clearer why I chose only 3 additional goals aside from the life ones I’ve always had.

How will I do this? Well, it’s pretty simple. In the second 20 year block, I would work a full time job in one technology, while learning a new one at night. I would then introduce the new tech into my work, then apply for a new job where the new tech would be my full time effort. After getting hired, I’d repeat the process all over again. I also used that same thinking and replaced the night time learning with running the conference business with John.

What I’ll do now is carve out chunks of time to dedicate to these various endeavors. Before it was clear that this was my life plan, some things fell to the wayside. Now that it’s something I realize I’m compelled to do, it’ll be easier to find the energy to dedicate to these endeavors.

Legal Apps: I just got back from a trip to Jackson, Mississippi. I spent time with Tiffany Graves and the ATJ Commission. We have had our discovery meeting. Next up will be a scoping meeting, followed shortly thereafter with a kickoff meeting. Earlier in the month I was also in New Orleans with Steve Reed of the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services team working on our hackathon winning app. We got some amazing and valueable feedback from users that we’ll be rolling out shortly. We’ll also have to tackle who will utlimately own these apps and be the stewards of the valuable tools that all lawyers should be aware of and refer people to.

Silicon Valley Meetup: I run a meetup in Silicon Valley centered around the new Swift language. We have huge plans there. I need to kick that into high gear and get us working on the things we’ve already discussed and planned. I see great potential for the group members who are dedicated to bettering themselves.

Hong Kong Revolution: I’m going back to Hong Kong later this year. The key to success in Hong Kong is going to be pounding the pavement, getting a stronger sense of the vibe and working towards being accepted into that community. I know from experience that the only way to be accepted as sincere is to show up and display the effort. Once accepted, I can hopefully get a better understanding of how to facilitate this revolution that has to come to pass because it will be a monumental shame if it doesn’t.

That’s about it for now. If you stuck with me during all 3 parts, I hope you found out a little bit more about me and who I am and why I do things. I’m barely in the first year of my 3rd 20 year block, so who knows how much of these goals will stick and how much will change. Altough, if history proves itself right, it’s little random things in my life that turn out to be huge things down the line. So that chance encounter with Tiffany at the Legal Summit may turn out to be an important part of my life. The chance email that offered a user group for the taking may become the powerful vehicle by which I can affect change for those who have the desire but not the experience to succeed in the valley. And lastly, a randomly picked academic conference in a far away land may just be the catalyst in my role to bring about huge change in a land on the other side of the world. Regardless if any of the 3 succeed, it’s going to be a fun journey trying to make them be successes.

Note: This is one part of a 3 post series.

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  1. […] The next 20: How I’m Giving Back – Biggest Dreams / Toughest Challenges Yet […]

  2. […] that, I have challenged myself to try to make a difference in people’s lives in places nowhere near home: helping folks […]

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