Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities: Q&A with Team Rubicon’s Jake Wood

jake wood
Team Rubicon’s Jake Wood

Former Marine Jake Wood didn’t stop serving when he returned from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, he serves fellow veterans and communities in crises across the globe. Wood is the co-founder and CEO Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that works with military veterans to respond in the immediate aftermath of natural hazards—before conventional aid organizations arrive.

A CEO, author, and former U.S. Marine, Wood has mastered the art of thriving in high-stakes situations, often under intense time restraints. He draws on all of these experiences to inform his approach to leadership and decision-making.

As part of the Surviving Disaster: Natural Hazards & Resilient Communities speakers series from the College of the Environment, UW Alumni Association, and the UW Graduate School, Wood will give  free public lecture titled “How to lead and succeed when it matters most: Deploying America’s veterans in response to natural disasters and global crises” on Tuesday, November 3 at 7:30 p.m. RSVP today!

What can attendees expect at your Surviving Disaster lecture and what do you hope they walk away with?

“First, that disasters are chaos and that the ability to survive and thrive in chaos is directly tied to our ability to be prepared, think critically and lead clarity in the midst of it. I hope attendees walk away with a better understanding of the type of leader one needs to be to handle that circumstance and bring everyone around them home safely.”

Why is this issue area especially important to focus on in 2015 and beyond?

“Disasters are only getting more frequent and severe, for a variety of reasons. Regardless of the cause, it is critical that we not ignore the threat we all face.”

What aspect of this issue rarely gets the attention it deserves?

“Preparation and community resilience. These topics are not sexy, and politicians rarely have the foresight to invest in them. What we know unequivocally, however, is that the upfront investment in them saves lives and money when the inevitable happens.”

What aspect of this issue is largely misunderstood by the general public?

“Who does what when a disaster strikes. Many people misunderstand the functional role of agencies and organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross, and because of that there are incorrect expectations set by people impacted.”

What’s one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?

“I didn’t start out with a passion for disaster response. Team Rubicon started simply out of the desire of a handful of people to put our skills and experiences to good use following the Haiti earthquake. What followed was the discovery of an opportunity to build an organization that could fill a void in disasters while simultaneously helping veterans transition to civilian life.”

What are the three most important personality traits for someone in your line of work?

“Passion, temperament and humility.”

What is something you can’t believe you’re still up against?

“Convincing people that we’re for real.”

What is the most exciting aspect of your current work?

“The opportunity to state an ambitious vision to change the world and attract people foolish enough to think we can do it, daring enough to try, and stubborn enough to have a chance.”

Written by: Kelly Knickerbocker, kknick@uw.edu