Project Description

Dwayne Gathers
President and CEO
Gathers Strategies

How did you get your first job in this field?

By accident, I was asked if I was interested in putting my hat in the ring to be considered for the position of Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State of African Affairs at the US State Department. That was a big stretch, as I knew nothing about Africa and – at the time – I was focused on economic development policy at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. But, Ambassador Hank Cohen figured I knew my way around Washington and could learn Africa and learn the State Dept. and hired a non-FSO for that role. I was the first non-FSO in any of the Special Assistant roles within the regional bureaus at State at the time.

What was your career path?

After Dartmouth, I returned to NYC to join Chemical Bank’s management training program and then the bank’s Energy & Minerals Division. After a number of years in banking in NYC, I realized that I much preferred public policy and relocated to DC, where I had an opportunity to join the Assistant Secretary for Community Planning & Development at HUD. From there, I found my way to the US State Department. Then I joined a public affairs firm in DC for a short while before being asked if I was interested in opening up the State of California’s new Office of Trade and Investment in South Africa. By this time, my reaction was “while I know a lot about Africa, I know nothing about California.” But, the Trade & Commerce Agency persisted and I finally reconsidered and was appointed by former Governor Pete Wilson in July 1995 to open that office and I ended up living in South Africa from then until January 2000.

After leaving Johannesburg, I decided that I should actually live in the state that I had worked on behalf of for nearly 5 years. I started my own international consulting practice, this time working on behalf of foreign trade and investment promotion agencies. Then, the crash happened and 9/11 and the Bay Area regional economy took a hit. A number of countries I was working in saw their currencies drop, drop and drop, so doing anything in the US was that much more expensive.

So, that calamity offered the opportunity to consider a change and given my economic development and international experiences, I was encouraged by Lee Harrington, former President and CEO of the LAEDC to consider relocating and joining their organization, which I did in January 2004. I served at the LAEDC for 4 and ½ years before deciding to launch Gathers Strategies, as a vehicle to pursue a broader range of work – both local, regional, statewide, national and – of course – international work. It’s been great fun putting together all the skills – and relationships developed – and to have a consulting practice that was started during the challenging downturn (September 2008) and to be still chugging along 8 ½ years later.

What personal qualities have helped you become successful?

Perseverance. Dedication. Reliability. Motivated. Flexibility.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I absolutely love facilitating relationships between parties that don’t know each other and where my understanding of them and their respective goals and objectives warrant them getting together.

How do you see the future of the profession? What are the positions in this field with the most potential for growth?

The world is getting smaller and the issues more challenging and complex but there will continue to be more connectedness and opportunities for engagement. I think big picture “strategic thinkers” are needed and will do well. People with strong communications skills and the ability to translate ideas and opportunities across borders will be needed.

Why did you choose a career with an international focus?

While at Dartmouth, I participated in the school’s Language Study Abroad program and lived with a family in Blois, France. It was my first time ever out of the county and I absolutely LOVED it! I knew from then that I needed to find a way to orient my work internationally.