Robert Freedman

Occupation: Product Management, Telegent Systems

First Car: VW Bug (bought it for $600 and restored it)

Favorite Restaurant: La Ciccia - Sardinian food located in Noe Valley, San Francisco.

What are three things most people don't know about you?

a). My maternal grandfather was Chinese.  He’s of Russian-Jewish descent, so you could argue that he’s not ancestrally Chinese, but he was born and raised in Harbin, Manchuria.

b). I was raised by a single mom and really didn’t get to know my father’s side of the family until later in life.  Now we go back East at least once a year because it’s fun to see our dozens of cousins across four generations.

c). I grew up working on cars and paid my way through college as a mechanic.  Full disclosure: it was my grandfather’s car shop, but I became a good mechanic over the years (I have ‘62 VW in my garage waiting for me to have time for a hobby again).  I started working at the shop summers at age 9, doing simple chores, and actually started working on cars at age 13 (I was tall and had facial hair early so I looked older).  Grandpa actually almost fired me in my first month because I made some costly mistakes, but I came around.

What's been your greatest adventure in life?

During the dot-com days, my wife and I were both at startups and we made an agreement that before we settled down to having kids, we’d exit (rich-rich-rich) from our dot-coms and travel the world.  Well, we didn’t get rich-rich-rich (or rich-rich or rich), but when our dot-coms imploded, we found a way to do the trip.  We traveled around India and Southeast Asia for four months.  An amazing trip, life-altering in many ways and something we are proud to have done together.

What's your best childhood memory?

It’s difficult to pick any one, but I can say that some of my happiest moments were creating with my Legos.  I have kept the boxes and boxes of Legos in wait to give to my daughter when she’s ready.  Looking forward to that day!

If you could have a conversation with a person of your choice, past, present or future, who would that person be and why?

The more I see our country gridlocked in policy on the one hand and unilaterally going it alone on the other, I wonder how the founders had the guts to pull off what they pulled off 200+ years ago.  It really is amazing how they thought things through and what they did.  I’d take any founding father out for a pint to get his opinion on things.

What's the hardest thing you've ever done in your life?

Honestly, I feel that I’ve been fortunate.  My life has not been hard in any way that I can measure.  Sorry to cop out on the question.

Tell us about your favorite hobby.

My daughter is my favorite hobby and she’s wonderful.  I used to ski, mountain bike, etc., but we worked a bit to have our kid and are enjoying as many minutes of her life as we can.  It goes so quickly.  And then there’s that VW waiting for me in the garage.

What are you currently reading? What is your favorite book?

I don’t have a favorite book.  Authors continue to put out great literature and the written word is definitely one of my favorite things.  I’m currently reading “What is What” by Dave Eggers about the Sudanese war’s impact, though by the time you read this I'll probably be reading something new.  I try to use plane time between customers for at least some reading along with work, and, of course, the New Yorker or a good book is excellent for settling down to sleep after a long day with the client when I’m on the road.

Is there a particular place or thing you want to see?

China.  As I mentioned, my grandfather is from Manchuria, but I’ve never been to China.  I’d love to spend some time there, particularly in the winter to see the ice festival.

If you could give $10,000 to a charity, what would that charity be and why?

One of the family-oriented non-profits in San Francisco.  I believe in giving locally and the City is a tough place for a single mom.  My wife is on the board of the Family Service Agency of San Francisco, so that would probably be my choice.

If you weren't on the professional services career track, what would you be doing?

If I had my “million” dollar retirement wrapped up, I’d be doing NGO work somewhere in the world, most likely Africa.  If I had to pick another profession, I’d go back to running an auto repair shop, probably with a more green/eco-friendly focus.

What is the path that led you to Professional Services/Consulting?

Up until my late teens, I wanted to be an architect and entered contests and took classes throughout high school toward that end.  Then, somewhere along the way, I realized I didn’t much like the actual drafting work (too bad it wasn’t a few years later, since I would have loved CAD systems) and decided that what I really liked about architecture was the conversations with clients to understand their requirements and to create something to meet those.  Then, in college, all of those Arthur Andersen Consulting (not yet Accenture) brochures talking about going anywhere in the world led me into consulting.

What advice would you give to a recent graduate who just took a job in professional services?

Learn everything you can about what your customers’ business problems are.  Don’t worry about the promotional track, you’re likely not going to be at the firm you’re at for that long.  And even if you are, it’s still a great skillset, because understanding your customer’s needs is the key to consulting.

Also, if you aren’t good at project management - visualizing the task plan and the timeline to get it done - take classes, get mentorship, do whatever it takes to become a good project manager.  The best sales people, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, stay-at-home-moms/dads, etc. are all great project managers.  Good project management is a life skill and isn’t that hard.  But it takes practice and is highly admired by those you are managing.