Sameer Somal, an educator, speaker, and co-founder of thefirm Blue Ocean Global Technology, has been a member of the R.J. Leonard's Foundation Board since 2015. We recently sat down with him to learn more about his work and interests.
How did you get involved with RJLF?
Jo and I had collaborated in the past and I’ve always been passionate about helping empower young people with knowledge and perspective they can use to make the most informed decisions and to become better human beings, better leaders, and better professionals. Jo approached me and said she’d be delighted if I would consider joining the foundation’s board, suggesting that I would bring experience, energy, and a unique perspective.
What do you do as a board member?
As a board member, I’m responsible for policy and governance. I help make decisions concerning strategies for how we can be as impactful as possible. I also interact directly with several of the Fellows. I am passionate about sharing information. I have led several workshops on leadership and financial literacy.
What moment in your time with RJLF stands out as a reminder of the importance of what we do?
There was a young man named Chris. He was a Fellow with a brilliant mind and a passion for writing. I was asked to mentor him in financial literacy. We discovered that we had a lot in common and built a great friendship. Life is all about relationships, and this relationship, which I did not see coming, is one I value.
I’ve also, in conducting workshops, had the experience of having a Fellow or their Mentor come back to me and tell me it was really impactful, and that now approach situations differently, whether in communicating more effectively or having more financial confidence.
How do you think the foster care system in Pennsylvania could better assist young people as they turn 18 and transition out?
I think connecting both resources and the people most passionate about helping young people to the actual young people in need of help represents an opportunity for improvement. There should be a framework for these children, so that when they turn 18, there is a path for them to follow and achieve their dreams. That’s where RJLF has had success, and that’s where we hope over time to be a shining example of the right way to do things.
How can the foundation get better at what we do?
There is a huge opportunity to make an impact, or as Steve Jobs said, “make a small dent in the universe.” And I think we’ve done that with the opportunities we have created. But that’s just a small drop in the bucket. We can expand our reach. We can have more Mentors and more education sessions. We should partner with other organizations that are passionate about this cause.
I’d like to get a bit personal. What are some of your passions and hobbies?
I’m most passionate about learning. My mantra, which comes from Mark Twain, is that “a man or woman who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man or woman who can’t read.” So reading is something about which I feel particularly passionate. I’m also pretty active in terms of exercise. I recently ran a half marathon for women’s empowerment, the anti-rape marathon in Delhi, India. I’m also active with an organization called Girl Power Talk.
As an entrepreneur, I'm in the business of making friends and finding like-minded people that are purposeful. That’s something I spend a lot of time on. I’m also very passionate about the Philadelphia Eagles.
Since you manage online reputations, do you have any suggestions for our Fellows about mistakes to avoid?
Posting pictures and information and photos from a party on social media could come back to haunt you. If somebody’s an employer, and they’re thinking about hiring you, and they go online and see those photos on your Facebook or your Instagram, they’ll go “Wow, that’s not the type of person I want to spend more time with or give an opportunity.” Young people shouldn’t be doing anything that will inhibit them from becoming tomorrow’s leaders.
They should be mindful of their digital presence. It’s important to remember that anything that goes online can be seen by an employer in the future.
Learn how you can help Fellows with their immediate needs on a monthly basis through our Friends Launching Futures sustaining support fund.