Taryn Taddeo, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce
By career

In sixth grade, Taryn Taddeo gave a speech in front of the entire student body. After that, she knew a career in public speaking was for her—she just needed to do some digging to turn her passion into a lucrative career. Taryn pinpointed the job she wanted after a serendipitous meeting with a government official and the rest, as they say, is history. Or should we say herstory?

After a law degree, several jobs internships (including one with Senator Dianne Feinstein!) and a summer studying abroad in Kenya later, Taryn started out at the Chamber of Commerce as the Manager of Public Policy and Small Business. She has since risen through the ranks to Director of Strategic Partnerships, spearheading small business outreach and education.

You might think all of these tasks would take an extremely high level of organization to accomplish, in which case, you’d be right! Taryn has a few tried-and-true strategies for staying organized and keeping tabs on the complex issues she tackles daily, including taking notes, making to-do lists and surveying her calendar first thing in the morning.

Taryn stays motivated by looking at the big picture, striving for ways to impact her community in real, long-lasting ways. Read on to see what this ambitious trailblazer has accomplished and where’s she is heading next.

HER STARTING POINT

QWhat made you decide to go into law?

AI’ve always loved public speaking and debating current issues. When I was in sixth grade, I delivered a five-minute speech to the entire school. The rush I felt speaking to such a large group is something I’ll never forget.

So I knew a job involving public speaking was something I wanted to pursue, but the professional field and position was the difficult part. Then a chance meeting with someone in government affairs in college blew me away—a career that blends public engagement, event planning, and policy?! (if you couldn’t guess, I have a small obsession with The West Wing.)

While I knew a traditional legal career was not for me, law school provided an avenue to develop public speaking skills—critically important for a career in policy and outreach. After completing several internships and volunteer positions, I’m finally on the path to my dream job—working in community engagement and on a new education initiative.

QWhat would you say helped you the most during law school?

ALaw school was an amazing experience. Full of organized, driven individuals, it was a place to grow into a professional. I learned that careful preparation provides the confidence necessary to speak up, get heard, and eventually, achieve success.

It was also key that I was in law school for the right reasons. I was there for myself, not for any external reasons.

QYou also studied abroad in Nairobi, Kenya during your time at Chapman. What was this experience like?

AExperiences that take you out of your comfort zone are invaluable. Studying in Kenya opened an entirely new perspective [for me]. Our professors in Kenya were from around the world [so they] provided different, unique perspectives on the United State’s role in global politics. My studies there were focused on conservation law, and it was fascinating to hear their points of view.

That summer also opened my eyes to how much easier it is to stay motivated when everything you need is easily accessible. Turns out, snacks and breaks to surf the internet are key

QWe’re dying to know: tell us about working with Senator Dianne Feinstein.

AWorking for Senator Feinstein was the first time I felt I could grow in a role and take on multiple responsibilities at once. I learned how to engage with the public, research policy issues, and truly listen to individuals, their issues and concerns.

Often people call elected officials’ offices to vent about individual struggles and hardships. It’s important to address true concerns rather than react to emotion. In my current role, I speak with members of the community, listen to their business challenges, and try to find the best solution the chamber can provide. More often than not, it’s as simple as letting someone know they have been heard.

HER BIG BREAK

QWhen you first started out at the Chamber of Commerce, you held the position of Manager of Public Policy and Small Business, and now you’re the Director of Strategic Partnership. How did you make this transition?

AI [started out] supporting the policy team by researching legislation, drafting letters of both support and opposition, and planning events and programs.

Once I’d established myself in that role, I expressed interest in developing education policy. Our CEO embraced my drive and allowed me to start attending community meetings, reviewing legislation in small business and education, and redesigning our small business outreach program. Through conversations with education partners and business leaders, it became clear that the timing was perfect for the chamber to lead business engagement in education.

