By: Panchami Bhat
Erik Kristjanson shines as a UWBA Emerging Leader. By day, he works within the New Ventures Client Development team at McKinsey & Company (a global management consulting firm) and in his spare time he is an active member of UWBA’s Emerging Leaders — a premier network of young professionals committed to uniting their resources, talents, and time to helping us in our fight against poverty in the Bay Area.
Erik has volunteered his time to various UWBA events, mainly helping our MatchBridge youth prepare to join the workforce. He believes that the good karma that comes from volunteering is one of the most important parts of life.
We were pleased to speak with Erik about his involvement with the Emerging Leaders and are excited to share his thoughts with you.
It sounded like something exciting that I wanted to be a part of. I latched on to the groups work to help low-income youth in the Bay Area through UWBA’s MatchBridge program. I liked the focus of providing equitable opportunities for future generations. There were individuals in my firm who had also been part of Emerging Leaders, so that also helped.
I think the opportunity to know about volunteer events. I always want to volunteer and get involved, but it’s not something I’ve actively searched for and then I often forget about it. The emails I receive are good reminders about what I can do to help my community.
The suit drive event and getting business attire to students who needed it. Being able to give advice to teenagers about job interviews and best business practices resonated with me.
Those are skills that aren’t always taught in school. You learn, history, English, and math, but there isn’t an “interview class” about how you should interview, what business is all about, how to make an impact, how to get a job, and then how to do well in the job. That’s something I can help with and talk to students about.
My first job was working in a bakery, formerly St. Louis Bread Company (now Panera Bread). I was 15 and didn’t have a driver’s license so I would ride my bike there at 5:15 in the morning to open the bakery which is impressive to think about now. I started with my buddy, who quit after three days. I don’t like to quit, so I stuck with it.
I learned to work with people and how to be tactful. You can’t just shut off difficult people. You have to figure out how you can work best with them.
You will always have to work with all kinds of people. I had some managers who I remember were very difficult. But no matter what the job is, or the company, or how high profile it is, there are always going to be challenging people and there are always going to be great people you work with.
When I moved to Australia and worked overseas, I worked in Asia a lot. Our Vice President within Asia, Jeff Baum, gave me a great piece of advice. He told me if I wanted to be successful, I needed to focus on building relationships. In Asia, meeting the requirements and filling out documents, and having good business practices is good, but if you don’t go to lunch and dinner and get to know people, they won’t trust you.
At the end of the day, it’s about making good relationships with people, and that advice he gave me in Singapore has stuck with me and is something I use today.
That’s the best thing you can do as a human being: service and helping others. You get involved with a particular area of work at your job, and then life gets busy. With all of that, it feels good to get to help someone else, especially when you are helping with a student’s breakthrough event.
Yes, absolutely. The people I’ve been in contact with are very driven, as I like that this is a mission-driven organization. There are good people running it, with a mind for how to make the most impact. UWBA’s reach and relevance is good and they do a lot of projects and initiatives that are far-reaching.
Erik was born in Canada, grew up in Atlanta, lived in Australia and is now a resident of San Francisco — he is a true citizen of the world. He has always been involved in volunteering and service programs, enjoyed mentoring with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization in Atlanta and has been thrilled to be a part of the United Way Bay Area’s Emerging Leaders program.
With a degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering, he has spent his work career in various technology focused roles. He currently works for the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company in their New Ventures group, with a focus on serving clients more effectively through technology and solutions.
Erik’s passions include cycling, food, music, and the great outdoors (mostly in that order).