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Under the Sun: Olivia Kristiansen, a new leader for Pets Lifeline 

The new CEO of Pets Lifeline talks with the Sun’s Anna Pier about her journey to her dream job.  What was your work before Pets Lifeline? It was all in the tech world. As a child, I wanted to be a vet or an architect. But I got my B.A. in Communications and Media Studies at San Francisco State. I have worked for Uber in their aviation division, Joby Aviation. Working to develop the infrastructure for flying vehicles. I worked for DHL in global logistics. And then I was at Twitter, working with Strategy Operations, when Elon Musk bought it. We were anticipating a 25 percent reduction in our workforce. Musk came in with an actual sink, saying, "I'm in charge now. Let that sink in." The culture at Twitter had been all about diversity – of thought, of background – and inclusion. This was so different. There was a 50 percent staff reduction, and when the CMO was let go, I called my then-wife to say I was going to quit that Friday. On Thursday my computer went black. It was heinous how Musk treated people.  How did you connect with Pets Lifeline?  I was taking a break, some time off, and thought this was the chance to do the one thing I've always wanted to do - work with animals. I started volunteering at PLL. I worked as a cat socializer, and I organized the pet food pantry. We provide pet food for La Luz, FISH, SOS to distribute. In the summer of ‘23 I joined the Board. I devoted three months to producing the Tailwags and Handbags fundraiser that year. I started as CEO on January 2.  This is a big transition from the tech world. For sure. In the tech world, you drive hard and fast. In the nonprofit world, things move more slowly. But there are business parallels between for-profits and nonprofits. Also making the transition from the Board to being CEO was scary. You don't know what it's like to be in the hot seat. But I've had more support from the Board and the Staff than in any other job I've had. There is almost a sense of family. It ties in with the sense of responsibility for the mission.  Talk more about Pets Lifeline. This is an interesting time at PLL, which has grown quickly in its new home, from 2500 sq ft to 8500 sq ft. There is so much discovery for us. Partnering with La Luz for the mobile vaccine clinic. Collaborating with Homeless Action Sonoma. Our in-house clinic saw an 87 percent increase in services between '22 and '23. We also collaborate with the Sonoma County Animal Shelter, and Humane Society of Sonoma County. You said your dream job was working with animals.  The family story about me is that when I was under two, I toddled across the street on my own, in diapers, determined to see the neighbor's mama cat and her new kittens. My parents adopted one of them – Mischief – that we had for 22 years! The beginning of a long love story with various cats. I've had cats from the SPCA my whole life. And I love working on site here, with this team and the animals. All the staff have cats being socialized in their offices. There are late nights, weekends, but I have a sense of passion and dedication because of feeling the tie to the animals.  What are some programs you are excited about at Pets Lifeline? We started a dog training class for teens 12-18, working with the Boys and Girls Club and Mentoring Alliance. This is a great leadership opportunity for young people, even some who don't have their own dog. It is wonderful to have the Maria Fund, that allows us to help pets whose people can't afford the care they need. Having the in-house clinic for surgery right here, with doctors who work at a very low-cost or, in the case of our board member Dr Tiffany Newman, for free.  What do you do in your spare time?  I run. I have run all my life - never on a team, just for myself, I love running. And that's how I met people here in Sonoma during the pandemic.   Thoughts about Sonoma? I grew up in Fremont, and I'd always dreamt of moving to Sonoma, but never thought I would have the opportunity to work from home, so I reserved that dream for retirement. But the pandemic changed that. We moved here in 2021. Sonoma embodies the laid-back vibe and close-knit community that I deeply connect with. It's generous and open, welcoming and inclusive. Living here has truly been a dream come true. By Anna Pier
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