Leadership Spotlight: Hector Topete

This month we're featuring our resident IT Supervisor, Hector Topete for Leadership Spotlight! Don't be fooled by the job title, Hector's background is rich in experience (both education-based and otherwise), that have added to his thorough understanding of the nonprofit world and social work sector. Read on to learn more about his early life, what led him to EA Family Services, his advice to those interested in working within our field, and more!

Hector TopeteCan you please describe your background, and how you arrived at your current position with EA Family Services?

Most people consider me to be the "tech guy" here, which still makes me laugh a little because my education background training aren't tech-related. My Master's degree is in psychology, with an option in psychological science, which focuses research methodology, statistics, data analysis, and neuroscience. I began gravitating towards technology when I was young, but only as a hobby. When I was attending school I worked at Best Buy in Chico, which is where I gained the majority of my tech knowledge. After graduating from Chico State I was accepted into a doctoral program at the University of Nevada, Reno (where I'm a dissertation and a few classes short), but ultimately decided it wasn't the best fit for me, as the focus was on becoming a professor. 

What I really wanted was to get more hands-on experience in the social work/psychology field so I could make a difference in the lives of youth and families. I was hired at Youth for Change, where I worked for over seven years as a behavioral health counselor, wraparound facilitator/social worker, statistician, and a member of the quality assurance data team. I made the move to EA Family Services because, after having a discussion with members of the admin team, I felt as though I could make a more valuable contribution to the team, particularly in the areas of CQI (Continuous Quality Improvement), outcome measure development, data analysis, and IT.

Were there any experiences in your early life that you feel contributed to your success with EA?

Growing up in a non-traditional environment has definitely helped me relate on a deeper level to the families and youth I've worked with. Having been through many of the same experiences as our families and youth creates a common ground, one which many in the social services can't relate to firsthand. Trust is much easier to gain when you've gone through those things and are open to sharing those commonalities with people. It's important to remember that we're all people, and we're all equal... Some have just had a more difficult road than others.

What advice would you give to someone interested in working with youth in foster care?

Focus on the relationship. If you have a solid relationship with a youth (or anyone else in life), you'll have a much greater chance of creating a lasting change for them. When problems do arise, which will happen at some point, you'll be able to reflect back on those positive memories and you'll have an easier time bringing them back to their baseline, then moving forward. It's also important to BE REAL! Never try to be someone you're not. People, and especially the youth that we work with, will see through this very quickly. If that happens, your credibility is shot and you'll have a much more difficult time developing the relationship. Lastly, DON'T MAKE PROMISES! Life is far too unpredictable to say that you'll be able to do something for certain. If you can't live up to your promises, it can create resentment and cause conflict, once again harming your relationship with that youth. 

What do you enjoy doing when you're not at work?

I enjoy just getting out and doing stuff! It can be anything from traveling, to attending live sporting events (especially SF 49ers, San Jose Sharks, and Sacramento Kings games), comedy shows, and going to amusement parks. One of my favorite hobbies that's surfaced in the last few years is going to escape rooms. I like the combination of puzzle solving and being physically active at the same time. I also enjoy physical activities like lifting weights at the gym, golfing, disc golf, rafting, and kayaking. The gym has been my greatest source of stress relief over the years. 

What's something about you that would surprise most people?

Despite my love of roller coasters, I have a huge fear of heights. Just being on a roof or ladder creates a ton of anxiety for me. Taking off and landing when flying somewhere also creates that same anxiety, which is rough because I tend to fly quite a bit. I'm also an avid fantasy football player, which some of my fellow coworkers can attest to!

Anything else you'd like to add?

I'm so happy that my journey has brought me to EA Family Services. I've been here for over 18 months now and I love it. I greatly look forward to the future of our agency. 

And Go Sharks! This is the year!