"I now have a passion for intergenerational work."

Dima Khoury
Office of the Mayor
San Jose, CA


Retired Cisco exec expands intergenerational volunteering in San Jose

As I left Cisco after 20 years as a director in engineering and business operations, I was excited for my transition. I knew I wanted to transition from corporate work, but I wasn’t sure what I would be doing

As I’m from the Middle East, for 5 years, I served on the Techwomen application selection committee and mentorship program, a State Department program for professional tech women from the Middle East to engage with Silicon Valley women in tech. At Cisco, I helped found the Middle Eastern employee resource group, leading the mentorship arm. Passionate about education and economic empowerment for youth, I taught a middle school class through Citizen Schools. I also coached 5 high school girls on the Technovation Challenge 2015. I am currently a mentor at the Global Social Benefit Institute, at the Miller Institute for Social Benefit at Santa Clara University. I want to continue to add value where I can.

I learned about Encore Fellowships from a former Cisco friend and Encore Fellow. I wanted to get involved in more meaningful and fulfilling engagements. The Fellowship, as Campaign Director for the Generation to Generation San Jose Campaign, interested me. It is a national campaign and is all about bringing older adults into the lives of children and youth to help them thrive, especially those in underserved and low- income communities. I liked the idea of working with smart, passionate people as part of a team. Throughout my career, I had started new initiatives, created partnerships, grew products, so it fit my skills and interests. San Jose is known for its community engagement and high number of volunteers. The City knew there was a need to change to make it easy to engage in volunteering. The Generation to Generation campaign fit Mayor Liccardo’s vision, which is about youth being our future, and leveraging seasoned adults, their skills and wisdom, as a resource for the future.

San Jose’s Generation to Generation Campaign set a goal to recruit 1000 volunteers and to engage with 5 to 6 youth-serving organizations in the first year. We needed to test recruitment strategies, figure out how to partner with organizations and corporations, and think through the processes and tools to make the program repeatable and scalable. I thought of it like a product campaign- what was the vision, metrics, who are my partners, who are my clients, what is my timeline.

I focused on understanding the campaign, the City, the network of partners we had, and reaching out to youth-serving organizations. They loved the idea of older adults volunteering, bringing experience, time and compassion, and tending to stay on for years. We worked with them on the benefits of being part of the campaign, the tools they would receive, helped them understand how to recruit for older adults, how to engage them, and where to find these types of volunteers. I worked on partnerships, gaining sponsorships from First 5, an agency focused on the development needs in the first five years of life, and AARP, which helped our brand and awareness. For volunteers, we looked for active change agents and invited people to come meet other interesting people. We had 700 volunteers and 15 youth serving organizations after six months.

One big difference from high tech is that instead of talking about products, and to the brains of people, I was talking to hearts to get to the mind. The context of social impact work is different; people are there for reasons of passion and compassion. To build alliances, you have to understand why people do this work, understand how they think. The work is from the heart, as much as from the mind. I will be staying on part-time next year to scale the program. I now have a passion for intergenerational work.


Interested in becoming an Encore Fellow? Learn more and apply at https://encore.org/fellowships/fellow/

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