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Leverett Wing, Executive Director at Commonwealth Seminar and Colette Phillips

Get to Know: Leverett Wing, Executive Director at Commonwealth Seminar

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Get Konnected!’s “Get to Know” series explores the mentors that attend its bi-monthly networking events and make them possible. Learn more about what these Boston-area working professionals like to do in their free time, their career paths, and what mentoring means to them.

For GK Mentor Leverett Wing, the city of Boston is a familiar stomping ground. Wing, who was born and raised in Boston, almost found himself in Chicago or New York for law school. However, a mentor persuaded him in the direction of public policy—something that would change the course of his professional career. Wing has helped to inform those within the community for over 25 years and has worked with Get Konnected! since its inception.

On working at Commonwealth Seminar. It is exactly what I’ve been doing my entire life. I get to work with communities of color and underserviced communities, and educate people on the ins and outs and the essentials of government. I get to help develop aspiring leaders in communities from all around Massachusetts. It is absolutely my dream job.

On the importance of mentoring in his life. It’s been essential. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had a number of folks as mentors from my grade-school years through my teens, and into my college and professional years. I look back and I often think, “Wow, I was very fortunate to have these people helping guide me through different processes.”

On his first mentors. One of my first mentors was my college advisor, Linell Yugawa at Tufts University. My initial plan was to go to law school, and I had gotten accepted to a couple of prominent law schools in New York and Chicago. Linell encouraged me to apply to somewhere where the focuses were more on politics and activism. She encouraged me to apply to public policy school and because of that, I applied to the [John F.] Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. I was fortunate enough to be accepted, and that really changed the course of my life dramatically.

Professionally, my first mentor in the community was a woman named Margie Yamamoto who worked at WGBH-TV. I was on one of the boards there, and I think there was a statement I disagreed with during one of the meetings. Margie helped walk me through the minefield of making my concerns known, how to do so tactfully, how to address people properly, and how to go through the proper channels. That helped lay the future, not only for the board at WGBH, but for much of my future community work. She definitely laid the foundation for how I address people, and how to diplomatically work with folks to resolve situations.

On his current mentors in this stage of his career. There are still folks, who were mentors to me as I was developing professionally and community-wise, that I go to and lean on for advice. I don’t lean on them as much as I used to. Now, the role has sort of shifted to me mentoring others, but I still go to those folks for different situations. It’s a bit more equal in terms of sharing. We’re able to have a more reciprocal relationship, but you’re never too old to learn new things.

On Get Konnected! as a place for young professionals in Boston to meet. It’s one of the few places where you can go and meet similar professionals to yourself, professionals of color, the folks who are looking to break through what is traditionally a non-hospitable environment to professionals of color. It’s also a welcoming environment. Get Konnected! offers a very relaxed, almost festive atmosphere and the example is set by Get Konnected!’s leader, Colette. As soon as she gets on the mic, she is fun and engaging and inspiring and very positive. That lays the foundation for a networking event and the environment that Get Konnected! provides.

On the advice from mentors that still applies today. One is “listen more than you speak” and the other is surround yourself with people who are just as smart, if not smarter than you. And don’t be afraid to be wrong because you don’t have a monopoly on good ideas.

On his favorite food. For me, it’s Chinese food in any incarnation, but outside of Chinese food, my favorite food would have to be really good steak. My apologies to vegetarians and vegans, but my favorite food is a really good steak. I’m a sucker for one of those.

On how he relaxes and unwinds. I hang out with my family, and I watch really bad action and Japanese monster movies with my wife and son. Oh, and Family Feud with Steve Harvey is almost nightly viewing.

On his favorite thing about living and working in Boston. It’s walkable, and there’s something to learn every single day. There’s the history of Boston, and the history of Boston is evolving—that’s what I love about it. There’s so much more coming out now with the community evolving and the different communities getting a voice. Their histories are now coming out and you’re learning so much more about the vast fabrics of Boston.

On advice to his younger self. Just chill a little bit. Take the important things seriously—there are many, many things you have to take seriously—but look at the bigger, long-term picture. But mostly, just be a bit more chill.

Some responses have been shortened or edited for clarity.

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