Fostering talent is essential to the development of our workforce and in turn, ensuring the success of our economy. As our leadership grew, this process naturally developed into a position—the one I now hold. I’m incredibly lucky to have mentors who allowed me to take on additional responsibilities that weren’t necessarily included in my job description.

QWhat’s your strategy for staying organized and on top of things?

AI’ve always been very organized (I was one of those people in law school with color-coordinated notes and multi-tab binders). I write down all my tasks, and I only use my inbox for things that still need to be taken care of. I flag all emails that still have a “to-do” for follow up and can visually see what needs to be done that day.

Before I leave, I write out my tasks for the next day, making note if there is anything I didn’t accomplish. In the morning, I look at my calendar first thing (not my emails) to ensure [I know] how the day is going to go.

QWhat’s an average day like for you?

AAn “average” day is one with lots of meetings. But beyond that nothing is average!

I get to the office around 8:00am, check my email, and try to take care of any “easy wins”—things that I can check off my to-do list with minimal effort.

Then I have my first couple of meetings, but those can be either formal or informal. Honestly, I’m all about coffee meetings. The agendas can range—I might be discussing the chamber’s new education initiative, UniteSF, with a potential community partner, presenting to a merchant association about an upcoming small business program, meeting with a new small business partner, or attending a working group meeting for a partnership we’re involved with.

I typically fit a Pilates class in at lunch, and then it’s back to the office to plan an upcoming event, work on a strategic plan, research a policy or city issue, or…for more meetings! If I don’t have plans after work, I head home around 5:30.

HER PERSPECTIVE

QWhy are education, small business, and environmental efforts so important to you?

ABecause I have a strong personal connection to all three!

My mom was a juvenile probation officer in Orange County for over 35 years. Growing up, she frequently talked about the kids on her caseload, the challenges they faced, and what it meant to have someone in their corner. It’s remarkable what a difference it can make in a child’s life just when someone advocates for their best interests. I truly believe that if business, education, government, nonprofits, and labor work together, our education system (and future workforce) will have a greater chance for success. There is incredible talent in our school system, and it is our responsibility to foster it.

My interest in small business comes from my father who is a small business owner himself. I know how hard he worked to grow and sustain it. In San Francisco, 95% of businesses are small businesses. They’re a huge source of jobs and a large contributor to the success of the economy. In that sense, small business and education are tied together.

I have always had a passion for the environment. Initially, I wanted to work on endangered species and conservation policy. That didn’t work out with the opportunities I encountered and the evolution of my career, but I’m happy that I can still promote conservation [in my current position].

QWhy is volunteering important to you?

AI’ve been a member of the Junior League [of San Francisco] for three years now. I love being a part of an organization that promotes volunteerism, leadership, and supporting philanthropic activities in our community.

I’m a co-chair for the Advocacy Committee, which supports the league’s efforts against domestic violence and human trafficking, [and its promotion of] maternal mental health and transgender awareness. I’m proud we provide opportunities for league members to learn about these issues and how they can take an active role in their community. This past year we developed relationships with San Francisco Supervisors and led trainings leading up to the local election.

QHow do you stay so dedicated and motivated on a day-to-day basis?

AI love the opportunity to create programming and partnerships that have lasting impact. I strategize ways to make our small business outreach more impactful while building our education initiative from scratch. There are days when I’m frustrated that I can’t create the traction needed to make a program successful, or when it takes three times longer than I’d hoped to build consensus for a new initiative, but I remind myself that I’m working towards establishing something that will outlast me. In 20 years, if our new education initiative is a leader in collaborative partnerships, then it’s worth it.

QAnd finally, what do you wake up looking forward to? What’s next for your career?

AI want to be able to look back at this time in my life and know that what I did had lasting impact. I used to plan everything out—now I’m trying to take a step back and let my career develop. I may want to run for office or perhaps lead philanthropic efforts for a large Fortune 500 company, but my end goal is just to be respected in my field.

I also got married in September so I am excited for us to start our life “officially” together!