Roadside Chat | Celebrating Hispanic American Heritage Month with Jessica Alinen

The Alinen familia smiles brightly at the camera from their home.

Summary:

  • We strive to celebrate our colleagues and community members’ cultures, diverse heritage, and interests through our Roadside Chats blog series.
  • We had a conversation with Jessica Alinen, who reflected on her 16+ years of public service with the Seattle Department of Transportation, discussed what National Hispanic Heritage Month means to her personally, and shared about her family members who bring her happiness each day. We hope you enjoy!
  • National Hispanic American Heritage Month started on Wednesday, September 15 and ends Friday, October 15. This month recognizes the culture, contributions, and history of Hispanic Americans in U.S. history.
  • September 15 was chosen as the starting point for the commemoration because it’s the anniversary of independence for five Hispanic countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, who declared independence in 1821. In addition, Mexico, Chile, and Belize, celebrate their independence days on September 16, 18, and 21, respectively.

Hi, Jessica! Thank you for taking time to talk with us. What’s your current role at SDOT and how long have you been with the department?

I’m a team member of the Executive Leadership Team (ELT), as the Senior Executive Assistant, supporting our Department Director, Sam Zimbabwe.

I’ve been at SDOT for over 16 years! I’ve worked within the Capital Projects and Roadway Structures divisions, where I supported many Division Directors. I then moved to the Director’s Office where I supported a few different Deputy Directors and am now doing my best to support our fearless leader, Sam!

What do you love about your job?

I love helping others succeed and that’s exactly what I get to do every day! My servant’s heart is fueled by lifting others up.

What’s something people might not know about the work you and/or your team do?

The administrative profession can often be overlooked. However, I aspire to dispel antiquated perceptions about the profession. Admins are some of our unsung heroes who make things happen in the background, on the daily.

What people might not know about my work is that I have a few [uncertified] superpowers. My work requires me to be a professional juggler, mind-reader, air-traffic controller, and I’m often told I make miracles happen. 😊

What comes to mind when you think of Hispanic American Heritage Month?

I think of Hispanic American Heritage Month as a great opportunity to reflect on and recognize the significant contribution Latinos have had to society and culture.

Is there a way you like to honor or celebrate the month?

I like to celebrate this month by reflecting on the sacrifices that my family made to allow me to get to where I am today. I also take the opportunity to talk to my own kids about our family’s struggles (la lucha) but also all the incredible advances (avances) we’ve made.

What do you wish people in the local community/at SDOT/or more broadly knew about Hispanic Heritage Month? About being Hispanic today, in Seattle, and/or at SDOT?

I wish more people knew about the significant impact and influence that Latinos have had on our history.

Who is someone in the Hispanic community that you look up to or admire? Why?

My dad is someone I truly admire. He endured so much for his family, raising us up while working in the farm fields, to the struggles of a non-English speaking working-class Mexican. He instilled my strong work ethic and grit and taught me how to overcome adversity and keep a positive outlook on life.

The Alinen familia smiles in a group photo in their backyard patio. Family members visible include kids, adults, and grandparents, as well as the family dog, Whistler.
The Alinen familia beaming with smiles in a group photo at their backyard patio. The familia perro, Whistler, is visible to the right, atop the sofa.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I enjoy spending time with my family. We often get together for random fiestas that include lots of great food, dancing, musica, and maybe some competitive Loteria (aka Spanish bingo).

Who inspires you, either personally or professionally?

I have so many people who inspire me. My grandmother, who has that special touch of lighting up any room she steps into, my Wonder Woman mother, my amazing and beautiful sister, and my spiritual mentor mother-in-law are just a few.

The Alinen extended family smiles for an outdoor photo at a recent family get-together. Visible are family members ranging from kids, adults and parents, and grandparents, smiling and having fun during the family event.
The Alinen extended family spends quality time together during a family get-together.

Is there anything else you haven’t yet shared that you’d like to mention today?

I feel so blessed to be where I am today. It’s not been the easiest of roads but I remain optimistic for a brighter, more equitable future, not only for me but for my kids and future grandkids. I love the motto of the United Farm Workers of America, “Si, se puede” or “Yes, it can be done” because it reminds me about the rich history and continues to challenge me to do what I can to do, to create a society that values and provides equal opportunity for all.

I feel so blessed to be where I am today. It’s not been the easiest of roads but I remain optimistic for a brighter, more equitable future, not only for me but for my kids and future grandkids.

I love the motto of the United Farm Workers of America, “Si, se puede” or “Yes, it can be done” because it reminds me about the rich history and continues to challenge me to do what I can to do, to create a society that values and provides equal opportunity for all.

          –Jessica Alinen, October 2021