Back in 2009, when BC Social Work first profiled Andre Gordenstein, he was “A Man with a Plan.” A recent alum of the school, he had been accepted into The Education Pioneers Fellowship Program, a cohort of top graduate students from the fields of law, education, business, and public policy, who were tasked with the job of closing the educational achievement gap. Gordenstein’s specific fellowship placement was at the Foundation for a College Education in East Palo Alto, California, where he worked with low-income students in an under-serviced community.
Since the fellowship offered only a short-term steppingstone, almost as soon as he arrived in the Bay Area Gordenstein began to look for positions with various agencies, setting his sights on becoming a director of a youth development organization. It seemed to be a natural trajectory for the macro student and children, youth, and families concentrator who also had spent two years in the Peace Corps designing after school programs for impoverished youth in Costa Rica.
“With his combination of valuable experience and authentic motivation,” BC Social Work wrote at the time, “there’s little mystery to how André’s plan will turn out.”
Fast forward to 2016, and Gordenstein has found great happiness in the Bay Area. He is married, has a son, and he loves his work. Only, even the “man with the plan” says he never could have foreseen his current career path. “If you told me five years ago that I’d be here, I never would have believed you,” he admits. Okay, okay. It seems that we didn’t quite get it right.
“Here” is online music giant Pandora, where Gordenstein is senior technical recruiter. In short, it’s his job to help engineers find work in the tech sector, and in particular, to find those engineers who might best find a home with Pandora.
Doesn’t sound like social work? Maybe not. Still, says Gordenstein, his experience in the social services is in fact very applicable to the work he does now. “Before, I connected young people to resources, now I help engineers connect to jobs,” he explains. “It’s a different population, and a different end result, sure, but the dynamics of how to get there are very similar. It’s my job to get to know people, to understand their wants and needs and motivations, and then help them reach their goals. This is very similar to what you do when you work with kids.”
Pandora is actually Gordenstein’s third stop in recruiting; he’s also spent time at a firm called VonChurch, and at dot.com colossus Uber. But he’s very happy to have landed at his current company, an organization that he says it very socially conscious. One way that Pandora gives back to the community is through sponsorship of a music-in-the-schools program called Little Kids Rock. In addition, the company provides all employees with 40 hours of paid time off for volunteering, and, according to Gordenstein, it is committed to diversity in the workplace, which is far from a given in the tech space. “Pandora has incredible values, and this is really important to me,” he says.
Gordenstein believes that his time at BC Social Work went a long way towards helping him to define his own values, and he is grateful for the experience, the perspective, and the invaluable training. He acknowledges that he doesn’t need a social work degree to do what he does now, but he can’t imagine having ever gotten there without one.
In the end, Gordenstein’s message about his working life is pretty simple: “Don’t be afraid to carve out your own path, and that can start even while you’re at BC. Keep an open mind.”
And don’t be afraid to think outside the box. It just might take you to Pandora.
Where Are They Now? is a recurring feature at Innovate designed to provide an opportunity for us all to remember, and rediscover, those who have walked the halls of McGuinn.