Mike Anderson – Deputy Director

By Jenna Watanabe, Marketing & Development Coordinator

JW: Hi Mike, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. Why don’t we just jump right into it, by starting with the most obvious question: why did you apply to work with R.O.C.K.?

MA: I was in my position for about two years at my previous organization and I enjoyed my job [but was] looking for a new challenge. I knew the next point of growth would be more of a corporate move and I wasn’t sure I wanted to shift culture that much, so I [started searching] casually and came across R.O.C.K.

At first glance, [it seemed to be] this really nimble, small organization that was at a tipping point. The website was really professionally done and the more I researched about it the more I was drawn in. I was very taken with how well done everything was–all the T’s crossed and I’s dotted–and the position itself really checked all the boxes. It was everything I was looking for and it definitely seemed like a challenge. So I applied.

The mission really stuck out to me as well, because birth lottery is a real thing. You don’t get to choose where you’re born, or the family you’re born into, or the resources in the community in which you’re born, and that lack of equity really has kind of stuck with me my whole life.

[That’s why] I’ve been working with kids my entire nonprofit career. It’s just not fair that some kids are born in communities with high rates of violence, who have unbelievably low socioeconomic status across the board. People that try to level that playing field are admirable–and that piece is something I [want to continue] working on–trying to level the playing field in some way.

JW: Imagine if everyone spent forty hours each week trying to level the playing field—we’d live in a very different world! What is your favorite thing about working at R.O.C.K. so far?

MA: The people. Everyone is fantastic. The leadership team has been excellent, down to Beacon Directors and their staff. And the line staff are so much fun–we got to do a big training with them and everybody was so engaged and just goofy and really bought into everything that we’re doing. It’s so important to have.

JW: Now I know you’re still in the first few weeks as Deputy Director, but so far, what are 3 words you would use to describe your job?

MA: Currently? Ha ha. I’m very new in it. The three words I would use are: challenging, engaging and impactful.

JW: That sounds about right! While taking that into account, how would you define success in your position?

MA: By ensuring that R.O.C.K. is on a path of continuous improvement and making sure our kids are getting some impact from our organization, and that they are having fun and are engaged with our programs.

[In other words], being able to work on internal operations, work with our staff, our programs in ways that we’re always pushing forward and meeting the end goal of serving these kids in a meaningful, impactful way.

JW: That makes sense and is in itself a challenge. I know most afterschool programs struggle with how to measure impact and choose those metrics.

MA: Yes, because longitudinal studies with kids in general are just really hard but we always need to look for quantitative research and how we can track how well the kids are doing. [It may be as simple as] asking: “Are they doing better by spending time with R.O.C.K.? How?”

So it’s up to me to try and figure out what we can do.

JW: Is there anything you would do for a career if you weren’t doing this?

MA: R.O.C.K. star! Ha ha, just kidding. Maybe working in a camp setting at a high level or working with kids with ADHD. I just love working with youth.

JW: Ah, it sounds like you’re going to LOVE playing with us at Lil’ Kid Camp next June! On that note, I have some more fun questions for you before we get into more meaningful stuff. If you could learn anything, what would it be?

MA: I’d [finally] learn to speak fluent Spanish! I took 8 years of it in school and should be able to by now!

JW: Nice! Hopefully you get some practice here. Okay, here’s one of my personal favorites—if you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would spend it on?

MA: A giant vacation home in Hawaii that I could take all my friends to.

JW: Do it, we will come! Ha ha. Do you have any favorite hobbies, or favorite indoor or outdoor activities?

MA: Volleyball—actually, beach volleyball.

JW: Perfect! Again, you’ll have to stop by Skill Drills this fall, where we teach 1st-5th graders volleyball drills. I have no doubt that you’ll love it.  My last “fun” question for you is one I have to ask everyone because as a foodie myself, I believe everyone has that one dish they love and I want to know what yours is. So Mike, it’s your last meal—what are you having?

MA: (laughs) Alaskan King Crab legs with butter and a baked potato with bacon bits. It’s my favorite thing and I never have it because it’s so expensive.

JW: Yum! Sounds delicious… now slightly switching gears here, can you tell me about one big lesson you’ve learned in the past week?

MA: Ha ha, wow! I’ve learned so many things in the last week!

Strong skills in one field don’t always translate into strong skills in another field. You have to be open to learning and doing things well and do things aggressively to succeed in a new position. Things in the past that served you might not always serve you moving forward, so you always need to be pivoting and moving forward.

JW: It’s so true. Well I can already see that you’re doing that—you work so hard to get things done and we are so grateful! In that same vein, for kids who might be facing challenges of their own, what kind of advice would you offer them?

MA: No one knows your story the way that you do, and no one knows your struggles as intimately as you do. Everything gets better (it’s cheesy but true). Try to focus on the pieces of school that you enjoy the most, even if they are few, and do the best you can with the resources you have.

JW: Given that we work with youth, I thought this was an interesting question: what would you most like to tell yourself at age 13?

MA: Relax. Everything is going to be fine. You’re going to crush it!

 JW: Anything else you’d like to share with us today?

MA: I’m thrilled to be here. I think this organization is absolutely moving in the right direction, doing the right things, I love how small and agile it is and I think it has an excellent leader at the helm.