We are excited to introduce David Swidler, the newly appointed Manager of Program Operations on our team! We took some time to learn more about David, his work with the organization, and his fear of being judged for having peculiar playlists.
What is your title and what departments do you work in?
I am transitioning into a new role as a Manager of Program Operations, but previously held the title of Program Manager at Shift. I have worked on a few projects including the Math Change Package Development, Georgia Department of Early Learning, and Continuous Improvement Video projects.
I recently finished my work on the Student Experience Project, which I was a part of since my first day at Shift in November 2019 through the project’s end last month (June 2022). That was such a fascinating and interesting project to be a part of, because we worked with universities and learning partner organizations from across the country to create equitable learning environments. We focused our efforts on first generation students, women, students from structurally disadvantaged racial backgrounds, and who experience financial insecurity, who, because of systemic inequalities, may feel like they do not belong on a college campus. I managed the project’s logistical needs, like coordinating and managing our partners. My highlight was working on our biannual convenings both virtual and in-person.
What’s different about the way Shift works?
We have the freedom to work on our own, which helped a great deal when the pandemic changed how everyone worked. However, we design our projects together and operate as a team, so we are all interdependent—which has helped us build a real partnership and bond.
When I finally reunited with some of my co-workers who I had not seen in person for over two years, it did not feel strange because of all the time we had spent working together. I have one coworker who I have never met in person, but sometimes we will say, “next time I see you...” just because we are so wonderfully familiar with each other.
Do you apply improvement methods to your life? If so, how?
One thing we do at Shift is have one of our Improvement Advisors work with those on the team who are less familiar with improvement concepts. So, we are able to take methods and apply them to our home life to see how they work, like using data to make changes and test the impact of those changes against an end goal. When you can apply these methods to something you are very familiar with, it helps to build that understanding.
Which Shift principle resonates the most with you?
Learn and Adapt. There is so much knowledge and genius on this team, and with those we work with, that I can’t help but learn, and adapt to all I learn. I take on new ways of doing things, new ways of thinking, and new ways of approaching my work. I’m so inspired that I share what I learn with others. I am very lucky to work with all these people and know how much I have grown professionally and personally from working at Shift.
How do your past experiences positively impact your work at Shift?
I previously worked at LAUSD (The Los Angeles Unified School District) and Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where I worked with students, teachers, administrators, patients, and clinicians. What I enjoyed most about those interactions was hearing from people, what they wanted, what they felt would lead to improvement. That is what we do a lot at Shift, listening and getting everyone involved in the process.
What is your hidden talent?
Geography. I love traveling and the idea of traveling, which led me to learn about the world and its rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, capitals, regions, which country is located next to which other country. Back in the day I was so good at State Tag—a playground game where people call out states on a giant playground map, and if you were tagged before you got there, you were it. I was not considered a tough kid, but I dominated at that game.
What type of music is on your current playlist?
It is my worst nightmare that one day someone will reveal any of my playlists to anyone. I do enjoy both versions of Pursuit of Happiness by Kid Cudi and Lissie. I have a strong connection to Jurassic Five because it reminds me of simpler times growing up. Because I am a dad I listen to a lot of Big Red Machine and Frightened Rabbit.
What’s your favorite sport/sports team?
I follow a variety of Seattle and English sports teams, all who do things that make me sad. Then I get sad about feeling so sad about sports, and that makes me sadder and eventually I just go to bed. Then the next day I wake up and get excited and turn on the game. It’s a pattern that has continued most of my life, and will continue, seemingly forever.
What was the last book you read?
Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin. I read mostly children’s books these days. Dragons Loves Tacos by Adam Rubin is a popular one in my household. It combines my daughter's love of dragons, my love of tacos and a simple rule—do not give dragons hot sauce.
If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
I think something like meditation, or just a way that I can truly let go. I’d like to let everything leave my head, so I can focus on nothing and let my mind recover by reaching a state of peaceful bliss. Or making pizza from scratch.