This year, the Pacific Council is celebrating our Operations Officer Chaka Jones, who has been with the Council for 20 years.
As the Operations Officer, Chaka oversees the office operations including our database administration; implements changes or enhancements to procedures to improve productivity, efficiency, and member services; and plans and coordinates with our IT systems vendor to maintain and update our hardware and software systems. He also serves as a liaison to USC on human resources and personnel matters. Chaka additionally coordinates with the Council’s accounting system services vendor to maintain accurate organizational records. Our members have probably seen him at almost every Pacific Council event, setting up our banners, helping at registration, and even capturing the occasional photo.
Clearly, Chaka plays an integral role in making sure the Pacific Council functions smoothly on a day to day basis.
Prior to joining the Council, Chaka was an instructor for USC’s Professional Certification Program. We recently asked Chaka about his experience working for the Council over the past two decades.
Pacific Council: When did you start at the Pacific Council?
Chaka Jones: I starting working for the Pacific Council on January 5, 1999, after working as an instructor for the USC job development division.
How has your role here changed?
My role has expanded to include accounting and operations administration along with IT and database management. I’m also a member of the staff committees on “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) and “team enrichment and morale” (TEAM) as well as the 25th anniversary task force. I also help to execute all of our marquee events.
What are some fun memories you have of the early days at the Council?
Summer Hours and Margarita Fridays! Staff BBQs on USC’s campus were really enjoyable. We also hosted Members Weekend [now PolicyWest] at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay once, which was a great experience. Our office also used to be in a leaky, critter-infested basement on campus and in a parking garage where it felt like an earthquake every time a car drove by, making the work environment really interesting at times.
How has the Council changed in the 20 years since you’ve been here?
We have a beautiful new office space, a new strategic vision with a focus on diversity and inclusion, and new staff committees dedicated to DEI, strategy, and team enrichment and morale. We’ve also rebranded Members Weekend to PolicyWest, and our staff size has more than doubled.
What is your favorite thing about the Pacific Council?
The people I’ve connected with over the years are a highlight for me. I also enjoy having access to the high-level foreign policy discussions. USC also has great benefits for its staff, including tuition assistance for staff children.
What has been your favorite event in the 20 years you’ve been at the Council? What speaker has most inspired you?
There are way too many to pick just one. John Kerry was very personable; George W. Bush had a great sense of humor. Meeting Condoleezza Rice was one of my favorite moments. And all of our programming on cybersecurity has been both interesting and informative.
What do you hope the Pacific Council will look like and focus on over the next 20 years?
I’d like to see the Pacific Council focus on having a bigger impact in U.S. foreign policy by not only educating policy makers but also by inspiring and educating future leaders. I’d even like a fund setup in my honor where local communities can gain access to the Council’s impressive network of experts.
I’d like the Council to look a lot like LA (a melting pot of people from different cultures and backgrounds). That means including more diversity on our staff, membership, board, and speakers. I’d also like to see more people of color in leadership positions.