Finding Joy in Collaboration: Simon Pan’s City Career Started with Teamwork

Camaraderie and teamwork are key facets of any engaging workplace. Former “solo worker” Simon Pan first discovered his unexpected value and joy for collaboration as a CityWorks summer intern working at the SFPUC’s Southeast Treatment Plant. 

“At Burton [Phillip and Sala Burton Academic High School] I always worked alone, I was a solo person. With CityWorks, I saw how engineers communicate and collaborate with each other to make a project a success. I realized that working together is fun and that I actually wanted that same type of positive, collaborative working environment in my own career.”

CityWorks helped Pan realize his unexpected desire for a collaborative working style and altered his collegiate and career path. As someone born in San Francisco and raised in the Bayview, CityWorks was also his first introduction to public service and local government careers in his hometown. 

“It was really interesting seeing the interactions between engineers, field technicians, and other staff. Everyone was collaborating with respect for each other’s expertise,” Pan shared. “Seeing how positive and willing everyone was to work with each other, I was amazed that I could be there in ten years and be in a position where I could collaborate with other folks to make a project successful. That’s what engineering is all about, communicating, problem-solving and building with each other.” 

Pan’s CityWorks experience was made possible through the SFPUC’s Social Impact Partnership Program, which is a result of the commitments made and delivered by private firms working on SFPUC infrastructure projects. CityWorks provides youth from San Francisco with paid internships at private firms working on local construction and engineering projects for the SFPUC. The program is primarily directed at youth from the Southeast community. CityWorks’s goal is to introduce high school and college students to exciting careers with underrepresentation of People of Color and women, showing them firsthand the vast career opportunities available to them within the utilities sector. It is operated through a partnership between the SFPUC and the local nonprofit Young Community Developers. 

Pan’s internship at the Southeast Treatment Plant exposed him to the wastewater treatment processes and plant operations. He regularly met with engineers, field technicians and other staff who closely collaborated on projects and operations.

“Each week, I shadowed a new staff member to learn about a different area of wastewater operations. I got to see how these different players worked together to make the Plant function.”

Simon Pan after his graduation from UC Davis.

Pan went on to study at the University of California, Davis majoring in Civil Engineering. He then interned with the City and County of San Francisco at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) during the summer of 2016. “It’s like a small city that’s part of the City,” he explained. “SFO has its own fire department, wastewater treatment plant, lodging and accommodations, food services, transportation, and more. I was fortunate to learn how a city operates on a smaller scale at the airport.”

Since graduating from UC Davis, Pan has continued his professional journey working as a Resident Engineer in construction management at SFO. In his position, he regularly collaborates and problem solves with engineers, construction teams, contractors, and contractor managers to ensure his projects progress on time and within budget, putting in practice the lessons learned during his CityWorks internship many years ago. 

Pan has grown a strong appreciation for public service and STEM careers since his experience with CityWorks in 2012. “Working for the City feels good,” he said. “I get to work for my community and where I grew up and help support the City in a way that’s impactful.”

For young people interested in careers focused in STEM and public service, Pan offered some wisdom that he learned over the years. “The more doors you knock on, the more doors open for you. When these doors open, seize the opportunity to step through and see where life takes you,” he shared, hoping to encourage other young people. “Explore education and a career in STEM. There is so much you can do to serve your community by using that knowledge and experience.”

Simon Pan during his internship (top row center in the SF Giants hat).