Along with many people across the globe, Derek Kim’s world turned upside down last year.
In the middle of a pandemic, Kim joined the SFPUC as the Deputy People Officer in the Human Resource Services (HRS) department in October 2020. He onboarded with the agency and jumped into supporting HRS team members to meet the SFPUC’s Talent Acquisition, Employee Lifecycle and Payroll needs. Prior to joining the SFPUC, Kim served in various human resources roles at the SFMTA.
One day, the call came. Kim knew the COVID-19 pandemic was a crisis that needed City employees to raise their hand. He responded to the call as a disaster service worker and reported into his new “office,” San Francisco’s COVID Command Center. Kim served as the Personnel Branch Operations Manager, where he coordinated staffing for the launch of the Embarcadero COVID Testing Site, served as a public ambassador for Muni bus routes, and managed the registration line at the mass vaccination site at City College.
“It was an honor working with so many dedicated colleagues from City different departments,” shared Kim. “It was an amazing experience working on a common mission with my fellow public servants to battle a pandemic that impacted everyone, and that mission was to save lives.”
Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month has grown in significance to Kim, especially with increased discrimination and violence toward APA communities during the pandemic.
“APA Heritage Month is a dedicated time to celebrate, recognize and reflect on the history, achievements and the on-going contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islanders to this country,” he said. “Over the past decade, I think there’s also been some appropriate spotlighting of continuing challenges and struggles facing the AAPI community.”
Kim noted that recent events have been jarring and have stirred up memories of his childhood, such as the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982. “It’s definitely a reminder that we can’t be complacent and there’s still a lot to do,” he urged. “I think in the immediacy is about recognizing and providing support to the AAPI community, including funding, public safety, health programs, etc. I believe the model minority myth has been detrimental to both the advocacy and needs of the community.”
Kim encouraged to continue working alongside other communities of color to fight harmful institutions, such as racism and scapegoating. “As long as racism and scapegoating exists, no community will be truly safe and allowed to prosper,” he shared. “Celebrating, recognizing and accepting our differences can be as fundamental as celebrating all that life has to offer.”
Kim said he truly believes that through each other’s diversity, everyone can become more aware and understanding of each other and themselves. “This recognition, understanding and appreciation makes us stronger, educates us and promotes community growth. Even in the context of career paths, it’s incredibly beneficial to understand other perspectives and broaden our own knowledge and experiences and engage in life-long learning.”