Veneeth Iyengar, 39
Assistant Chief Administrative Officer, City of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish
- Joining Peace Corps after 9/11 and being sent to the Philippines.
- Heeding the call of public service and returning to Baton Rouge in 2018.
Hosts “office hours,” helping those seeking advice on growing their business while also mentoring entrepreneurs and high-growth startups affiliated with John Hopkins University; also works with the Research Park Corporation connecting entrepreneurs to mentors.
NAME ONE BOOK THAT HAS INSPIRED YOU PROFESSIONALLY
Dead Aid by Dambiso Moyo, which addresses that aid might not be benefiting Africa in the way it should and Start with Why by Simon Sinek because absolute curiosity is a must nowadays.
WHEN YOU WERE A CHILD, WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?
Airline pilot—it’s awesome to be in the clouds and I still insist on sitting by the window seat when I travel.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB, HOW OLD WERE YOU AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?
Delivering pizzas for Dominoes on Staring Lane in the summer of 1997. I learned about accountability, being on time and how important it was to deliver important things to people on time, especially when they are hungry.
WHAT IS THE STRANGEST JOB YOU’VE EVER HAD?
Not the strangest, but I worked concessions during LSU football hames in high school to help support school club activities. I learned to especially sell those cold tiger sausages in the fourth quarter because I made the most money then.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE FOR A BUSINESS LUNCH IN BATON ROUGE, AND WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DISH THERE?
It depends on who I’m hosting and how serious the lunch meeting is.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
I am still working on it.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST FULFILLING MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
Coming back to Baton Rouge after 20 years and being in a position to serve the community where I grew up in.
WHAT WAS YOUR PROFESSIONAL “AHA” MOMENT?
When my family and wife punched me in the face because it shouldn’t have taken this long for me to come back home and to serve in Baton Rouge.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED THE HARD WAY?
That it is so hard to say NO when you are in the position to serve.
WHAT GIVES YOU PROFESSIONAL INSPIRATION?
Seeing the progress and differences in people’s lives with the things that I do.
WHAT IS THE BEST COMPLIMENT YOU’VE EVER GOTTEN FROM A COLLEAGUE OR BOSS?
A smile of gratitude or simple thanks.
ARE YOU ACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA? IF SO, ON WHICH PLATFORMS ARE YOU MOST ACTIVE?
Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
HOW MANY TEXTS DO YOU SEND ON AN AVERAGE DAY? HOW MANY EMAILS?
Over 50 emails and 20 or so texts.
HOW LOW WILL YOU ALLOW YOUR REMAINING PHONE OR COMPUTER BATTERY LIFE GET (IN %) BEFORE YOU HAVE AN ANXIETY ATTACK?
I don’t have anxiety attacks relating to gadgets.
HOW MANY UNREAD MESSAGES ARE IN YOUR INBOX RIGHT NOW?
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE APP AT THE MOMENT?
Twitter. It’s where I catch the news nowadays.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENT OF THE PAST DECADE?
iPhone. It makes work and communication easier.
WHAT TECHNOLOGY DO YOU WISH WAS NEVER INVENTED?
iPhone. It can get distracting, too.
WHAT TIME DO YOU GET UP ON WORKDAY MORNINGS?
5 a.m., even on non-working days.
BREAKFAST AT HOME? BREAKFAST ON THE GO? BREAKFAST AT YOUR DESK? NO BREAKFAST AT ALL?
I’m not a breakfast person.
THE SAYING GOES: “BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD.” SPECIFICALLY, WHAT ARE YOU “BEING” TO MAKE BATON ROUGE BETTER?
Being a servant leader.
WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU WERE “GROWN UP?”
I’m still growing up.
WHAT WAS THE BEST VACATION YOU HAVE EVER TAKEN?
My wife and I travel to three new places within a year, be that in different states or abroad, but our best vacation is a staycation.
FAVORITE GIFT YOU WERE GIVEN AS A CHILD?
I loved Transformers.
WHICH TALENT OR SUPERPOWER WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO HAVE AND WHY?
Mind reading. It sure is helpful in making deals for the city.
WHAT’S A NICKNAME YOUR FRIENDS OR FAMILY MEMBERS HAVE FOR YOU?
Rocky. It was easier to pronounce and spell out than Veneeth when I was in college making those late night pizza runs.
WHAT ARE YOU SUPERSTITIOUS ABOUT?
WHO FASCINATES YOU?
My wife. I’m still trying to figure her out.
WHICH FICTIONAL CHARACTER DO YOU MOST IDENTIFY WITH?
Garfield. There isn’t a plate of food he won’t turn down.
Grey Goose on the rocks.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BAND OR SONG?
No favorite, it just depends on the mood of the day.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE?
“The Shawshank Redemption”
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE?
Robert De Niro from “Meet the Parents,” not from “The Godfather.”
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR 18-YEAR-OLD SELF?
Move faster and learn as much as you can…fail forward often.
I love to read and cook.
TELL US ABOUT A MOMENT THAT CHANGED YOUR LIFE.
The day I left for Peace Corps. I learned so much of us are connected in this world and the challenges we have in Baton Rouge are not anywhere different then in other parts the world.
WHAT’S THE NEXT BIG PERSONAL OR CAREER CHALLENGE YOU PLAN TO TAKE ON?
Continuing to make a difference in other people’s lives.
WHAT CONCERNS YOU MOST ABOUT THE FUTURE?
I’m not concerned about the future. I’m taking it day by day and make the most out of it.
WHAT GIVES YOU THE MOST HOPE ABOUT THE FUTURE?
The beautiful possibilities.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE FOR FUTURE FORTY UNDER 40 HONOREES?
Be the best that you can be and help other people in the process. Take calculated risks and get out of your comfort zone. Don’t take things seriously. In life there is never any problems only solutions.
DO YOU PLAN TO BE IN THE CAPITAL REGION FIVE YEARS FROM NOW? WHY OR WHY NOT?
Yes. Baton Rouge is home.
IF NAMED KING FOR A DAY, WHAT IS ONE CHANGE YOU WOULD MAKE IN BATON ROUGE?
Relocate the railway tracks downtown and build a beautiful boardwalk that justifies the great location the city has by the river.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE QUALITY OF LIFE IN BATON ROUGE; WHAT WORKS AND WHAT NEEDS IMPROVEMENT?
The quality of life is good with the people willing to slow down and have a conversation with you. I would like to see more people considering Baton Rouge as a place to stay and invest in.
DO YOU HAVE A BUCKET LIST? IF SO, WHAT ARE THE TOP 3 THINGS ON IT?
I try to make every day my own bucket list. Any chance I can get to meet new people, experience new things, travel to new places is important. However, and from a travel perspective, one of the first things my wife and I want to do now that we have settled in Baton Rouge is to travel to every parish in the state in 2019 so we can visit a historical church, eatery and festival in that community. We’re starting with Venice in early 2019.