Member Spotlight – Esther Ng

Tell us about you and your background

I majored in Urban Studies with a minor in environmental science at Barnard College and went on to planning school at the University of Pennsylvania. My interest in planning and housing developed over the course of my undergraduate studies having learned and researched about spatial (in)justice issues – particularly the inadequacy of affordable quality housing in Hong Kong (where I’m from). I’ve previously interned with non-profits/ community organizations in both Hong Kong and New York City. These experiences have helped shape my perspective on housing issues and led me to what I’m doing now.

What’s a typical day like for you?

There’s no typical day as it really depends on the projects (or the stage where the projects are in) I’m working on at any given time. Recently, I’ve mainly been putting together financing applications for various affordable housing projects – which involves interpreting guidelines, coordinating the development team, managing budgets, tracking deliverables and deadlines so projects stay on track.

What woman/ women inspire you?

I don’t think I can pinpoint a single woman who inspires me – there’s been so many inspirational women I’ve encountered over different phases of my life so far – my mother, professors, my roommate to name a few. Chris, my manager/mentor at Diamond and Associates has been a role model, particularly in her passion for the work that we do and her work ethic. She has been so incredibly supportive and encouraging in the short time I’ve been working here and has consistently pushed me to get out of my comfort zone, speak up more, and take on more responsibilities – something I’m still learning and will continue to learn to do.

If I had to choose one woman who’s inspired me the most to do what I’m doing now – it would be Grace Lee Boggs. She was a Chinese American philosopher/writer/activist who spent most of her life advocating for racial and economic justice. (Fun fact: she was also a Barnard alum) She has this quote that I love and need to be constantly reminded of – “You can’t change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.”

How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?

In a more general sense – practicing gratitude (thinking of at least one thing/person I’m thankful for) every morning on my commute and exercising regularly helps me stay motivated and focused at work.

I feel it is easy to lose sight of the overarching goal/purpose of what we do, especially when I’m “in the weeds”, navigating through various phases of the development process. I have found myself needing to take a step back to remind myself of what motivated me to enter this industry in the first place – recognizing the lack of affordable housing is a real issue and, as cliché as it might sound, believing that everyone should have access to safe, quality, affordable housing. So I guess keeping this in mind helps me stay motivated.

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