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AANHPI Heritage Month Spotlight: George Chan’s Inspiring Journey

AANHPI Heritage Month Spotlight: George Chan’s Inspiring Journey
  • Sarah Peters
George Chan

In May, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) celebrates the rich cultures and contributions of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, & Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities. This month, we highlight George Chan, an IS-Engineer, whose role and dedication exemplify the spirit of our team. George's work behind the scenes ensures the reliability and security of our critical water management systems, while his personal journey underscores the strong friendships within the ITS department at SFPUC.

Keeping Our Systems Safe

George Chan is a 1044 IS Engineer-Principal for ITS-SCADA. His role is crucial to the smooth functioning of the City's water management systems. "I am the Operational Technology Systems Engineer for our Water-SCADA IT infrastructure that supports the AVEVA (formerly Wonderware) platform used for real-time monitoring, control, and data visualization for our water management operations," he says.

George Chan

George’s responsibilities are extensive and vital. "Look at me as the person working behind the scenes to ensure our SCADA infrastructure is running 24/7 and secured from outside threats. Specifically, I oversee the resiliency and security of our critical systems by managing the servers, storage, virtualization, directory services, and cybersecurity."

Celebrating AANHPI Heritage Month

As a Chinese American who grew up in Oakland's Chinatown, George feels a deep connection to his heritage. "AANHPI Heritage Month holds immense significance in raising awareness for our diverse groups. It provides a platform to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and invaluable contributions of all AANHPI communities."

Reflecting on the importance of this month, George shares, "despite recent incidents of hate in our community, I feel combating hate requires education and promoting positivity. So AANHPI Heritage Month serves as an opportunity for us to share our stories and highlight the diverse experiences, adversities, and histories that shape our identities. With over 100 different spoken languages and more than 20 million stories to share, our collective narrative is both rich and diverse."

AANHPI Representation in the Utilities Industry

George emphasizes the necessity of AANHPI representation in utilities. "Every time I attend a large IT/OT conference or meetings with other IT experts in the utilities sector, I am consistently surprised by the lack of AANHPI representation. This stands in stark contrast to what I observe within SFPUC-ITS, where our team represents a true melting pot with members hailing from all corners of the globe, including China, the Philippines, Guam, India, Korea, Vietnam, and more."

George Chan at Lake Merritt
George at Lake Merritt as a child.

He believes that diversity brings strength to the industry. "It is important that we are not only present but also represented within the utilities. This diversity enriches the industry by bringing forth a multitude of perspectives, ideas, and approaches to problem-solving, fostering innovation and enhancing effectiveness."

Advice for Young AANHPI Students

For young AANHPI students looking to enter the utilities industry, George offers this advice: "I believe it's important for all young AANHPI students to develop a deep passion for their chosen field. Take the time to actively educate yourself, seek out mentorship opportunities, and engage in networking activities while keeping an open mind."

Sharing his own journey, George recounts, "I initially felt uncertain about my major in Computer Science despite my interest in gaming and computers. However, I was fortunate to encounter a systems administrator in college who, a Vietnamese American, became my mentor, guiding me through various IT disciplines. Throughout my college years, I explored networking, systems, database, and software development, eventually discovering my true calling."

He encourages students to leverage available resources and reach out for guidance. "Just as my mentor supported me, I too am available for advice or guidance in the field of IT Systems. I believe that with dedication and effort in your chosen field, success is inevitable."

George’s Personal Journey and Community Support

George Chan
George at Treasure Island in 2014.

George's journey at the SFPUC is not just professional but also deeply personal. "When I first joined the SFPUC, I weighed over 255 pounds and struggled with numerous health issues. Until one day, a colleague of mine inspired me to prioritize my health and embark on a weight loss journey."

What made this journey meaningful was the support of his AANHPI family in ITS. "Many of us shared similar backgrounds and experiences, navigating cultural nuances and familial expectations that influenced our eating and exercise habits. With their insight and understanding of these shared challenges, they offered advice and unwavering support."

Through their support, George achieved extraordinary success. "Thanks to their support, I was able to shed over 100 pounds, discovered inner strength, maintained most of the weight loss even five years later, and no longer required medication for my health issues."

This experience fostered a strong bond within the ITS team. "This sense of camaraderie fostered a community in ITS, characterized not only by our shared backgrounds but also by a collective commitment to uplift and support one another. It evolved into a team-building endeavor where we encouraged each other to adopt healthier lifestyles, supported one another through challenges, and celebrated each other’s milestones."