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YP Spotlights of the Month

November: Voting

This November, we are highlighting Young Professionals working to make sure all New Yorkers across the City and State have the information and resources they need to vote. Congratulations to our November Spotlights of the Month, Sunny Chen and Tiasia O’Brien!

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Sunny Chen

Digital & Paid Media Acquisition Team
Priorities USA
How did you get to where you are today?

My determination to succeed and to be in the service of others stems from my family. I am a son of immigrants, born and raised in New York City, grew up in a three generational household, and first to graduate from high school and college in my family. I am a product of my family, my community, and adversities that I overcame. New York has been the perfect environment and incubator for diving into the world of business and technology. The overexposure to these fields has provided growth and purpose in giving back to the communities that raised me, and that is why I dedicate equal effort in both my professional and service career.

What are you most proud of?

The ability and reality that I can provide for my family is the best objective I can achieve. My grandparents and parents taught me the value of a dollar, and now I am able to look forward and build on generational wealth and not worry about succumbing to generational poverty.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in your field?

I work in the nexus of technology, media, and politics. It requires you to be adaptable, proactive and reactive, organized, analytical, and highly communicative. Develop these skill sets, collaborate on projects that serve the community, join a campaign, and build relationships as much as you can. Be in sync with industry trends and relevant news. There are an overwhelming amount of resources out there—just take your time to digest and focus on what is relevant to you. This is applicable to many if not all fields of work.

When did you realize that you are a New Yorker?

Being gritty, pragmatic, and able to hustle in the face of challenges and overwhelming odds has made me appreciate what it means to be a New Yorker.

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Tiasia O’Brien

Founder, Head of Strategy
Seam Social Labs / co:census
How did you get to where you are today?

There is no easy answer to this because it was a lot of hills and valleys. I would say what truly brought me to where I am now is investing time in myself and what drives me. I spent time thinking about my passions, skills, and where I need to grow. And I always invest in areas where I need to grow the most. I love learning and challenging myself and that took me on a path from corporate sales, to nonprofit business development, to startup founder.

What are you most proud of?

I am extremely proud of my business Seam Social Labs, which started from an idea that kept me up at night. I had a vision to ensure that people in communities can actively be civically engaged, regardless of their culture, first language, or socio-economic status. That was two years ago. When we launched our product a few months ago and got our first few clients who used the data they collected from residents for impactful policy memos, I cried. I am incredibly proud of our work and team.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in your field?

Launching any company is challenging and startups have special challenges and higher risk. Be prepared to follow your gut, learn fast, and be coachable —all at an incredibly fast pace.

When did you realize that you are a New Yorker?

This is such a great question. There were two great moments of realization. The first was in the 7th grade when I moved to Virginia for a few months. While attending middle school there, students kept asking me to say “coffee” and “mirror” because as a New Yorker I say “cawfee” and “mirruh.” The second time was when I started dating my husband who is from New Jersey. When he would tell me stories of his childhood I realized how unique and special a New York upbringing is!

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