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Spotlight Series #3: Showing Appreciation to Our SFPUC Employees

Showing Appreciation to Our SFPUC Employees
  • Francesca Cozzone

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is comprised of many talented and dedicated public servants. They all play a critical role in ensuring the safe and reliable delivery of our water, power, and wastewater services. Get to know a few of the talented colleagues at the SFPUC and read their spotlights below.

Janina Villanueva

Janina Villanueva is one of three Talent Acquisition Managers in Human Resources Services (HRS). She currently manages a talented group of people who are responsible for the recruitment & selection, classification & compensation, and HRS operations for several of the SFPUC’s bureaus and divisions. Her team works directly with the hiring managers to find the best and most qualified candidate for the position.  

Janina Villanueva, Talent Acquistion Managers for HRS.
Janina Villanueva, Talent Acquistion Managers for HRS.

Janina has had a very expansive career with the City. In 2006, she started working at the Department of Human Resources as a Personnel Clerk. For the next 11 years, she grew into many new positions and worked on a wide range of projects and initiatives in the Operations Division including Certification, Appointment Processing, Badging, Front Counter, Fingerprinting and Conviction History programs. 

One of her proudest accomplishments is when she led the development and launch of the Citywide Conviction History Program. The Conviction History Program became an award-winning program and a model for other public jurisdictions in conducting the pre-employment background review of applicants. In 2017, Janina joined the SFPUC as a Senior Human Resource Analyst specializing in exams and recruitment. In 2022, she started her new role as a Talent Acquisition Manager.  

Janina feels privileged and passionate to have this job because she can directly see the impact that she has on the people and the community when someone is hired for a job, and when she sees them working on SFPUC job sites providing services to the people of San Francisco. She truly believes that each time the SFPUC finds a talented individual and places them on a job, that is a huge accomplishment.  “We need to celebrate every single recruitment completed or talent hired because that is a big win, and I think we need to normalize that.” 

Janina reflected on how public servants do not receive many “thank you's” from the people with whom services are provided to, so when a candidate or customer shares their gratitude with her, she feels like she was able to provide satisfactory service to them.

Being a new mom to a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old, the biggest challenge Janina has faced in her career is the struggle of trying to keep a work-life balance and making sure to give her best both at home and at work. Having experienced the wide range of challenges, stress, and pressure from being a full-time parent, spouse, and caregiver to family members, Janina appreciates the SFPUC’s support of employees and their families and is glad to have found a work home that is understanding of people in a similar situation. Janina is particularly grateful to work alongside a bright and delightful group of folks who make work fun and more satisfying during difficult times. 

One colleague who has had a positive impact on Janina’s work is her former manager and mentor, Marie, from the Department of Human Resources. Janina shared that Marie “embodies the true meaning of a leader and public servant, and she taught me a lot not just about work, but most importantly, being a genuine and caring person towards your colleagues.” 

Marie takes an interest in all her employees by taking the time to have dialogue with them, educate them, and find and provide opportunities for them to grow and shine. Janina learned not just to be a better employee but feels that Marie inspired her to find reasons to care about the work Janina does and to pay it forward. She hopes to one day be the type of leader Marie was to her. Even after Marie left the city, Janina and Marie stayed in touch, becoming friends. Now, Marie is godmother to Janina’s daughter.

Janina and her husband are true foodies so whenever they return to the City, they are always going to the restaurants that they used to go to when they lived here. Some of Janina’s favorites are Kitchen Story for brunch, R&G Lounge in Chinatown, the Mission District for some burritos and tacos, Hog Island Oyster Co., and she included a “must mention,” Brenda’s French Soul Food on Polk St. Janina also likes to hike. Her favorite trail is Land’s End as it has great views of the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. 

When offering advice to new employees, Janina shared a friendly reminder that we “do not have to pay to get educated. A lot of things are free now if you know where to look – books, podcasts, workshops, even social media (hello TikTok!). But I think the most valuable resource that you can acquire is people.” 

She advises others to make connections, create relationships, and learn from each person that you work and interact with. She also recommends taking pleasure in the uncomfortable.  It is usually the uncomfortable situations that help you grow and learn the most. The uncomfortable situation can be large like changing careers or small like talking to someone new, but often, “when situations feel familiar, that is when you know it is time for a change.” 

Carmen Iton

As a Youth Programs Analyst with External Affairs, Community Benefits, Carmen Iton partners with youth-serving programs and organizations to educate students and transitionally aged youth about the employment opportunities that are available at the SFPUC. Carmen and the Community Benefits team coordinate internship placements, career panels and fairs, work-site tours, and guest speaking opportunities in classrooms.

Carmen Iton, Youth Programs Analyst with External Affairs, Community Benefits.
Carmen Iton, Youth Programs Analyst with External Affairs, Community Benefits.

The nature of Carmen’s role allows her to meet many interesting people who work on various programs and projects. She learns something new about the SFPUC every day. Carmen is particularly grateful to work alongside and learn from the “incredibly intelligent, compassionate, and mission-driven people” in Community Benefits.

Two colleagues who have inspired Carmen throughout her time at the SFPUC are Metzali Andrade and Hannah Gordon. Metzali and Hannah steward and maintain the College Hill Learning Garden (CHLG), while also leading one to two field trips for SFUSD students daily. At CHLG, Metzali and Hannah teach the students about key environmental literacy concepts like water use and waste systems.

She describes Metzali as being a good example of approaching work with the intentionality to always put the community at the forefront. “Metzali is a passionate activist and involved community member who has inspired me to become more involved in my own community.”

Carmen grew up in San Francisco and stated that working at the SFPUC has given her a greater sense of respect and understanding for her home. She also appreciates having additional insight into projects throughout the City and being able to share that with her friends and family.  

When she is in the office at 525 Golden Gate, Carmen’s favorite lunch spots to visit are Brenda’s French Soul Food and Chao Pescao. On the weekends, she enjoys grabbing some takeout from Basa Seafood Express on 24th Street and taking it to Billy Goat Hill to eat around sunset. 

When asked what advice she would give to new employees, she encourages others to visit as many of the SFPUC sites as one can, like Hetch Hetchy, the Fifield-Cahill Ridge Trail, College Hill Learning Garden, Hummingbird Farm, the Sunol Water Temple, and the Southeast Community Center. “Each of these places has a unique history and function that helps to contextualize the work that we do at the SFPUC.”